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‘Vette To Pace 500 Field

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 20 2018

The 2018 Indy 500 will be led to the green flag by a Corvette.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Chevrolet’s Corvette will serve as Official Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500 a record 15th time next month, when a 2019 ZR1 will lead the traditional field of 33 drivers to the flying start of the race’s 102nd edition on May 27.

No other vehicle has served as Indy 500 Pace Car more than Corvette, starting in 1978. This will be the 29th time a Chevrolet has led the field dating to 1948, when a Fleetmaster Six convertible paced the Memorial Day weekend classic.

“Chevrolet is proud to once again pace the Indianapolis 500,” said Steve Majoros, marketing director for Cars and Crossovers. “The ZR1 is the most powerful and fastest Corvette ever made. It’s the perfect choice to pace ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’^”

Chevrolet has a storied history with the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Chevrolet was founded in 1911, the year of the inaugural 500-Mile Race, and company co-founder Louis Chevrolet, along with brothers Arthur and Gaston, competed in early Indy 500s. Arthur Chevrolet drove in the 1911 race and Gaston Chevrolet won it in 1920.

The Corvette ZR1 Pace Car can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 2.85-seconds and reach a top track speed of 212 mph, making it the fastest Corvette in history. The ZR1 Pace Car features:

 _LT5 small block 6.2L supercharged V-8 engine with 755-horsepower and 715 pound-feet of torque

_ 8-speed 8L90 paddle-shift automatic transmission

_ ZTK Performance Package, which features a stanchion-mounted adjustable carbon-fiber high rear wing, Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires and performance suspension

_Magnetic Selective Ride Control™

_Brembo® Carbon Ceramic brake system

_ZR1 chrome-aluminum wheels: 19-inch front and 20-inch rear

_Standard Performance Traction Management and Electronic Limited-Slip Differential

_Unique Indy 500 graphics package

_GM Design fully-integrated safety strobe system

_Performance Data and Video Recorder

“Chevrolet and IMS enjoy one of the longest-running and strongest bonds in motorsports,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “This year’s Pace Car, the 2019 Corvette ZR1, is an incredible, fast machine that is a perfect fit to lead the ‘500’ field to the green flag.”

Chevrolet is pursuing its seventh consecutive INDYCAR manufacturer championship this year, building on a successful 2017 season that saw 10 wins in 17 races.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, May 15. Qualifications will be held on May 19-20. The race will be televised live on ABC, with the pre-race show starting at 11 a.m. (EDT). Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio will provide live coverage to its affiliates and on Sirius 214, XM 209, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.

Fans can visit IMS.com to purchase tickets for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 and for more information on the complete Month or May schedule.

Australian James Davison has been entered in the 102nd edition of the Indianapolis 500 as driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet fielded by AJ Foyt Racing with partners Jonathan Byrd’s Racing, Hollinger MotorSport and Belardi Auto Racing. A 31-year-old native of Melbourne, Australia, Davison is a veteran of three Indy 500 starts.

“This will be my first full two-week program in the four years that I have been a part of the event now,” said Davison, who has competed in five Verizon IndyCar Series events. “We have expectations to meet and I cannot wait to get after it.”

Davison started 33rd and finished 20th in last year’s Indy 500 after being selected by Dale Coyne Racing to replace the injured Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 18 GEICO Honda. Frenchman Bourdais was severely injured in a crash during his qualifying run for the 500.

During the race, Davison climbed into the lead on Lap 166 for two laps. He was running fifth when he was involved in a five-car crash in Turn 2 with 17 laps to go.

Davison’s performance as Bourdais’ substitute caught the attention of the Byrd brothers, who put together this year’s deal. Team founder Jonathan Byrd died in 2009 and brothers Jonathan and David took over their father’s racing brand, which is celebrating the 33rd anniversary of its first Indianapolis 500 in 1985.

Founded in 1982, Jonathan Byrd’s Racing successfully has fielded 19 entries in the Indy 500 since 1985, scoring six top-10 finishes with a best result of fifth in 2005. A Jonathan Byrd’s Racing car currently holds the all-time Indianapolis 500 1 and 4-lap qualifying records set by Arie Luyendyk in 1996.

“The Byrd family is excited to once again partner with the AJ Foyt Racing team, together with Brad Hollinger and Brian Belardi, to give James Davison the opportunity to win the Indy 500,” David Byrd said. “Based on what we have seen so far this season, A.J. and Larry and everybody there have things on the right track, and we can’t wait to see what the Month of May brings.”

