Former Colts quarterback to drive Indy 500 pace car

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Like all good coaches, Jim Harbaugh said he looks forward to practicing later this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This game isn’t football, however. Harbaugh, the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback who coached the San Francisco 49ers to this year’s Super Bowl, will be the ceremonial pace car driver for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, The Indianapolis Star reported first Tuesday.

As a longtime co-owner of Indianapolis-based Panther Racing, Harbaugh knows the pressures of leading 33 cars to the green flag before a crowd of 250,000. He’ll be driving the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray; like others before him, he’ll practice to get it right.

“I’ve already had a dream about it,” Harbaugh told The Star today. “I kept the car out on the track and won the Indy 500.”

Then reality hit.

“I know my heart is going to be beating out of my chest,” he said.

Harbaugh, 49, became part of the Panther team that was founded late in 1997 during his days playing for the Colts. The race team chose No. 4 for its car partly to honor him.

Harbaugh said watching Scott Goodyear, Sam Hornish Jr. and Tomas Scheckter win IndyCar races — and Dan Wheldon nearly winning the 500 in 2009 and ’10 — have been some of his life’s thrills.

“Being part of the team,” he said, noting championships won by Hornish in 2001 and ‘02. “It’s the thrill of victory.

“It’s cool, too, to be there for times when you have disappointment. You watch the team fix the car and move on.”

Panther, a Chevrolet-powered team, will field JR Hildebrand, Townsend Bell and Oriol Servia in this race. Hildebrand will drive the No. 4 car.

Harbaugh said he was “thrilled to even be considered” for the pace car driving duties. He knows the history of some of those who have driven before him.

Harbaugh, who will arrive in Indianapolis late Thursday, correctly noted that actor James Garner has paced the field three times: 1975, ’77 and ’85.

“I’m the No. 1 fan of ‘The Rockford Files,’ ” he said.

That Harbaugh is the driver adds to the No. 4 theme flowing through this 500. It represents the number of:

• Record-tying 500 wins Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti each would like to achieve Sunday.

• Former 500 winners in this field (Buddy Lazier, Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Franchitti).

• Rookies participating (Carlos Munoz, A.J. Allmendinger, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly).

• Female starters (Simona De Silvestro, Ana Beatriz, Pippa Mann and Katherine Legge).

Harbaugh’s duties will be ceremonial in nature; IndyCar uses three-time 500 winner Johnny Rutherford as its pace car driver during races.

according to indystar.com

according to indystar.com

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