Photo: Aaron Bearden/Motorsports Tribune

Pace Car Crashes During Belle Isle Parade Laps

By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor

DETROIT — The traditional Belle Isle attrition started before the green flag on the final day of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.

Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, was piloting the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 pace car through the 2.35-mile Belle Isle Park circuit when he lost control of the machine, careening into the left-side wall and forcing heavy damage to the car.

Reuss was accompanied by an INDYCAR Official in the car. The passenger side airbag deployed in the incident, but both driver and passenger emerged from the wreck without serious history. Reuss was checked and released from the infield care center after the crash.

The shunt forced a delay to the planned start of the 70-lap race, with the Verizon IndyCar Series cars returning to the pit lane and subsequently re-firing. A backup pace car, driven by Indianapolis 500 participant Oriol Servia, was deployed for the remainder of the event.

Cars were re-fired at 4:18 p.m. ET, with the race going green five minutes later at 4:23 p.m. ET.

While such moments are rare, Reuss is far from the first to crash a pace car before or during an IndyCar race.

Local Dodge dealer Eldon Palmer infamously crashed a Dodge Challenger pace car into a photography stand while heading to the pit lane at the start of the 1971 Indianapolis 500. The incident led to 29 injured people, with two seriously injured.

A pace car ended up in the tire barrier at Long Beach in 1991 after a crash involving Michael Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi, and Johnny Rutherford was involved in a pace car crash at Texas Motor Speedway in 1999 when he collided with the indy car of Donnie Beechler while trying to catch up to the leader after a crash involving Tyce Carlson.

Aaron Bearden is a Contributing Writer for Motorsports Tribune, handling coverage of both the Verizon IndyCar Series and ABB FIA Formula E Championship. A native Hoosier, Bearden has attended races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since he was three years old. He can be found on social media at @AaronBearden93.