Former IndyCar/NASCAR star Danica Patrick to drive Corvette pace car for 2021 Indianapolis 500

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Danica Patrick has not led her last lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after all. The retired auto racing icon and trailblazer has been tapped to lead the field of 33 across the Yard of Bricks on May 30 for the historic 105th running of the Indianapolis 500.

She’ll be doing it in a 2021 mid-engine Chevrolet Corvette Stingray hardtop convertible.

“I am very honored to drive the pace car this year at the Indy 500,” said Patrick, who also will serve as a studio analyst for NBC’s live race broadcast with host Mike Tirico and fellow analyst/driver Jimmie Johnson, in a news release. “It is even more special because of the past year we have all endured, and it will be so nice to see fans back in the stands.

“I have always loved Chevy vehicles, and the Corvette convertible is such a beautiful car. Maybe they will let me drive it home!”

FILE -- From left, Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick prepare for an NBC Sports live telecast before the 103rd running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2019.
FILE -- From left, Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick prepare for an NBC Sports live telecast before the 103rd running of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 26, 2019.

Patrick has made quite a bit of history at IMS, where she has six top-10 finishes. Patrick is the first and only woman to lead a lap during the 500, something she achieved during her show-stealing debut in 2005 en route to a rookie of the year honors. Patrick's third-place finish in 2009 remains the standard for women in this iconic race, as does her 29 laps led and best starting spot (fourth).

Patrick also chose to make the prestigious event the final race of her career. She joined up with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2018 and put her car in the Fast Nine Shootout, qualifying on the third row (seventh). Unfortunately, race day wasn't quite as successful an endeavor for Patrick, who crashed out of her final Indy 500 on Lap 68 and wound up finishing 30th.

"We’re happy to welcome back Danica to the place where she made motorsports history as the first female driver to lead ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’” IMS President Doug Boles said. “She will provide a unique perspective for NBC viewers while behind the wheel of the powerful Corvette Stingray convertible.”

It seems especially fitting for Patrick to lead the pack this year, not only because a female driver, Simona de Silvestro, is back in the field after a noticeable absence of women in last year's race, but her team is the female-driven Parreta Autosport, which is outfitted by a crew made up of about 75% women.

Follow IndyStar reporter Jim Ayello on Twitter:@ jimayello.

Indianapolis 500 pace car drivers

2021: Danica Patrick

2020: Mark Reuss

2019: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

2018: Victor Oladipo

2017: Jeffrey Dean Morgan

2016: Roger Penske

2015: Jeff Gordon

2014: Dario Franchitti

2013: Jim Harbaugh

2012: Guy Fierei

2011: A.J. Foyt (Mari Hulman George passenger)

2010: Robin Roberts

2009: Josh Duhammel

2008: Emerson Fittipaldi

2007: Patrick Dempsey

2006: Lance Armstrong

2005: General Colin Powell

2004: Morgan Freeman

2003: Herb Fishel

2002: Jim Caviezel

2001: Elaine Irwin Mellencamp

2000: Anthony Edwards

1999: Jay Leno

1998: Parnelli Jones

1997: Johnny Rutherford

1996: Bob Lutz

1995: Jim Perkins

1994: Parnelli Jones

1993: Jim Perkins

1992: Bobby Unser

1991: Carroll Shelby

1990: Jim Perkins

1989: Bobby Unser

1988: Chuck Yeager

1987: Carroll Shelby

1986: Chuck Yeager

1985: James Garner

1984: John Callies

1983: Duke Nalon

1982: Jim Rathmann

1981: Duke Nalon

1980: Johnnie Parsons

1979: Jackie Stewart

1978: Jim Rathmann

1977: James Garner

1976: Marty Robbins

1975: James Garner

1974: Jim Rathmann

1973: Jim Rathmann

1972: Jim Rathmann

1971: Eldon Palmer

1970: Rodger Ward

1969: Jim Rathmann

1968: William Clay Ford Sr.

1967: Mauri Rose

1966: Benson Ford

1965: P.M. Buckminster

1964: Benson Ford

1963: Sam Hanks

1962: Sam Hanks

1961: Sam Hanks

1960: Sam Hanks

1959: Sam Hanks

1958: Sam Hanks

1957: F.C. Reith

1956: L.I. Woolson

1955: Thomas H. Keating

1954: William C. Newburg

1953: William Clay Ford Sr.

1952: P.O. Peterson

1951: David A. Wallace

1950: Benson Ford

1949: Wilbur Shaw

1948: Wilbur Shaw

1947: George W. Mason

1946: Henry Ford II

1941: A.B. Couture

1940: Harry Hartz

1939: Charles Chayne

1938: Stuart Baits

1937: Ralph DePalma

1936: Tommy Milton

1935: Harry Mack

1934: Willard “Big Boy” Radar

1933: Byron Foy

1932: Edsel Ford

1931: Willard “Big Boy” Radar

1930: Wade Morton

1929: George Hunt

1928: Joe Dawson

1927: Willard “Big Boy” Radar

1926: Louis Chevrolet

1925: Eddie Rickenbacker

1924: Lew Pettijohn

1923: Fred Duesenberg

1922: Barney Oldfield

1921: Harry C. Stutz

1920: Barney Oldfield

1919: Jess G Vincent

1916: Frank E. Smith

1915: Carl Fisher

1914: Carl Fisher

1913: Carl Fisher

1912: Carl Fisher

1911: Carl Fisher

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Danica Patrick at 2021 Indy 500: Will drive pace car to start race