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In almost every year since 1936, it has been a tradition that the winner of the Indianapolis 500 be presented with one of that year's pace cars (or a replica).In most years since 1911, the driver of the pace car at the start of the race has been an invited celebrity, a former racing driver, or notable figure in the automotive industry.The Indianapolis 500 auto race has used a pace car every year since 1911. At the start of the race, the pace car leads the assembled starting grid around the track for a predetermined number of unscored warm-up laps.Then if the officials deem appropriate, it releases the field at a purposeful speed to start the race.His primary duty was to marshal the start and in some years, his responsibilities included operating a film camera that would be housed inside the car's trunk.Dating back to the very early years, the pace cars were often painted with special liveries complete with logos, lettering, pinstriping, and other decorative markings.Automotive executives, NASA astronauts, reporters from ABC Sports and the IMS Radio Network, and other celebrities were among those invited to ride in the pace car.

Previously only fans on other parts of the track got to actually see the grid go by for photographs and waving.The field would use the lap to warm up their engines, tires, and then at the conclusion of the lap, at a prescribed speed, the pace car would pull off the track and allow for a rolling or "flying" start.Fisher himself drove the pace car in several early years, but it eventually became an honorary position, with invitations extended to former winners, notable figures in auto racing or the automobile industry.The invited driver was given the honor of "pacemaker," and manufacturers used the honor of providing the car as marketing exposure.During his tenure as Speedway president, Tony Hulman rode in the pace car nearly every year, immediately after giving the command to start engines.

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Since in the early years, the pace car was only used for one lap at the start (and not during caution periods), the need for a high performance machine (i.e., sports car) was not necessarily the top priority.

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