Words and Art by Scott Teeters as originally written for Vette Vues.
The Most Powerful and Advanced Corvette Pace Cars Ever!
Dateline: 10.14.15: 2012 ZR1 Corvette – Before the arrival of the ZR1 in 2009, there’d been rumors about the “possibility” of a supercharged Corvette called the “Blue Devil,” even though no one was complaining about the Z06 or the base 430-horsepower Corvette being weak in the knees. The unleashed, supercharged 638-horsepower ZR1 had a top speed of 205-mph and was like a slightly more user-friendly Z06 on steroids. It was just a surprise that it took until 2012 for the ZR1 to pace the Indy 500! Back in 1981 race winner Bobbie Unser had a pole winning speed of 200.546-mph!
It’s pretty cool how things come together sometimes. The 60th Anniversary paint and graphics option was available on all seven model Corvettes, so why not make launch the Corvette’s 60th birthday celebration with the top-of-the-line ZR1 decked out in its 60th birthday suit? The only other graphics added to the pace car was the dedicated Indy 500 logo on the doors along with “OFFICIAL PACE CAR,” a small Indianapolis 500 logo on the rear fenders, “CORVETTE” along the top edge of the windshield and a gold Chevy bow tie on the roof.
Food Network celebrity chef and star of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” Guy Fieri drove the most powerful-to-date Indy 500 Corvette pace car and again, Johnny Rutherford was the caution periods driver. The Chip Ganassi Racing team won the race with Dario Franchitti driving an average speed of 167.734-mph.
2013 C7 Corvette – 2013 was an extraordinary year for the Corvette. On January 13, 2013 Chevrolet debuted the long awaited C7 Corvette. Thanks to the Internet, there had never been a more anticipated all-new Corvette. From the C7’s initial launch through to September 2013 when the first 2014 C7 Corvettes arrived in Chevrolet dealerships, there was a feeding frenzy of activity. First there was the initial reaction, then analysis of the exterior, interior, engine, and specs, followed by initial test drive impressions, with the reviews getting better and better.
There was nothing else in the world of American performance cars like the new 2014 C7 Stingray, so the new Vette HAD-TO-BE the pace car for the 2013 Indy 500 on May 26, 2013. Corvettes had long been more than capable and the new C7 was only more so, having more C6.R technology in the base model than was ever dreamed of. Heck, the base car sports an all-aluminum frame that’s stronger than the frame used on the C6 Z06 and ZR1! As with previous Indy 500 pace car Corvettes – all that was needed was a set of racing harness belts and strobe lights.
We can only speculate because Chevrolet never divulges their decision-making processes to the public, but the Laguna Blue Tintcoat C7 Indy 500 pace car did not sport a specially designed, custom livery. A unique “Indy 500” graphic and white “OFFICIAL PACE CAR” lettering was on the door and the traditional Indianapolis 500 logo graced the rear fenders, and white “STINGRAY” lettering ran across the top edge of the windshield. Perhaps Chevrolet wanted the beauty of the new Stingray to speak for itself, sans a flashy special paint scheme.
San Francisco 49ers head coach, Jim Harbaugh was the lucky guy chosen to drive the first Indy 500 C7 Corvette pace car and Johnny Rutherford was once again the caution periods driver. KV Racing Technology Team won the 97th Indy 500 with Tony Kanaan driving a fast average speed of 187.433-mph.
2015 Z06 Corvette – The 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 2015 marked the 13th time a Corvette has paced the Indy 500 and the third time a Z06 was drafted for duty. But what makes the Corvette’s 13th shot at pacing the 500 truly unique is that the 2015 Z06 was the most powerful Indy 500 pace car, ever! The supercharged 650-horsepower Z06 has all the lessons learned from the C6.R racing program, plus the latest, most powerful version of the small-block Chevy LS-series of engines, the LT4.
Chevrolet announced the 2015 Z06 Corvette on January 13, 2014, exactly one year to-the-day from the debut of the 2014 C7. 2015 Z06 Corvettes started shipping from Bowling Green in December 2014. In April 2014 Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports bought the right to buy the first Z06 coupe for $1,000,000. Once Z06 Corvettes got into the hands of car magazine journalists and test drivers, the accolades came rolling in and customers were just blown away by not only the car’s astonishing performance capabilities, but how civilized and refined the car is. Kudos to the Corvette design and development team! Then in January Hendricks bought the first Z06 convertible for $800,000! And to top it all off, on April 29, 2015, GMAuthority.com announced that five-time Brickyard 400 winner and four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion, Jeff Gordon would drive a seven-speed manual transmission 2015 Z06 Corvette coupe pace car for the 2015 Indy 500.
Once again, as in 2013 when the new C7 2014 Corvette paced the race, “the car was the star” and Arctic White Z06 only wore the 2015 Indy 500 logo and “OFFICIAL PACE CAR” graphic on the doors, “CORVETTE” across the top edge of the windshield, and the traditional Indianapolis 500 logo on the rear fender. Team Penske picked up their 16th Indy 500 win, with Juan Pablo Montoya driving an average speed of 161.341.
So there you have it, the brief, but long saga, of the Indy 500 Corvette pace cars. The 100th running of the Indy 500 will be coming up in May 2016 and while the pace car selection is not yet known, I think a 2016 Z06 convertible has an excellent chance. Maybe Chevrolet will even offer a pace car replica. Let’s hope so. – Scott
PS – We have a large selection of Corvette Indy 500 Pace Car art prints available HERE.