What is a pace car? What to know about the Indy 500 pace car and driver

Every year before the Indy 500, drivers start their engines and the pace car leads them to the starting line. But what is a pace car? And who drives it? Here's everything you need to know about the racing tradition:

What is a pace car?

A pace car leads the field through several warm-up laps prior to the start of the race, and it also leads field during caution periods to slow the cars on the track. Cars are not allowed to pass each other – and definitely not the pace car – during caution periods.

The pace car has been used at every Indy 500 since its inception in 1911.

Who drives the pace car at the Indy 500?

Typically, a celebrity starts out in the Indy 500 pace car prior to the start of the race. Past Indy 500 celebrity pace car drivers have included Lance Armstrong (2006), Guy Fieri (2012), Jeff Gordon (2015), Victor Oladipo (2018), Danica Patrick (2021), Sarah Fisher (2022) and Tyrese Haliburton (2023).

After the race begins, former IndyCar driver and team owner Sarah Fisher will take over.

Who is the 2024 Indy 500 pace car driver?

This year's celebrity pace car driver is baseball legend Ken Griffey Jr.

“Driving the pace car and leading the field to start the Indy 500 is one of the coolest experiences,” Griffey Jr. said in a news release. “I came to the track a few years ago as a photographer and look forward to seeing the race from a different perspective.”

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What is the pace car for the 2024 Indy 500?

It's a hybrid. The Speedway unveiled the Corvette E-Ray as this year's pace car.

The 6.2-liter V-8 comes with an electric motor that delivers an additional 160 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels to combine for 655 total horsepower.

The Corvette's electric all-wheel drive helps deliver speedy acceleration – from 0-60 mph in 2.5 seconds and a quarter-mile in 10.5 seconds. Its 'Stealth Mode' allows the sports car to run wholly on electric power for up to 4 miles at up to 45 mph.

The IndyCar Series plans to introduce hybrid cars later this season.

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How fast does the pace car go?

The Indy 500 pace car runs about 110 mph.

Has the pace car ever crashed?

Yes. The brakes of the Dodge Challenger, pacing the 1971 Indy 500 field, locked up after it peeled into the pits. It hit a camera stand at about 60 mph, IndyStar sports columnist Gregg Doyel wrote in 2016.

Russ Lake, a photographer in the stand when it happened, fell about 8 feet and was hospitalized for six weeks after breaking a leg and hip.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Who is Indy 500 pace car driver? What is a pace car?