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Dario Franchitti to drive pace car for Indianapolis 500

Photo: Nick Laham/Getty Images

Dario Franchitti's return to Indianapolis after his career-ending crash will be an emotional moment.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) --Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti will drive the pace car in the 98th running of the Indy 500 in May.

Franchitti was forced to retire in November from injuries suffered in an October IndyCar race at Houston. The four-time series champion won the Indy 500 in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

"It is a tremendous honor for me to be asked to drive the pace car for the Indianapolis 500," said Franchitti. "As a historian of motorsport and as a three-time winner of this great race, I will appreciate every minute of getting to pace the field. Although I won't be competing in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, this will be as close as one person can get to the action."

Franchitti will pace the field in the May 25 race in a 2014 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28. It's the eighth time a Camaro has served as the pace car, and the 25th time a Chevrolet has paced the race.

"He is a true champion who has earned the respect and admiration of competitors and race fans alike," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports. "It will be very special to have Dario lead the field to the green flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway."

Franchitti's appearance as the pace car driver signifies a huge shift in Franchitti's career. He's moved into a driver development role with Chip Ganassi Racing, which switched to Chevrolet for the 2014 IndyCar season.

Chevrolet has a long history with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series.

Chevrolet was founded in 1911, the year of the inaugural 500-mile race, and the Chevrolet brothers - company co-founder Louis, Arthur and Gaston - all competed in early Indy 500 races. Arthur Chevrolet competed in the 1911 race and Gaston Chevrolet won it in 1920.

"We are excited to see Dario Franchitti back at the Brickyard, where he has had a very successful driving career," said Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Not only will his appearance in the Camaro Z/28 pace car thrill race fans, it underscores Chevrolet's important place in the past, present and future of the Indianapolis 500."

Rahal transporter catches fire on way to St. Pete

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (AP) -- A Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team transporter caught fire en route to the IndyCar Series season-opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The two transporter drivers discovered the fire Monday night while in Louisville, Ky., approximately 2 hours into the trip from the Indiana race shop. The fire is believed to have started in the engineering lounge, and damage was restricted to that area.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

There was no damage to driver Graham Rahal's car or any of the racing equipment.

The transporter returned to the race shop Monday night and the equipment will be transferred to another transporter that will head to St. Pete later

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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