IRL, Indy 500: Leno Keeps Drivers, Media Laughing on Eve of Pace Car Drive
30 May 1999INDIANAPOLIS - Nerves? What nerves?
Comedian Jay Leno kept Pep Boys Indy Racing League officials and drivers, and the worldwide media laughing Saturday, one day before he will pace the field of 33 starters to the green flag for the 83rd Indianapolis 500. Leno, host of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," will drive the 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Pace Car.
"I live in L.A., so I'm used to people driving fast behind me and swearing at me," Leno said at a press conference as the media roared with laughter. "Seriously, I don't feel there's any pressure. Everybody has been great. It's kind of a vacation. It's great."
Leno, an avid classic car collector, estimated that he has attended approximately seven or eight Indianapolis 500's as a fan.
"It's just a whole lot of fun," he said. "I've always liked cars, but I never was good enough to do it for a living, so it's quite a thrill. I like the history of American cars, and nothing is more historic than Indy."
Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk, who will start from the pole Sunday, presented Leno with a racing helmet signed by every driver in this year's field.
Last month, Leno came to the Speedway to prepare for his pacing duties. He drove many laps around the historic, 2.5-mile oval in the Monte Carlo, taking tips from 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner Parnelli Jones, who drove the Pace Car in 1994 and 1998.
And Jones might come in handy again Monday, Leno said, when asked if he was nervous about driving the Pace Car.
"No, because I have Parnelli guest-hosting next Monday," Leno said.