NASCAR: Chevrolet has Monte Carlo Ready to Pace at Indy
11 July 1998INDIANAPOLIS -- The Pace Car hasn't exactly been the busiest vehicle in the four NASCAR Winston Cup Brickyard 400 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The car that leads the starters to the green flag and paces the race at a slowed speed during caution periods has made only 18 combined appearances for a total of 75 laps during yellow-flag periods covering 640 laps of racing.
But in 1996, the Pace Car led Dale Jarrett across the finish line after Robert Pressley crashed in Turn 4 of Lap 159.
Still, the Pace Car is a prominent part of every Brickyard 400, though it has only rolled onto the racing surface anywhere between one (1995) and six times (1994, 1997).
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo Pace Car for the fifth annual Brickyard 400 was put through its paces, so to speak, July 9-10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in preparation for the race Aug. 1. Jon A. Moss, manager, Chevrolet Special Vehicles, with help from Don Bailey and Jeff Beitzel, turned about 300 miles on the pair of identical machines July 9 and another 150 on July 10. Bailey is a veteran Indianapolis 500 Pace Car driver. Beitzel's company helped to design the car.
None of the trio will be behind the wheel at the Brickyard. That duty falls to Buster Auton, who drives the Pace Car in all NASCAR Winston Cup races. Auton, whose brother Wayne directs the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, replaced the late Elmo Langley.
NASCAR does not use a celebrity driver as the driver like the Indianapolis 500.
One thing all Monte Carlo owners should know is that as far as speed goes, their street cars could pace the race under yellow.
"The Pace Car paces this race at 65 miles per hour," Moss said, "and that's less than we can do on our expressways right now."
Even the engine is the same, a production 3.8-liter V6. Moss assures there are no highbred components in the engine.
"It's not modified in any way, shape or form," he said. "It's just up to production modifications."
Actually, the car is basically the same as the one that paced the race last year. There are a few changes in the color scheme -- it's painted a lime candy -- and a tweak here or there in dimensions.
Chevrolet decided to keep the popular Monte Carlo as the leader of the pack rather than create something new, Moss said. A redesigned Monte Carlo is due out in about 18 months.
"Monte Carlo is the nameplate that we race in Winston Cup," Moss said. "And so it's kind of synonymous that we pace what we also race in the series."
There is one major change to the car, though. The exhaust system is opened up so the car will make noise. Moss noted that if the exhaust wasn't modified the car would motor around the 2 1/2-mile oval so quietly that fans wouldn't know it was there.
Additional oil coolers were installed on the transmission and engine because track temperatures can reach 125 degrees or higher in midsummer. Even if the Pace Car isn't called on often, it still sits in the blazing sun during the race.
Safety lap belts also were added, along with the normal strobe system watched by drivers lined up behind the Pace Car. The fenders were widened slightly and 16-inch wheels are used, 1 inch wider than normal. The Goodyear Eagle radial tires, too, are slightly bigger than those used on street versions.
"Other than that, that's it," Moss said.
In addition to the two cars that will be used during the race, a third version will be presented to the Speedway to be displayed in the Hall of Fame Museum as a show car. All three cars are brand new, arriving at the track with about 20 miles on the odometers.
"We brought 'em down here because we've had 'em apart, and we want to make sure these cars perform well for their nameplate and Chevrolet," Moss said, "because you've got a lot of people watching us here and on television."
A Chevrolet has paced every Brickyard 400. A Monte Carlo also led the pack in 1994 and 1997. A specially modified C/K Pickup paced the race in 1995, and a 30th Anniversary Camaro paced in 1996.
BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK
Event schedule: The fifth annual Brickyard 400 starts at 12:15 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 1. Pole Day qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. July 30. Qualifying for starting positions 26-36 begins at noon July 31.
The first practice session will take place from 1-5 p.m. (CDT) July 29. Practice continues from 9:30 a.m.-noon and 4-4:45 p.m. July 30. Final practice occurs from 3:30-4:30 p.m. July 31.
Broadcast schedule: The Brickyard 400 will be broadcast live on ABC and the IMS Radio Network at 1 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 1. ESPN's "On The Grid" prerace show starts at noon (EDT) Aug. 1, while the IMS Radio Network prerace show starts at 12:30 p.m. Aug. 1.
ESPN will televise Pole Day live from 2:30-4 p.m. July 30. ESPN2 will offer live Pole Day coverage from 4-5 p.m. July 30 and live second-day qualifying from 1-2 p.m. July 31.
The IMS Radio Network will broadcast live on Pole Day from 2-4 p.m. July 30. Qualification wrap-up shows will be broadcast from 6-6:30 p.m. July 30-31, with hourly reports both days starting at 11:15 a.m. The "Brickyard Live" show will be broadcast from 9-10 p.m. July 29-30.
ESPN and ESPN2 also will provide thorough coverage of Brickyard 400 practice and race previews July 29-31. Practices will be shown on ESPN2 from 2-4 p.m. and 4:30-6:30 p.m. July 29, and 6-7 p.m. July 31. The "Before They Go Green" preview will be shown on ESPN from 7:30-8:30 p.m. July 31.
Testing, testing: Nearly 40 NASCAR Winston Cup teams will participate in a test session July 13-17 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, an important tuneup for the Brickyard 400 on Aug. 1.
Testing will take place from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each day on the historic, 2.5-mile oval. The South Terrace grandstands, open every day for Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum visitors, will be available for fans to watch the test.