Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon will be in the unfamiliar position of leading 33 open-wheel race cars to the green flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month for the start of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Gordon has won at IMS five times in NASCAR's Brickyard 400 Cup race, including victory in the inaugural visit by the series to IMS in 1994. Gordon grew up in nearby Pittsboro, Indiana and will have one last outing in the Cup event in July before he retires from full-time competition at the end of the 2015 season.

The pace car that Gordon will be driving in May will be a Corvette Z06, the 13th time a Corvette has served as the official pace car dating back to 1978, and the 26th time a Chevrolet has led the pack for "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

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"Indy is hallowed ground for racers like me and I couldn't be more thrilled to drive the Corvette Z06 pace car around the track that helped drive my success over the years," Gordon said. At his disposal, Gordon will have a 650-horsepower supercharger, a seven-speed manual transmission and a track-capable chassis system to help him stay ahead of an impatient line-up of drivers eager to get to the green flag.

"The Indianapolis 500 is one of the most celebrated races of the year and an event I always dreamed of racing while growing up in California and in nearby Pittsboro," Gordon added. "I've won five NASCAR races at IMS and the track will always be a special place for me, so to be able to participate in such a historic day will be something I remember for the rest of my life."

"It's great to have Jeff Gordon serve as this year's pace car driver," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet US vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. "He is a true champion who has earned the respect and admiration of competitors and race fans alike.

"It will be very special to have Jeff lead the Indy 500 field to the green flag, behind the wheel of the most powerful and capable production car ever from Chevrolet."

It will certainly make for a busy day for Gordon, who afterwards will then fly off to North Carolina to take to the grid in more familiar circumstances for the Coca Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway which gets under way later the same day. While it's not quite 'doing the double', as Kurt Busch did last year when he raced all 500 miles at Indianapolis and then was in time to race another 600 laps at Charlotte, it will still make for a memorable occasion for the 43-year-old.

"Jeff is a great choice to lead this year's starting 33 drivers in Indianapolis 500 to the green flag," said J Douglas Boles, the president of IMS. "Jeff has such a strong connection to the state of Indiana and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his appearance in the Corvette Z06 pace car reinforces Chevrolet's important place in the past, present and future of the Indianapolis 500 as well.

"We also look forward to seeing him back here on July 26, to see if he can make it six wins for the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard," Boles added.

"Jeff Gordon is a NASCAR legend, an icon of global motorsports and has a special history of success racing at The Brickyard in Indianapolis and the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte," contributed Brian France, the chairman and chief executive officer of NASCAR.

"This is a unique honour for him to be recognized in this way by our partners at Chevrolet and Indianapolis Motor Speedway," France said. "The day certainly will be another special one in the storied history that Jeff already has written at Indianapolis and Charlotte."