Franchitti to drive pace car in Indianapolis 500

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Updated: 3/25 12:10 pm

Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti has a new role in the IndyCar Series' biggest race of the season -- pace car driver.

On Tuesday, Franchitti was formally announced as the driver of the pace car for the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. The four-time series champion retired from racing in November following a near-fatal crash during an event on October 6 in Houston. He sustained a broken right ankle and fractured two vertebrae in his spine as well as suffered a concussion and two cracked ribs from the accident.

Franchitti will be behind the wheel of a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. He drove a Honda-powered Indy car in nine of his 10 Indy 500s.

"This race more than any is very close to my heart," Franchitti said. "The Indianapolis 500 is the most special race in the world to me. And to be allowed to drive the pace car here is a really cool thing for GM [General Motors] to do. I've been a Honda driver pretty much my whole IndyCar career."

It's the eighth time a Camaro has served as the pace car for the 500-mile race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1967. It's also the 25th time a Chevrolet has paced the race.

"We are excited to have Dario Franchitti lead this year's Indianapolis 500 starting field to the green flag," Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles said. "Dario's appearance in the Camaro Z/28 pace car will be special for race fans, and it underscores Chevrolet's important place in the past, present and future of the Indianapolis 500."

Franchitti's first two wins in the Indy 500 came in 2007 and '10. His third victory in this race in 2012 was the last of his 31 career wins in the series. Franchitti never won the pole for the Indy 500. His best start was third, which came four times, most recently in '10.

"I never managed to qualify on the pole here at Indy, so I have to pace the field somehow," he jokingly said.

In his 10 Indy 500 races, Franchitti led a total of 329 laps.

"To start out front there will be pretty cool, but the sad part is that I will have to cool off when they throw the green [flag]," he said. "They're going to have to tell me to cool off. I might try to lead the first lap."

This year, Franchitti is serving in a driver development role with Chip Ganassi Racing. He drove for Ganassi's team from 2009-13. The team has switched from Honda to Chevrolet for the 2014 season.

Ganassi's driver lineup for this year includes: Scott Dixon, the three-time and reigning series champion, Tony Kanaan, who won the Indy 500 last year when he drove for KV Racing Technology, Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball. Kanaan is replacing Franchitti in the No. 10 car.

The 2014 IndyCar season begins on Sunday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

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