Franchitti to drive pace car for Indianapolis 500

FILE - In this May 27, 2012 file photo, Dario Franchitti, of Scotland, kneels on the track with wife, actress Ashley Judd, and car owner Chip Ganassi after winning IndyCar's Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. Sponsors come and go in motor sports, where even the strongest partnerships can quickly unravel because of the economy, a difference of opinion or a change in marketing strategy. But Chip Ganassi has developed a partnership with Target that has lasted 25 years in counting, and the team owner considers the relationship with the retail giant a key element in the growth of his race team and Ganassi himself.  (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)
FILE - In this May 27, 2012 file photo, Dario Franchitti, of Scotland, kneels on the track with wife, actress Ashley Judd, and car owner Chip Ganassi after winning IndyCar's Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. Sponsors come and go in motor sports, where even the strongest partnerships can quickly unravel because of the economy, a difference of opinion or a change in marketing strategy. But Chip Ganassi has developed a partnership with Target that has lasted 25 years in counting, and the team owner considers the relationship with the retail giant a key element in the growth of his race team and Ganassi himself. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will drive the pace car in the 98th running of the Indy 500 in May.

Franchitti was forced to retire in November from injuries suffered in an October IndyCar race at Houston. The four-time series champion won the Indy 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

“It is a tremendous honor for me to be asked to drive the pace car for the Indianapolis 500,” said Franchitti. “As a historian of motorsport and as a three-time winner of this great race, I will appreciate every minute of getting to pace the field. Although I won’t be competing in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, this will be as close as one person can get to the action.”

Franchitti will pace the field in the May 25 race in a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. It’s the eighth time a Camaro has served as the pace car, and the 25th time a Chevrolet has paced the race.

“He is a true champion who has earned the respect and admiration of competitors and race fans alike,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. “It will be very special to have Dario lead the field to the green flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

Franchitti’s appearance as the pace car driver signifies a huge shift in Franchitti’s career. He’s moved into a driver development role with Chip Ganassi Racing, which switched to Chevrolet for the 2014 IndyCar season.

Chevrolet has a long history with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series.

Chevrolet was founded in 1911, the year of the inaugural 500-mile race, and the Chevrolet brothers – company co-founder Louis, Arthur and Gaston – all competed in early Indy 500 races. Arthur Chevrolet competed in the 1911 race and Gaston Chevrolet won it in 1920.

“We are excited to see Dario Franchitti back at the Brickyard, where he has had a very successful driving career,” said Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Not only will his appearance in the Camaro Z/28 pace car thrill race fans, it underscores Chevrolet’s important place in the past, present and future of the Indianapolis 500.”

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