Ken Griffey Jr. ready for 'beyond unbelievable' chance to drive Indy 500 pace car

INDIANAPOLIS – When Ken Griffey Jr. was called about driving the pace car to start the 108th Indianapolis 500, he didn’t need to be convinced. The Baseball Hall-of-Famer checked his calendar, but no preplanned event was going to get in the way of being at Sunday’s race.

“No matter what was on that calendar, I was free,” Griffey said with a smile on Saturday after a practice session. “There’s certain things in life … People have to understand that this is one of those things that is beyond unbelievable.”

Griffey’s been at the race in the past, but not as a fan. Griffey — who’s now a sports photographer — has shot the race. Griffey was taking pictures in Turn 1, and he wasn’t initially prepared for the amount of wind blown out of the cars that travel north of 230 mph.

“The first (turn) I was like, ‘Ooh, I see why some people lost their cameras sometimes,’” Griffey said.

‘The Kid’ spent a brief part of his childhood in Indianapolis when his father, Ken Sr., played for the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians as part of the Cincinnati Reds’ minor league system. When Ken Sr. played for the Indians from 1973-74, Griffey was three and four years old. Griffey, now 54, doesn’t recall much from the years his dad played in town.

While Griffey never saw the Indy 500 when his dad was with the Indians, he’s a motorsports fan like many baseball players are. The 1997 AL MVP used to wear black batting gloves on Sundays to signify it being race day.

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Needless to say, Griffey is exhilarated to be at the front of the pack in the white Chevy Corvette E-Ray as things get going on Sunday.

“Very few people get an opportunity to do this,” Griffey said. “So it’s huge, and it’s overwhelming sometimes.”

As engines start at 12:38 p.m. on Sunday, one of baseball’s all-time greats will lead the charge. Griffey will add another feat to his extensive list of accomplishments.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Ken Griffey Jr. ready to drive Indy 500 pace car