Indianapolis Motor Speedway has found the right pace car driver for next weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race: Academy Award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard has agreed to drive the Curtiss Shaver 400 at the Brickyard powered by pace car on Sunday, July 29.

Howard, who just completed shooting epic-action drama "Rush" based on the duel between Formula One drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, will be making his first visit to the historic Brickyard oval in Speedway, Indiana as the guest of four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Hendrick Motorsports team. As Gordon's guest he intends to shadow the driver to learn more about what makes him tick.

The film "Rush" has reached post-production stages and is expected to be released sometime next year. It stars Chris Hemworth from "The Avengers" as the charismatic Hunt and Daniel Bruhl, seen in "Inglourious Basterds" as the disciplined Lauda and focuses on the on-circuit battles between this disparate duo.

"It's a great honor to welcome a true legend, Ron Howard, to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race," said Jeff Belskus, IMS Corp. president and CEO. "Ron has become immersed in motorsports'  culture and history through the filming of 'Rush,' so he's an ideal person to pace the field for one of NASCAR's biggest races at 'The Greatest Race Course in the World.'"

Ron Howard started his career as an actor, most notably as Andy Griffiths' son Opie Taylor in that late actor's eponymous television show. His greatest achievements have come in direction, winning Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture in 2001 for "A Beautiful Mind" and securing an additional nomination for Best Director in 2008 for "Frost/Nixon." Other blockbuster movies directed by Howard include "Angels & Demons," "Apollo 13," "Backdraft," "Cinderella Man," "Cocoon," "Parenthood," "Splash" and "The Da Vinci Code."

The identity of the pace vehicle for this 19th annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS is expected to be announced shortly. The Sprint Cup Series has this weekend off and is back next week for the Brickyard race.

The Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard includes NASCAR's Nationwide Series and Grand-Am Road Racing, the latter using the circuit's infield road course. This marks the first time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that races will take place on the 2.5-mile oval and 2.534-mile Grand Prix road course during the same weekend.