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We recently saw a new red-and-black Z06 Chevrolet Corvette pace the Indy 500. What does that mean? Well, when a crash happens, the pace car is sent out to keep drivers from racing each other and to keep everyone safe while track workers clear debris from the track. But because IndyCars are made to run at high speeds and their tires need to stay at a high temperature, the 2023 Indy 500 pace car still needs to turn some impressive lap times.

What is the point of the Indy 500 pace car?

Tyrese Haliburton drove the red Chevrolet Corvette as the Indy 500 pace car.
Tyrese Haliburton and Sarah Fisher drove the red Chevrolet Corvette pace car at the Indy 500 | Michael Allio via Getty Images

For IndyCar and NASCAR races, the pace car pulls out and keeps a constant speed while the drivers behind bunch up in order after a caution or a red flag. The pace car is also the only one on the track with a speedometer, and racers use it to help calibrate their tachometers so they don’t speed through the pit lane. Tires on racecars have to keep rolling to keep heat in them, and the speeds the pace cars achieve allow the drivers to keep that constant temperature in their tires to preserve grip.

When the pace car is out, racers cannot race. They have to slot back into the grid positions they were in before whatever incident caused the safety car or pace car to come out. By going slower, racers can find their positions. But, it also helps some racers because a driver can stop for fresh tires and a splash of fuel during a caution and not lose a place.

Is the IndyCar pace car faster than a NASCAR pace car?

IndyCar races need pace cars like the Chevy Corvette because the IndyCar pace car needs to keep a constant speed of 110 mph (and 140 mph at most) on the banked ovals of the Indianapolis Speedway. Before the drivers see the green flag, the car also leads the drivers through several warm-up laps before the race. That’s why experienced drivers are usually picked to drive the pace car. In 2022, former IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher drove the pace car, while this year, NBA All-Star Tyrese Haliburton drove the Corvette.

In NASCAR races, the pace car is, well, slow. Sorry, NASCAR fans. The NASCAR Ford Mustang pace cars travel at about 45 mph, according to the Indy Star. In Formula 1, the safety car will hit some incredible speeds. According to AMG Petronas, which supplies a Mercedes safety car for some races, the safety car flies through some turns at 255 kph, or about 158 mph, and achieves speeds of about 60% that of the regular race pace.

What’s special about the 2023 Indy 500 pace car?

Chevrolet Corvettes have paced the field more than any other model, and this year’s Corvette pace car version is a special car. This year’s Z06 Corvette Indy Pace Car gets the new 670-hp 5.5-liter V8 with a flat-plane crankshaft, like a Ferrari. This particular car, however, gets special track upgrades to run the big oval at Indianapolis.

The car gets the carbon aero package, which means it makes 734 pounds of downforce at 186 mph, according to IMS. The car will need that downforce to stick to the asphalt while pacing the pack. In an interesting twist, the car will run topless. You can order a Corvette with a removable roof, and this car will be the first to run as such as a pace car.

Also, the winner of the Indy 500 gets to keep the pace car. Josef Newgarden will take home a red Corvette on top of his record-breaking $3.1 million payout for winning on the last lap this year. Not a bad day at the office for Newgarden.  


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