Motorsport

2021 Indy 500 Pace Car: What is it and who’s driving it?

What’s the pace car for the 2021 Indy 500?

The 2021 pace car is a Chevrolet Corvette Convertible – the fifth consecutive Corvette to take on the job, and the 20th consecutive Chevrolet car to hold the honour. In total this will be the 18th appearance for a Chevrolet Corvette pace car, the first coming in 1978, and the 52nd car manufactured by GM. 

Who’s driving the 2021 pace car?

Former IndyCar driver and Indy 500 podium finisher Danica Patrick (below) will be driving the pace car for 2021, becoming only the third woman to do so. While she raced in the 500 eight times, this will be her first stint behind its pace car. Fellow former IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher will be driving the safety car.

Danica Patrick, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Scott R LePage / Motorsport Images

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Has the pace car ever crashed?

Yes, in 1971. Following a slump in muscle car sales none of the traditional pace car providers were willing to get involved, so four local Dodge dealers led by Eldon Palmer stepped in and provided the cars – Dodge Challenger 383-4Vs.

Palmer, a car salesman, was chosen to drive the pace car. In the passenger seats with him was the owner of the circuit Tony Hulman, astronaut John Glenn, and broadcaster Chris Schenkel. 

Prior to the race Palmer set out an orange flag as a braking marker however, on his way down the pit lane, he missed the flag and continued accelerating.

Having crossed the start/finish line at over 120mph after incorrectly thinking he needed to lead the cars over the start/finish line from in the pits, Palmer slammed onto the brakes. He then lost control of the car and skidded into a photographer’s stand at the end of the pit lane, causing it to collapse and injuring 29 people in the process. For several years after the incident, the drivers chosen either had Indy or racing experience.

This wasn’t the only time a pace car has crashed in an IndyCar race; at the 2018 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, a GM executive was driving the Chevrolet Corvette pace car and leading the field to the grid when he lost control and spun into a wall. The damage to the wall and the car led to a 30-minute delay.

How fast does the pace car go?

The pace car starts the race at 110 mph – not a stretch for the IndyCar cars themselves which can achieve speeds of over 240mph in the draft.

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