Byrd partnered with team-owner A.J. Foyt Jr. in 1994 to run John Andretti in the first leg of “The Double” involving the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “That accomplishment was something previously unheard of and quite special,” Byrd said. “John finished 10thin the 500 before jetting over to Charlotte to compete in the 600 that evening.”

The entry marks the third for Foyt’s Texas-based team in this 500 and the first for Belardi Auto Racing, which currently competes fulltime in the Indy Lights Series Presented by Cooper Tires with Aaron Telitz and Santiago Urrutia. Belardi recently announced a partnership with the Byrd family to run Chris Windom in this year’s Freedom 100 during the Indy 500 weekend. 

“Although our team has won the Freedom 100 twice, this will be my first time at the Indianapolis 500,” Brian Belardi said. “I wanted to see it as an entrant, and everything fell into place to do that this year. I think we have a strong chance with James and the team that has been assembled by Foyt Racing and the Byrd family along with Hollinger MotorSport. I’m really looking forward to being a part of this team and the Indy 500.” Brad Hollinger and his team are returning for a second Indy 500.

Led by Team President Larry Foyt, Foyt Racing will be fielding ABC Supply Chevrolets for 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan and fellow-Brazilian/19-year-old rookie Matheus “Matt” Leist.

“I worked with Jonathan Byrd years ago, and he was a swell guy,” said A.J. Foyt, first four-time champion of the Indy 500. “It’s a small world and I’m just glad to be working with his boys, Jonathan and David. As for James, I know Larry has liked him since he met him when he was running Indy Lights. I’ve heard a lot about him and watched him run here at Indy and he’s run pretty good, so I’m looking forward to working with him.”

J.R. Hildebrand will attempt to qualify for his eighth Indianapolis 500 next month with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Hildebrand will join Sage Karam on the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing roster, wheeling the No. 66 Chevrolet sponsored by Salesforce.

“There have been a bunch of different times where Dennis Reinbold (team-owner) and I have talked about doing this in the past,” said Hildebrand, who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing in 2010. “I’m just really excited to be back.

“My first call-up to the big leagues was from Dennis and we’ve obviously been in the same Chevy camp out at Indy and we were always, at ECR (Ed Carpenter Racing), impressed with the speed and performance of the guys at Dreyer. When I started working on getting this year figured it was an obvious phone call to make on my side (to Reinbold) and I’m excited we were able to get it all put together.”

Hildebrand’s car brought the number of entries for the 102nd Indianapolis 500 to 34, which means there will be bumping during Indianapolis 500 qualifying for the first time since 2015.

“As if qualifying isn’t stressful enough, we’ll get a little bit of extra tension built in, which ought to be fun,” said Hildebrand, a 30-year-old native of Sausalito, Calif. “You can always feel that in the air on Pole Day. We’ll see how it all shakes out.”

Hildebrand infamously nearly won the Indy 500 in his first attempt in 2011. Driving for Panther Racing, Hildebrand was leading coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap, but crashed exiting the turn. That allowed Englishman Dan Wheldon to drive past and earn his second Indianapolis 500 victory. Hildebrand limped home second.

Hildebrand spent the last four years driving for Ed Carpenter Racing, earning a best finish of sixth in 2016. He has four top-10 finishes in the Indianapolis 500 in seven starts. Hildebrand raced fulltime in the Verizon IndyCar Series last year for the first time since 2012, placing 15th in the point standings.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing is returning to a multi-car entry after fielding one car for the past six years.

“At Dreyer & Reinbold we’ve had 37 cars start the Indy 500 over the past close to 20 years now,” Reinbold said. “We’re looking forward to adding to that number and really going out there to do whatever we can to win the race. There’s a lot of work in expanding from one car to two cars to run. You’re talking about additional pit equipment, wheel guns, radios, all kinds of stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily think of right off the top of your head.

We went out and over the offseason made the decision to ramp-up our efforts to get two additional cars, so we have three total in our stable that we’re able to run, so a backup car along with our No. 24 car primary and No. 66 car primary.”

The team plans to have a car on track during Indianapolis 500 testing on April 30-May 2 for Karam, who will take part in the Speedway’s Rookie Orientation/refresher program on May 1.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 20 2018
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