Indy 500: Matt Damon, Christian Bale Named Co-Honorary Starters

The 2019 Indy 500 is doubling the star power to its honorary starters this year.

Actors Matt Damon and Christian Bale have been picked to wave the green flag during the annual event. The two appeared at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday for Legends Day, a day that honors the racing icons and machines of more than a century of the Indianapolis 500.

The actors were named the honorary starters in celebration of their upcoming film Ford v. Ferrari, which follows the story of Ford's quest to defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of the Le Mans in the 1960s.

(Photo: Michael Hickey / Contributor)

Logan director James Mangold directed the new film, written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth. According to Variety the movie "follows an eccentric, determined team of American engineers and designer, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his British driver, Ken Miles (Bale) who are dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca with the mission of building a new automobile from scratch with the potential to defeat... Ferrari during the 1966 Le Mans World Championship in France."

The cast also includes Outlander star Caitriona Balfe as Miles' wife and Noah June as their son. Jon Bernthal also joined the cast in the role of Lee Iacocca.

Fox News writes Miles helped develop the Ford GT40 into a winner, but was denied victory in the historic race, despite leading in the race near the end, when the team ordered him to slow down so the top three Fords could cross the finish line together.

Race officials at the time declared the car driven by Bruce McLaren as the winner because it started the race farther back on the grid, therefore traveling a longer distance.

This will be the second time two people have shared the Indy 500 honor. Jake Gyllenhaal and Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman were in the flag stand to promote the film, Stronger.

"The Indianapolis 500 is the largest single-day sporting event on Earth, so it’s fitting that global icons Matt Damon and Christian Bale will be in the flag stand on May 26 to send the field of 33 cars charging toward Turn 1," Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles said in a statement to the Indy Star. "Matt and Christian are used to performing in the brightest spotlight so we know they will enjoy this special role at the world’s greatest race."

This will be the fifth year in a row actors have received the green flag honor, following Patrick Dempsey (2015), Chris Pine (2016), Gyllenhaal (2017) and Chris Hemsworth (2018).

Ford v. Ferrari is scheduled to premiere Nov. 15 in theaters.


The 103rd running of the Indy 500 airs live starting at 11 a.m. ET on NBC. The race day began with a performance from DJ/producers Skrillex, Alesso, Illenium and Chris Lake. Kelly Clarkson is set to return and sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" for a third time before the start of the race.

Photo credit: Chris Graythen / Staff