Roger Penske’s racing machine may have won the Indy 500 15 times and earned 16 poles, but the team’s numbers have a ways to go before they catch up with Chevrolet.
The announcement this week that the 2013 Corvette ZR1 will pace the 2012 Memorial Day classic means the bowtie carmaker will lead the pack for a 23rd time. This will be the 11th time a Corvette has paced the field.
Interestingly, it wasn’t until Corvette’s 25th anniversary that it paced the Indy 500 for the first time. Even the Ford Mustang pulled it off in 1964, its first year in production.
Corvette lost out to cars like Buick Century. That 1975 pace car wasn’t exactly an all out performance car, but then, getting pace car honors is really more about marketing deals. Still, there are good reasons that Yugos and Gremlins never paced the 500 (hey, what about the AMC Pacer?).
Corvette may have started slow, but it blitzed into the 21st century. It led the way in 2002 and then started a string of five straight Indy 500s in 2004. That’s very Penske-like.
This year’s Corvette is well equipped to lead the pack of 33 IndyCars. It has a supercharged, 6.2-liter LS9 engine that creates 638 horsepower. It’s the fastest Vette ever produced, capable of accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds and reaching a top speed of 205 mph.
By the way, if you’re thinking about owning your own pace car you will get your chance. But you’d better be prepared to spend big. Base price on the new ZR1 is $111,600, and I’m sure the pace car model will come in somewhere above that. Heady stuff, but then leading the Indy 500 will do that to you.