Later this month, the Indianapolis 500-mile race will be run for the 102nd time. For a record 15th time, the pace car for the race will be a Chevrolet Corvette, a 2019 ZR1.
To celebrate, an example of each of those Indy-pacing Corvettes — and a couple of special versions — gathered recently at the famed Brickyard track for a group photo.
Chevrolet provided the 2019 ZR1 for the photo shoot, but the other 16 cars came from a collection assembled by Keith Busse, a Fort Wayne, Indiana, business owner whose pace car collection is the only one of its kind. By the way, Busse’s collection has been consigned to Dana Mecum’s Original Spring Classic collector car auction taking place May 15-20 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
In an unusual process, all 16 cars will be offered as a single lot. However, if bidding on the lot does not meet the collection’s reserve value, the cars will be offered for bidding on an individual and no-reserve basis, Mecum Auctions said.
As a bonus, each car will be sold with two tickets for the 500-mile race. More importantly, however, proceeds from the sale of the cars benefits the Keith Busse Automotive and Classic Art Foundation, which provides financial support to institutions of higher education and to various charitable organizations in northeast Indiana.
“Keith Busse, a founder of Steel Dynamics Inc. in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has had a passion for Corvettes his entire life and has collected them for decades, but establishing his pace car collection as a complete set was an arduous and extensive journey on a path unlikely to be trailed again,” Mecum Auctions notes in its online auction catalog.
“Busse is active and well-known in the Corvette community, winning countless awards from the hobby’s most respected judging events, and those ties proved fundamental in the building of this collection. This assemblage features at least one representative example from every year that a Corvette paced the Indianapolis 500 dating back to the first time in 1978.
“What makes this collection so assuredly singular in its existence are Busse’s 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 examples, as the pace car editions from those four years were never offered for sale to the public. Rather, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Chevrolet gave Busse special authorization to duplicate the pace cars from those years using the officially licensed paint schemes and pace car graphics. The official Indianapolis 500 graphics were sent directly from the decal manufacturer to Fort Wayne, where they were applied to the cars at Tom Kelley Chevrolet before Busse took delivery.”
Traditionally, three official and specially prepared pace cars are provided for the race. The winning driver received one of the cars, another went to the Speedway museum and the other to the automaker providing the car. In addition, pace car livery may be applied to vehicles used for 500 Festival events, and in some years similar cars have been available for purchase at dealerships.