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INDY 500: Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp to pace 85th Indianapolis 500

Posted By Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
May 05, 2001

Fashion model becomes first woman to drive Pace Vehicle at Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS - Fashion model Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp will drive the Oldsmobile Bravada Official Pace Vehicle at the start of the 85th Indianapolis 500 on May 27. Irwin-Mellencamp is the first woman to pace "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," while Oldsmobile's all-new 2002 Bravada becomes the first Sport Utility Vehicle to pace the world's most famous auto race.

"I am delighted to have the opportunity to drive the Official Pace Vehicle at the Indianapolis 500," said Irwin-Mellencamp, wife of music legend and Indiana native John Mellencamp. "The start of the race, with thousands of spectators in the grandstands and the roar of the engines, will be a very dramatic moment. I am excited to be involved."

Irwin-Mellencamp continues the legacy of celebrities that have paced the Indianapolis 500, the world's largest single-day sporting event. Other celebrities to pace the "500" include James Garner, Jay Leno and Anthony Edwards.

"The Speedway has always been about innovation and breaking new ground, and we are very excited that a celebrity of Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp's distinction will become the first woman ever to pace the Indianapolis 500," said Tony George, president and chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Elaine is a fan of Indy Racing, and our entire family of employees is excited that she has chosen to join us for the 85th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

A total of 54 men have driven Pace Cars since Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl G. Fisher began the tradition in 1911. Janet Guthrie, Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher were the first women to compete in the Indianapolis 500, and now Irwin-Mellencamp joins them as the first woman Pace Car driver.

Irwin-Mellencamp, a native of Gilbertsville, Pa., began her career as a fashion model at age 16. Her career includes work for designers such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Victoria's Secret, and she has appeared on the cover of magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Self and Elite.

In 1991, when she was 20, Irwin-Mellencamp appeared with John Mellencamp on the cover of Mellencamp's album "Whenever We Wanted." The two began dating and were engaged soon after. Irwin-Mellencamp resides in Bloomington, Ind., with John and their two sons, Hud and Speck.

The appearance of the 2002 Bravada marks the 11th time Oldsmobile has paced the Indianapolis 500 since 1949, when Wilbur Shaw drove the Oldsmobile 88.

ABC Sports will televise the 85th Indianapolis 500 live at noon (EDT) on May 27.

Text Provided By Paul Kelly

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.