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Indy 500 Pace Cars
May 25, 2013 10:47 AM   Subscribe


 
Go pacers!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:57 AM on May 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


2012 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
638 hp 6.2L Supercharged V-8 Guy Fieri - Celebrity Chef

MeFi's Own (kinda)
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:58 AM on May 25, 2013


Huh. I went to school with a rich kid who drove the/a pace car from the Indy the year before. Never could figure out how he got it. Even being rich and connected, I couldn't imagine that it wasn't spoken for long beforehand.

But seeing these pictures, I don't recognize it or the owner's name. So maybe he faked it? I wouldn't put it past him...
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:59 AM on May 25, 2013


Cool photos!

I tried to pick a time point that divides between the 'old classic' look and the modern car look. That's subjective and more difficult than it looks. My dividing point is 1954/1955. Then I decided there was another divide between styles when the pace car got a far sportier look. My marker is 1985/1986.

I wonder how Robert A. Lutz, Chairman of GM, felt in 1996, when the pace car he got to drive was a Dodge Viper!
posted by PlanoTX at 11:04 AM on May 25, 2013


Whoa, the head of GM had to drive around the track in a Dodge Viper in the late 90s? That must have stung a bit.
posted by mathowie at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2013


Too damn many Corvettes and Camaros. They make the mid-70s Buicks and the 79 Mustang (LOL) seem interesting in comparison. Which is quite a feat.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:09 AM on May 25, 2013


Oh, I was thinking of the AMC Pacer and got confused. They must have been banned from anywhere closer than ten miles from there.
posted by Namlit at 11:09 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whoa, the head of GM had to drive around the track in a Dodge Viper in the late 90s? That must have stung a bit.

Bob Lutz was responsible for developing the Viper when he worked at Chrysler in the '80s.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2013


That's a very strange list of people. Some years, celebrities; some years, successful drivers; some years, important car people; one year, Colin Powell.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2013


Robert A. Lutz, Chairman of GM, [...] in 1996

It's a mistake. Lutz was the president of Chrysler at the time.
posted by RogerB at 11:15 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would somebody explain for us non-USAns what the "Indianapolis 500 pace car" thing is all about/for?

It's a racing thing, isn't it? (Is it?)
posted by cstross at 11:20 AM on May 25, 2013


A pace car basically does the same thing as the safety car in F1. When the course is under caution, it drives out front. There is also some ceremonial aspect to it in the beginning of a race.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:21 AM on May 25, 2013


Awesome that James Garner got the shitty olds delta 88 in '77- very rockford files, somehow, even though he drove a pontiac in the show.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:28 AM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Never realized how GM-centric the choices have been in the past few decades. One Dodge and one Ford in the past 20 years.
posted by Longtime Listener at 11:42 AM on May 25, 2013


The pace car also leads the field to a rolling start (and helps ensure the field starts at the appropriate speed), unlike Formula One, in which the races begin with the cars standing still.

Striking to be reminded of the peaks and valleys both of power and the power/displacement ratios; 25 years ago, a 275-hp, 5.7-liter V-8 in a Camaro. Now you can get a pretty cheap Camaro with a V-6 displacing about 4 liters and making about 305 hp.
posted by ambient2 at 11:47 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are they gong to have to re-run the 2006 race because of Lance Armstrong's drug-enhanced pace lap?

Also, what is an "inline V-6"? (2001)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:54 AM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


You complain about the Corvettes now, but one day, you might need a garish, awful paint job for your car, and on that day you will know just where to look for inspiration.
posted by indubitable at 11:59 AM on May 25, 2013


Awesome that James Garner got the shitty olds delta 88 in '77...

Better than what he had to drive in 1985: "Oldsmobile Calais 215hp 2.7L 4-cyl."


I went to school with a rich kid who drove the/a pace car from the Indy the year before. Never could figure out how he got it.

Every year, they make replicas - sometimes over 10,000 of them.

I agree that those Corvettes have really ugly paint. Looks like it started the year before the second Viper.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:15 PM on May 25, 2013


How long until a google driverless car does the pace lap?
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2013


It looks like that happened in 2009.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:39 PM on May 25, 2013


Also, what is an "inline V-6"?

A fancy way of saying "V-12"?
posted by NoMich at 12:48 PM on May 25, 2013


Potomac Avenue: "Go pacers!"

I should be embarrassed but I just made a HUGE realization about the naming of an NBA team.

