How do you like them apples, Batman?
On May 26, the Greatest Spectacle in Racing will take the green flag — actually, two of them — as they waved from a pair of Hollywood’s biggest stars. ESPN.com has learned that Matt Damon and Christian Bale will serve as the Honorary Starters for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. An official announcement is expected from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday afternoon.
This Fall the Academy Award winners will co-star in the auto racing film “Ford v. Ferrari”, the story of the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race, when Texas car designer Carroll Shelby (Damon) was charged by Ford to concoct a racing machine that might finally end Ferrari’s dominance of the world’s most prestigious sports car event. The result was the birth of the legendary Ford GT. The driver who helped Shelby fulfill that quest was British racer Ken Miles (Bale). The 20th Century Fox production is slated for a November release. Before waving a pair of green flags over the field of 33 Indy Cars to start the race, the actors will make an appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum alongside the last Ferrari to win the overall title at Le Mans in ’65, before losing to the machine that Damon and Bale’s characters introduced.
Damon and Bale will add their name to what might very well be the sports world’s most prestigious roster of movie star cameos. Over the last decade alone, Honorary Starters have included Chris Hemsworth, Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Pine and Jack Nicholson. In recent years, those starters have handed over the green flag used to start the race to be given to a patient at a local children’s hospital and delivered there by another celebrity, typically a sport hero with local Indy ties, a list that has included Andrew Luck and Paul George.
“Hollywood stars at Indianapolis dates back to nearly to start of the motion picture industry,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway Donald Davidson said one year ago during Hemsworth’s appearance. “Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, James Garner, and of course, Paul Newman, who co-owned a race team for years. There was even a time, in the 1940’s and ’50’s, when the movie studios would send their latest starlets to pose with the Indianapolis 500 champion in the winner’s circle. To promote the young stars, and of course, their upcoming movies.”
On Wednesday, Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that Kelly Clarkson will return for her second stint as the prerace national anthem performer. The honorary pace car driver has not been announced. Over the years the car has been driven by everyone from Jay Leno to Morgan Freeman. Last year it wheeled by Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo.