Car Culture & Entertainment / Motorsports

Corvettes at Indianapolis: 10 of the Coolest Indy 500 Corvette Pace Cars

A 1978 Corvette pace car does a parade lap during the 1995 Indianapolis 500 with former Indy 500 winner Jim Rathman riding shotgun. (Image/Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

When you turn on the Indy 500 today, you’ll see a Corvette driven by Danica Patrick doing pace car duties for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

In fact, the 2021 Indianapolis 500 will mark the 18th time a Chevy Corvette will pace the legendary race.

With such an impressive resume, we decided to take a look back and highlight ten of our favorite flavors of the Corvette pace car. Take a look and let us what you think. (Oh, and we did a similar exercise with ALL Indy 500 pace cars a while back—you can see that list here.)

***

10. 1995 Chevy Corvette Convertible (C4)

(Image/Doctorindy, Creative Commons)

Part of the mystique of a pace car is that sometimes the factory makes officially-licensed replicas—and that’s what we have here. It was essentially a stock 1995 Corvette ragtop, save for some safety gear, and you could buy one right off the showroom floor, decals and everything.

***

9. 2002 Corvette Convertible 50th Anniversary (C5)

(Image/FM)

While some pace car liveries can be flamboyant and outlandish (we’ll get to those in a sec…), some are a tad more restrained, like this example. Note that the gold stripes are no accident, they’re heralding the Corvette’s 50th anniversary. (Though the giant “50” on the hood isn’t as subtle.)

***

8. 2008 Corvette Z06 Ethanol Concept (C6)

(Image/Doctorindy, Creative Commons)

Part promotional tool, part proof-of-concept, Chevy put an ethanol-powered Corvette through the literal paces in 2008 to showcase the company’s exploration into alternative fuels. It was driven by former Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, famous for his exploration into alternative post-race refreshment.

***

7. 2019 Corvette Grand Sport (C7)

(Image/GM)

Given the racing pedigree of the name “Corvette Grand Sport” it’s no surprise to see one was tapped to lead the Indy 500. While it didn’t boast the fire-breathing LT4 of its Z06 counterpart from 2015, the Grand Sport featured plenty of slick aero bits, which helped it hold a sticky 1.2G on the skidpad.

***

6. 2012 Corvette ZR1 (C6)

(Image/NaBUru38, Creative Commons)

Yep, it wasn’t until 2012 that the alphanumeric combo of Z, R, and 1 first appeared on a Corvette pace car. Boasting north of 630 horsepower, it was the most powerful production pace car at the time. Under its hood was a supercharged 6.2-liter LS9 engine.

***

5. 1986 Corvette Convertible (C4)

(Image/GM)

It’s hard to imagine a time in Corvette history where you couldn’t get a convertible, yet for about a 10 years between the 1970s and 80s, a Targa-top coupe was the closest you got. The ragtop came back in a big way for 1986 though, driven by none other than General Chuck Yeager—a guy that knows a thing or two about going fast.

***

4. 2015 Corvette Stingray Z06 (C7)

(Image/GM)

For the 99th running of the Indy 500, the 2015 Corvette featured the supercharged and intercooled LT4 6.2L V8, good for 650 horsepower. But perhaps this one ranks so high in our list because it was piloted by Jeff Gordon—the NASCAR driver who’s won the Brickyard 400 a record five times, including the inaugural race in 1994.

***

3. 1978 Chevy Corvette (C3)

(Image/GM)

Believe it or not, the 1978 edition was the very first time a Corvette was tasked with leading the Indianapolis 500. The timing worked out though, as the Corvette celebrated its 25th birthday the same year. What’s interesting is that its Indy 500 decals weren’t installed at the factory. They came separately and could be applied by the dealership at the owner’s request.

***

2. 1998 Corvette Convertible (C5)

(Image/Jeff Walker, Creative Commons)

Holy. Cow. Once your eyes regain focus, realize that the paint job is only part of the magic here. The 1998 edition is notable because thanks to its still-new LS1 powerplant, the actual pace car didn’t need a while lot of tweaks to make it fast enough to lead a pack of 700 horsepower race cars. Though detuned slightly, the replicas still boasted close to 350 hp and a cutting-edge “Active Handling” suspension.

***

1. 2021 Corvette Convertible (C8)

(Image/Indianapolis Motor Speedway)

Look, we realize it’s an easy-out to pick the latest Corvette to top the list here. But it’s bringing the goods, in the form of a LT2 V8 making close to 500 horsepower—without turbos or superchargers. Plus it’s the first time a convertible has paced the Indy 500 in a decade. So yeah, top of the heap…until the next Corvette crosses over the bricks, that is.

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.