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Ken Griffey Jr. to lead Indianapolis 500 field in Corvette pace car

May 20, 2024, 3:40 PM

Ken Griffey Jr. HBCU...

Ken Griffey Jr. embraces a member of the Swingman HBCU coaching staff on July 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)

(AP Photo/Caean Couto)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Hall of Fame outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. will drive the pace car for the 108th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday.

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Griffey has attended “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in his second career as a photographer, but now his job will be much more visible. He’ll be behind the wheel of the 2024 Chevrolet Corvette E-Ray that brings the field of 33 cars — led by record-setting pole sitter Scott McLaughlin — to the green flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Driving the Pace Car and leading the field to start the Indy 500 is one of the coolest experiences,” Griffey said Monday. “I came to the track a few years ago as a photographer and look forward to seeing the race from a different perspective.”

The pace car driver has been a coveted job among athletes, actors and other celebrities since the 1970s, when actor James Garner and singer Marty Robbins handled it. Others that have driven the car include Jay Leno, Morgan Freeman and Patrick Dempsey and, in more recent years, NBA players Victor Oladipo and Tyrese Haliburton.

Griffey was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016 after a 22-year big league career spent mostly with the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds. He was a 13-time All-Star and hit 630 home runs, which still ranks seventh on the career list. He also was one of the best defensive players in the game, winning the Gold Glove award 10 times.

He will join a celebrity cast at the Indianapolis 500 that includes national anthem singer Jordin Sparks and Phillip Phillips, who will perform “God Bless America.” The speedway also plans to announce its honorary starters on Tuesday.

“Every baseball fan knows Ken Griffey Jr.,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles said. “Two legends will come together as Griffey hops into the Corvette E-Ray to lead the field at the Racing Capital of the World.”

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