Harbaugh's other connection to the race is that he's a principal in Panther Racing, which has two cars running on Sunday that are powered by Chevrolet engines: JR Hildebrand is starting tenth, teammate Townsend Bell is 22nd. There's a press release below with the kind of juicy quotes you'd expect from all involved.
INDIANAPOLIS – Jim Harbaugh, head coach of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers, will drive the all-new 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Pace Car to lead the pack of 33 racers to the start of the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, this Sunday.
Harbaugh, who took the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2012, is no stranger to Indianapolis. He was a quarterback for the Colts football team from 1994 through 1997. During his time with the Colts, he was named AFC Player of the Year and named to the Pro Bowl in 1995.
Harbaugh is also a racing fan and a principal at Panther Racing, which fields the two-car, Chevrolet-powered IndyCar team with drivers J.R. Hildebrand and Townsend Bell. Hildebrand will drive the No. 4 National Guard Chevrolet in Indianapolis 500 and Bell will compete in the No. 60 Sunoco "Turbo" Chevrolet.
"As a longtime racing fan and someone who has always followed the Indianapolis 500, the honor to drive the pace car comes as a tremendous thrill," said Harbaugh. "Doing it in the all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray makes it even better. It's an iconic car leading an iconic race."
Harbaugh's stint behind the wheel of the Laguna Blue Pace Car marks a record 12th time the Corvette has served in the role, starting in 1978. The 2014 Corvette Stingray coupe goes on sale this fall, with a convertible model coming a few months later. It is powered by an all-new 6.2L LT1 engine, which features advanced technologies including direct fuel injection, continuously variable valve timing and Active Fuel Management, also known as cylinder deactivation, , to help produce 455 horsepower more efficiently.
"It's great to have a true racing fan like Jim Harbaugh drive the Corvette pace car," said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. "He personifies the Indianapolis 500's spirit of competition – and he's a true athlete, just like the all-new Corvette Stingray."
The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray coupe will be available later this summer and have a suggested starting retail price of $51,995. Price includes a $995 destination fee but excludes tax, title, and license.
Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4.5 million cars and trucks a year. Chevrolet provides customers with fuel-efficient vehicles that feature spirited performance, expressive design, and high quality. More information on Chevrolet models can be found at www.chevrolet.com.