Speaking of embarrassment, is there anything America did in 2003 that isn't horribly regrettable in hindsight?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have always loved seeing the guys who aren't completely mortified at driving around a midwestern suburb in a tape-stripes replica pace car. the dealers often sold them at some sort of ridiculous markup.

the purple and yellow 1998 edition corvette is particularly hideous
posted by ninjew at 1:25 PM on May 25, 2013


I love the years where it seems obvious the car was picked based on a marketing campaign to push a new model. How else to explain the 1985 Oldsmobile Calais or the 1990 Chevrolet Beretta?
posted by chrominance at 2:00 PM on May 25, 2013


I grew up in Indianapolis. One bit of lore I take from that is that lots of the replica pace cars get handed out for free use by various Indianapolis VIPs and folks associated with the race during the month of May. After the race, I believe they go back to the dealers to be sold; at least that is how it was through about 1985, when I moved away for college and stopped paying attention. I'll never forget the '84 Fiero pace car (which was kind of a sweet car, in its mid-engine oddball way) because I happened to drive past the home of some race big-wig one evening in May, and there were at least 20 or 30 pace-car-replica Fiero's parked around the property attending a party. I was probably in my smoke-spewing Sunbeam Alpine; I was definitely jealous.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 2:01 PM on May 25, 2013


I love the years where it seems obvious the car was picked based on a marketing campaign to push a new model.

I think that's pretty much right. I had an uncle in Michigan who was an executive in GM's PR department for many years. At least once that I can recall, although possibly it was a regular thing, he got invited along as part of GM's contingent to the race when GM had the pace car (which as others have observed has been very often). It was a huge PR thing for the company regardless of what model it was, but definitely it was as much about PR for GM as it was "pacing" the race. I'm just upset about the decline in quality of the pace car drivers. Guy Fieri was no James Garner. Jim Harbaugh is a definite step up.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 2:11 PM on May 25, 2013


the purple and yellow 1998 edition corvette is particularly hideous


Holy crap, is that a purple anodized aluminum engine? Fortunately no, it's just a bad color shift in the photo. But anyone with the bad taste to buy a purple Vette can definitely make it worse.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:15 PM on May 25, 2013


I'd trade every other car listed for that 1941 Chrysler-Newport Phaeton.
posted by nushustu at 2:36 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Hahaha, from ninjew's link:

Only the 1995 edition is scarcer at 527. In short, this is an unusually collectible Corvette.

Somehow, I doubt I'll see them selling at a premium any time soon.
posted by indubitable at 2:57 PM on May 25, 2013


Aboard 1971's super-sweet 300 bhp Dodge Challenger, Palmer lost control on pit lane with astronaut John Glenn, Tony Hulman and a sportscaster aboard, crashing into a photographer stand and injuring 20 people. The only Indy 500 pace car accident ever.

"You had ONE JOB, Palmer!"
posted by kickback at 3:00 PM on May 25, 2013


There are some great cars in there, if you look closely at the old Muscle Car era. And they're all convertibles. I love convertibles. My jr high school art teacher had a 67 Camaro SS convertible, I'll never forget it. My first serious girlfriend had an old 71 Challenger 383 which she sold way too cheap. My dad bought a new 73 Eldorado convertible, IIRC Cadillac stopped production of convertibles after that model, he thought it would become a collectible. I had a restored 65 Mustang GT convertible, it was just like the 64 pace car but black. That 63 Chrysler 300 is one of my dream cars, but that pace car is painted Aqua, which is perilously close to green, and it is considered bad luck to paint a Mopar green. My dad bought a 65 Sports Fury convertible with the intention of fixing it up, but it was too trashed, so it ended up as scrap.
posted by charlie don't surf at 3:16 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should be embarrassed but I just made a HUGE realization about the naming of an NBA team.

Shit, me too. Similar to when I found out that "draught" rhymes with "draft".
posted by sideshow at 3:34 PM on May 25, 2013


2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z-06 - Lance Armstrong - 7-time Winner of Tour de France

I wonder if he was using nitrous.
posted by machaus at 4:55 PM on May 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to see how the horsepower increases through the 60s and then decreases sharply until the 80s and on. Emissions controls?

And, wow. 638 HP in that ZR1. I'd love to drive that thing at least once.
posted by hellslinger at 6:04 PM on May 25, 2013


And, wow. 638 HP in that ZR1. I'd love to drive that thing at least once.

No you don't.

I once drove a 67 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi that was freshly rebuilt by a stock car mechanic. The 426 is rated at 425 hp but a well tuned stock engine with a carefully maintained 8 barrel carburetor will put out 450 to 500 hp. You can stomp on the gas and it pushes you back in your seat, and it feels like a freight train that will travel in a straight line even when the road curves. You keep pushing the accelerator and think this is as fast as it gets, and it keeps accelerating and you can feel it has nearly unlimited reserves of power.

