It's a memory that goes back to my early childhood. The start of the engines, the inevitable announcement, "Mario is slowing down," and, yes, even Jim Nabors (a.k.a. Gomer Pyle) singing "Back Home Again In Indiana." And all of this on the radio! That's right, I was born and raised a Hoosier. And what bigger thing is there to any Indy child, age 5 or age 50, than the Indianapolis 500? Yes, there is more than corn in Indiana--all of it practically in my backyard! And while I may not remember the drama that unfolded after its issuing, I do remember the '78 Pace Car and grew up in the ensuing years thinking, "Someday." After all, what better way to celebrate a race day everyday than with a representation of the race itself? Needless to say, because of thinking along this line, Pace Cars have always been a big deal to me.
Several months prior to the writing of this article, Editor Bob came to me about an event going on in Indianapolis, and I just about jumped outta my skin when he mentioned three words: "Pace Car Reunion." Looking much like a deer caught in the headlights, I agreed to cover the event and was soon on my way out to Indianapolis.
Held this past October 8th-12th and sponsored by the National Corvette Museum, the Pace Car Reunion kicked off at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort and Inn. Conveniently right outside the track, and I do mean right outside the track, the Inn played host to the group of collectors--many of which who hadn't seen one another since the last reunion two years previous. Several new faces also made an appearance, and everyone had a chance to introduce themselves to the group at the Owner's Night Out during that first night, but not before Larry Hayes of the NCM concluded some Pace Car business about the next day's festivities. Larry, of course, was on hand the entire weekend to make sure everything ran smoothly, and judging by the fact I never once saw a speed bump in the path of the event, I'd say he did his job!
When Thursday afternoon rolled around, it was time to start lining up for the entrance into the Indianapolis 500. Besides a group photograph that would find all five iterations of the Pace Car lined up in front of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, the NCM had scheduled a parade lap for all participating Pace Cars. And WOW what a parade lap it was! Just imagine, every year Corvette Pace Car generation produced, including the '94 Brickyard 400 version, making its way around the Indianapolis 500's 2.5-mile track like it had been done before. Organized by model years, the Vette's sped around the raceway and across the finish line in style. Can it get any better than this? With three days to go, there was a sure possibility. After the parade lap around the track was finished, it was time to move onto the group photo, a visit through the Motor Speedway Museum, and then an informal show-n-shine.
Friday morning found the Pace Cars on the road to Bowling Green for the final stretch of the reunion. After everyone had arrived, the group made a trip through the Corvette plant and then back over to the NCM for tours, as well as a gathering in the parking lot outside of the Museum itself. The night ended with a small scenic road trip out to the Strode 1869 Homestead for a BBQ dinner. The next morning had been set aside for a scenic mystery drive with a stopover at Fede B&B for some true home-style cooking. Afterwards it was time for another group photo, this one in front of the NCM, and then dinner in the Skydome. Sunday morning was left open for everyone to socialize and get a few last-day NCM visits in. All in all a great event, and I can't wait for the next one sometime in 2005. Until then, maybe these photos will hold you over!
If you would like more information on the Pace Car events, clubs, or the Vettes themselves, please contact Paul Barth, overall coordinator for the Pace Car Registry and representative for the Registry to the National Corvette Museum. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If your interest is more model-year specific, please contact:
1978 CORVETTE PACE CAR REGISTRY
1986 CORVETTE PACE CAR REGISTRY
1995 CORVETTE PACE CAR REGISTRY
T. Noel Osborn
1998 CORVETTE PACE CAR REGISTRY
Richard "Rick" Berry
INDY CORVETTE FESTIVAL CARS