GM executive crashes Corvette pace car on live TV!
Detroit, Michigan - Roger Penske, from his perch at the Belle Isle circuit, with the governor of Michigan by his side, summed it up smartly after one of General Motors' top executives crashed a 2019 Corvette and delayed the start of the Detroit Grand Prix.
"Come to the races," Penske said. "You'll see anything."
That was true on Sunday when GM’s Mark Reuss wrecked the newest Corvette ZR1 as he led the IndyCar field to the green flag as the celebrity pace car driver. This was a spotlight moment for Chevrolet to show off a new product in its home town, and there was no better person to handle the honours than Reuss, the big dog of the motorsports program.
Reuss is executive vice-president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain; he ranks really high on the GM corporate ladder, and his on-track disaster was an internet sensation - one he probably wishes would go away - after he hit a bump on the street circuit that caused the Corvette to spin and hit the wall hard.
Regular pace car driver Oriol Servia immediately afterwards said it was a troublesome spot on the circuit, even for professional racing drivers, and Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power agreed.
"It's very easy to do as you go over that crest," Power said. "The traction control must have been turned off, so I felt it wasn't really his fault. It's just such a bad corner. Like, it's very easy to do."
Reuss was checked out at the medical centre and left on a golf cart without commenting. Chevrolet issued a tightly worded statement about the “incident” that did not identify Reuss and said “many factors contributed, including weather and track conditions. The car’s safety systems performed as expected.”
On Facebook, Reuss seemed devastated. He wrote: "I have driven this course many many many times. I have paced this race in the wet, cold, hot and calm. It is never a casual thing for me, but an honour to be asked.
"Today I let down my friends, my family, IndyCar, our city, and my company. Sorry does not describe it. I want to thank our engineers for providing me the safety I know is the best in the world."
Fast and slick
Perhaps Reuss is being a bit too hard on himself. There's a reason he pays professionals to drive the racing cars. It's not easy, and, yes, many factors come into play, including weather and track conditions.
It was a beautiful, sunny day in Detroit when Reuss crashed, but it had rained earlier and the circuit had been washed clean of the rubber buildup from two previous days of racing. That probably made the track fast and slick, and Reuss was in a powerful car when he hit a bump in a difficult corner.
Honda driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won Sunday's race, said his impression of the crash was of the power of the 2019 Corvette flagship model.
"I think that's a testament to the Corvette ZR1," he said. "I know that thing has 750 horsepower. I've driven one before, and you do not want to jump on the gas in that thing. For sure it's a fast car."
Roll with it, Reuss
Apart from a headset allowing him to listen to race control, Reuss was just a corporate executive in his work clothes doing his Sunday job. And he got into a car crash while doing his job. He wasn't hurt although. like many pace car drivers in street cars, he wasn't wearing any safety equipment.
It would be unusual for anybody to be talking about the new Corvette if not for Reuss' "incident" with the pace car. It might not be a marketing jackpot, but GM is getting extensive attention for its car and now can spin the incident by highlighting the safety performance.
Reuss should pick himself up and put this tale behind him. He can it turn into a dinner party story about the highs and lows of racing. You know, like the time he wrecked the pace car at Belle Isle, in front of the governor, on live TV - and didn't bruise anything but his ego!
Life happens, Mark, and now you've got one of those stories. Anything can happen - the reason why, as Penske said, you go to the races.