The 106th Indianapolis 500 is coming up in just a few weeks, scheduled for the final Sunday in May. This weekend is the GMR Grand Prix on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile, 14-corner clockwise road course, followed by a partial week of practice, two days of qualifying, Carb Day and the 200-lap race on the 29th using IMS’ historic 2.5-mile oval.
This year’s Indy 500 contest has a monetized wrinkle for reigning champ of the 500, Helio Castroneves, who earned his fourth Baby Borg last May with Meyer Shank Racing. Castroneves, who turned 47 on May 10th, was the last driver to win back-to-back Indy 500s in 2001-2002. BorgWarner invested an added $160,000 to his 2002 purse for that accomplishment and is prepared to feast even further financial outlay to the Brazilian should his Drive for Five culminate in Victory Lane.
“BorgWarner takes great pride in our extensive history with this classic motorsport event, said CEO Frederic Lissalde, “and we enjoy upping the ante with this exciting rolling jackpot. We’re on the edge of our seats waiting to see if Helio will, once again, claim the jackpot – or if another driver will be immortalized on this year’s coveted Borg-Warner Trophy.”
If Castroneves is successful, and it’s a difficult chore for a guy who had to wait 12 races from his third to his fourth Indianapolis 500 victories. He also changed teams, having been with Team Penske from 2000-2020. He found a new home with Meyer Shank Racing, who own the distinction of earning their first NTT INDYCAR SERIES victory with Castroneves at Indy last year. This bunch of over-achievers also captured both the 50th and 60th (this year) Rolex 24 at Daytona, arguably one of the more difficult feats in motorsports.
The reward for Castroneves, should his Drive for Five be successful, is an additional $400,000 to the winner’s purse. That fund has grown exponentially since 2002, when he last claimed the bonus.
Castroneves and 32 other INDYCAR racers will be led to the green flags on the last Sunday in May by former competitor, team owner and the fastest woman ever to race at the 500, Sarah Fisher. While Indianapolis Motor Speedway usually chooses a celebrity to pace the the 500, this year they’ve decided to stick with Fisher, who customarily drives the pace vehicle at oval races.
Sarah Fisher started “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” nine times between 2000-2010, more than any female racer. Her four-lap qualifying speed in 2002, 229.439 mph is an event record for a female racer and she’s the first woman to earn pole position for a major North American open-wheel contest, also in 2002 when she was quickest at Kentucky Speedway. She’s also the first female racer to earn a podium finish in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, third at Kentucky Speedway in 2000 and second a year later at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
After exiting the cockpit Fisher, together with husband Andy O’Gara became a team owner. Under her guidance, two-time series champion Josef Newgarden earned his first ride in the series, and parlayed that opportunity into his current position with Team Penske. Fisher and O’Gara own the successful Speedway Indoor Karting facilities in Speedway, Indiana and also in Daytona Beach, Florida. They have two children.
Fisher will be driving the 2023 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 70th Anniversary Edition Pace Car. “Every time I’ve had the opportunity to drive at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s been special – from INDYCAR SERIES cars to two-seaters to vintage cars,” Fisher explained. “Driving the Pace Car is just as special of an honor. And to have served in that role for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES since Johnny Rutherford retired, I’ve had many great memories to add to my career.
“I am humbled and proud to become the official Pace Car driver for the 106th Indianapolis 500 and to represent the hard work and development that Chevrolet puts into these fantastic pieces of automobile advancement and technology.”
This year’s very special Pace Car is powered by Chevrolet’s all-new 670-horsepower 5.5L LT6 engine; it’s the highest horsepower naturally aspirated V-8 ever to hit the market in any production car, Chevrolet stated. It has the Z07 Performance Package, featuring a carbon fiber rear wing, aerodynamic ground effects, carbon ceramic brakes and more, for maximum track capability. Nodding to Corvette’s 70-year history, the model year 2023 70th Anniversary Edition Z06 is finished in a special White Pearl Tri-Coat Metallic paint. As expected, there are 70th Anniversary exterior badging, special Corvette cross flags, Edge Red brake calipers and the 70th Anniversary Edition logo on seats, steering wheel and door sill plates.
This year’s race marks the 33rd time Chevrolet has paced the Indianapolis 500, more than any other manufacturer. Corvette will pace the race for the 19th time since 1978, the most of any nameplate since the 500’s first, 1911 race. “It’s only fitting the Indianapolis 500 will be the first race the 2023 Corvette Z06 paces,” said Steve Majors, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “This is a truly special moment for Corvette and for INDYCAR fans around the world.”