My friend who owned the car took me out on a straight, flat country road and let me try some drag race starts. No matter how hard I stomped on the gas, I could not get more than 6 barrels of the carb to kick in. And even then, it was goddam terrifying. I am a maniac at the wheel of a muscle car but this car terrified me and I was sure I would die driving it. Words can barely describe a 0 to 90 run in a 426 Hemi.

I can't imagine how anyone could get one of these cars to take a turn at high speed. But then I went to a stock car race with the guy who rebuilt that car. He drove a 1970 Hemi Cuda. You should have seen this car run on a short oval dirt track. It was substantially more powerful, and substantially louder than any other car on the track. He would just slide around the curves, throwing up dirt, and then pass everyone on the straights. I never saw anything like it.

There is an old saying about "cars that are faster than their driver." Many years ago, I took my 65 Mustang GT convertible out on an empty turnpike and got it up to about 135mph. I could tell the car was good for maybe 150, but I couldn't do it, I chickened out. Even at 135mph, driving the a little lightweight Mustang 289 Hi Po with a mere 271 hp was way less terrifying than driving the Coronet R/T Hemi just from zero to 90mph.

I went to the Indy 500 once, and I don't recall the exact speed, but I vaguely recall the Pace Lap does over 120mph when it exits and the race starts. I used to run with the Muscle Car crowd and I couldn't do that even when I was a fearless maniac at the wheel. Maybe I could take a ZR1 out on the Bonneville Salt Flats, with no turns and miles of perfectly flat surface, and even then, a twitch of the wheel, a little slip of the accelerator, and you roll the car over and over.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:01 PM on May 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nah, don't let him discourage you. The first time you put the pedal down is a bit frightening if you've never driven a powerful car before. You get used to it, though, and start having fun. Just make sure you test limits with an instructor on a closed course with a proper set of soft compound racing slicks.
posted by indubitable at 10:22 PM on May 25, 2013


indubitable, you saw that clip, right? This guy appears to be a pro, but he almost hits a barrier after his burnout. He reached 119.6 mph in under 12 seconds. Not bad for a stock car that isn't built for drag racing. There's a video of another run, showing how it looks from inside, he hit 120.9 mph. You can only see the back of his helmet, so you can't see his face melting.

There are not a lot of places on Earth that you can let a 500+ horsepower car unwind like that. You can do it for maybe 12 seconds on a drag strip. Or if you're crazy like me, you can do 135mph sustained for about 15 minutes at a time on the straightest, emptiest parts of the Kansas Turnpike. You could go out to Bonneville Speedway and get maybe 12 miles max.

But if you want to do this on a closed course, you are going to get killed at those speeds, unless you have some serious skill. Just to bring this back to the Indy pace cars, some idiot crashed a 71 Challenger 383 with a mere 300hp. And Indy is just an oval track.

Now watch this run of the Corvette ZR1 on the Nurburgring and tell me you still think you can handle 638 horsepower.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:50 PM on May 25, 2013


Capt. Renault: "I went to school with a rich kid who drove the/a pace car from the Indy the year before."

They sell replicas or commemorative models most years; I've got one though it doesn't have the show off door decals so only the colour/trim differences on the car give it away.

hellslinger: "And, wow. 638 HP in that ZR1. I'd love to drive that thing at least once"

638 hp in a modern car is a lot less scary than in a car without traction control, launch control, abs, dynamic throttle control and all the other driver isolator electronics that modern cars are equipped with. I drove a 600+hp IROC Camaro for a while and I had to get rid of it or 3000lb of crumpled metal would have been in my future.
posted by Mitheral at 9:41 AM on May 26, 2013


Would somebody explain for us non-USAns what the "Indianapolis 500 pace car" thing is all about/for?

Most US-based forms of motor racing feature flying starts, and not the standing starts that are more typical in racing outside the US (F1, Touring car, MotoGP, etc. etc.) In order to keep the starting field arranged, the race cars are led around the track by a pace car, which pulls off the track to release the cars to begin racing. It's also used to slow down the field in the case of an on-track incident, much like the safety car in F1 and the others.

The 500 has long made it a big deal to select a "special" vehicle every year to pace the race.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:57 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and, yay TK!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:02 PM on May 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and, yay TK!

Double that. This is the first time I actually teared up at the finish of the race. Talk about a deserving winner.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 2:16 PM on May 26, 2013


I'm sure you're right. The fastest thing I ever drove was a Gen3 Mazda RX-7. I was too young and stupid to realize that I should have been completely terrified at 140mph. That's only about 260hp in a light car.

638hp means: see what 10% power can do off a stoplight, kindly thank the driver, and turn it back over after 10 mins.
posted by hellslinger at 2:24 PM on May 26, 2013


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