Jeff Gordon will lead the Brickyard 400 field to the green flag one more time Sunday afternoon.
After starting each of NASCAR’s first 23 races at Indianapolis and winning a record five times on the 2.5-mile oval, the four-time Cup champion ought to be used to this by now. Instead, he’s still learning a few things driving pace cars on some of America’s biggest and most famous tracks.
In May 2015, Gordon led the 33-car starting field to the start of the Indianapolis 500.
In February, he did live a broadcast from the Daytona 500 pace car.
And now, Gordon will complete a rare NASCAR double by driving the pace car at his home track in the same season.
“It’s a little different leading an IndyCar field than a NASCAR field,” Gordon said about three hours before the scheduled start of the race. “What I found out at Daytona is that it’s a little trickier because NASCAR is kind of verifying the pit road speed.”
Gordon had actually planned to drive the pace car at last year’s Brickyard _ before he came out of retirement to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevrolet.
This time, he couldn’t say no.
“I love this place. I’ve loved it from the day I first passed by it as a quarter-midget racer. I always wanted to run here,” Gordon said. “This place means to means the world to me, it means the world to motorsports.”
When the race begins, Gordon and Jay Leno will be on the short list of pace-car drivers for both of Indy's two bigest races.
But for Gordon, it will be a different feeling this time.
“I was thinking that this is the first race here that I haven’t been behind the wheel at the Brickyard 400, so it’s bittersweet,” Gordon said about three hours before the race was scheduled to start. “But I can’t imagine a better way to replace that feeling than driving this car.”