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Pace car

From Academic Kids

See also List of Indianapolis 500 pace cars

A pace car has been used to start the Indianapolis 500 since 1911. The first pace car was a Stoddard-Dayton driven by Carl G Fisher. Other car and motorcycle races have also used pace cars.

The purpose of a pace car is to help provide an organized running start to the race (as opposed to starting the race with all the cars at a standstill). The racecars follow the pace car around the track, maintaining their assigned pole positions.

The exact details can vary, but typically, there is one "parade lap" at a relatively low speed. This is followed by a much faster lap that directly leads to the formal start of the race, as the pace car turns off the track into the pit area.

Many years, the driver of the pace car is someone connected to car racing or the automotive industry, such as the dealer that provided the car, an executive of a US automaker, or a retired racecar driver. However, especially in recent years, the driver may be a celebrity; recently comedian and talk show host Jay Leno (a noted motor vehicle enthusiast), and actor Anthony Edwards have driven the Indy pace car. Colin Powell was selected to drive the pace car for the 2005 event.

Automakers compete for the prestige of having one of their models selected as the year's pace car, for the publicity. In 1971 it backfired for Chrysler Corporation, when the driver of their Dodge Challenger pace car accidentally drove into a stand of journalists, killing one person.

In the last 50 years, the Pontiac Trans Am, Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette, Oldsmobile Cutlass, and Ford Mustang are the only models that have been selected as pace car three or more times.

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