Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lance Armstrong Paces The Indy 500

Lance Armstrong, The Chevrolet Corvette pace car, and the 2006 starting field for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 with bicycles. Image Credit: Dana Garrett

An American legend leads out the Indianapolis 500, an American institution. The world's toughest competitor and the world's most watched sporting event ... a match made in heven.

Now, Lady and Gentleman, start your bicycles!

This from IndyCar.Com -

Steady pace
Seven-time Tour winner Armstrong prepares to drive Indy 500 Pace Car
By Dave Lewandowski -, Saturday, May 27, 2006

Lance Armstrong received his first bicycle at about the same age (7) as many IndyCar Series driver started racing go-karts. He wasn’t concerned that it was brown with yellow wheels. It had two wheels and he rode all across Plano, Texas.

Similarly, in his first competition, he wore a pink jacket on loan from his mother to combat the chilly morning New Mexico air. And when his hair fell out because of radiation treatments for cancer a decade ago, appearance didn’t concern Armstrong.

The seven-time Tour de France winner who will drive the Pace Car in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” fronted the field of 33 drivers who will compete May 28 – proud of his accomplishments in his grueling sport and proud of the foundation he started to aid cancer research and help those afflicted live strong. He might have retired from competitive cycling, but Armstrong is on another mission.

Each of the drivers straddled a sleek Trex bicycle bearing the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wing & Wheel and 90th Indianapolis 500 event logos for a formal photograph on the frontstretch of the historic oval. Next, the bikes, bearing the signature of the driver, will auctioned with the proceeds benefiting the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

A brief question and answer session with Armstrong, 34, who will drive the 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Pace Car.

Q. Your name will now not only be connected to the Tour but connected to the Indy 500. That’s two very different world-class sporting events. How’s it feel to add another medal to the chest?

A. All I can say is that when we got the phone call to ask if I was interested in driving the Pace Car at Indy, it was a very short conversation. It was like: “Are you kidding? Of course.” It is a huge honor and something that I am very excited to do.”

Q. There are a lot of big names associated with the Indianapolis 500. Even Colin Powell was a Pace Car driver. What’s it like to be in that kind of company?

A. It is arguably one of the most famous sporting events in the world, and every year there can only be one guy to drive the Pace Car. For me to be selected and asked to come, it is a huge honor. To have the role and to come a year after a great man like Colin Powell is a big honor.

Q. What else do you think your positive thoughts will be besides being nervous?

A. It will be a rush driving around with 250,000 people there. In the opening laps is probably when they are the loudest they could be screaming for their favorite driver. You try to take all of that in. It will have been almost a year since I have heard that as a sportsman. It will be neat to get a little of that back.

Q. Talk about driving it (Corvette Z06) over. What are your initial impressions of the car?

A. It is always interesting the first time you get in a car. Obviously, the speed and the handling of it is different, and the different details of it. I mean, having the speedometer in the front windshield was something that I’ve never experienced before, and that took some getting used to. The power was there, and every red light was a temptation.

Q. Whether you’re going wheel to wheel for 500 miles in an IndyCar or going wheel to wheel in 12 stages of the Tour de France, there are certain components of an athlete that make them successful. What do you think those are?

A. I think when comparing cycling to other events like the Indy 500, sometimes in motorsports people don’t consider them to be athletes, but they are extremely fit. I know a lot of drivers that spend a lot of time on the bike and a lot of time in the gym, and I can tell you they are athletes.

Q. This is not only a great opportunity for you but for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Talk about how pleased you are to get additional exposure for your worldwide foundation.

A. You know, all of these opportunities are great for us. They are great for me as an athlete. They are great for me as a philanthropist; they’re great for the Foundation. It is just another opportunity to say, “Hey America, or to the world that cancer should be a national priority, a global priority.” It (cancer) is something that I think we’ve grown accustomed to and used to, and that has to change in this country. This is another chance for me to stand up as a cancer survivor and say: “I’m here; I won seven Tours. I’m driving the Pace Car at Indy, and oh, by the way, this country has to do more for the fight on cancer.”
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