IRL: Kentucky: GM Racing preview

Chevrolet Teams to race Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 in Kentucky Kentucky is famous for horsepower of the four-legged variety, but the focus at this weekend's IRL Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway will be on the horsepower of the new Gen IV...

Chevrolet Teams to race Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 in Kentucky

Kentucky is famous for horsepower of the four-legged variety, but the focus at this weekend's IRL Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway will be on the horsepower of the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8. Just four weeks after the IRL's approval of the Gen IV engine on July 19, all six Chevrolet drivers in the IndyCar Series will race with the new powerplant for the first time. The roster of Gen IV Chevy racers will include Sam Hornish Jr. (Panther Racing), Buddy Rice (Red Bull Cheever Racing), Vitor Meira (Team Menard), Buddy Lazier (Hemelgarn Racing), Robbie Buhl (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing), and Sarah Fisher (Dreyer & Reinbold Racing).

The Kentucky event is the final step in the phased introduction of the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 prescribed by the series. Following successful tests of the new engine package under racing conditions by Panther Racing at Michigan International Speedway (July 27) and Red Bull Cheever Racing at Gateway International (Aug. 10), all Chevrolet teams are now eligible to use the new engine.

"The race at Kentucky Speedway will be a significant milestone in the evolution of Chevrolet's IRL program," said GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri. "The conversion to the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 has been very smooth, thanks to the exceptional efforts of our teams and suppliers.

"We still have a long road to travel during the development of this new engine specification, and there will certainly be some unexpected bumps along the way," Negri noted. "With six engines on the track this weekend, we can accelerate our learning and continue to build a strong foundation for Chevy's IRL program in 2004 and 2005."

Changing Horses

While IndyCar teams routinely change engines in less than an hour during a race weekend, the conversion from the Gen III Chevy Indy V8 to the Gen IV version is much more complex. Although the Gen III and Gen IV engines share the same general specifications - 3.5-liter displacement, eight cylinders, dual overhead cams and electronic fuel injection - they have no parts in common. Kevin Bayless, GM Racing's chassis and aerodynamics specialist, is assisting Chevrolet teams as they make the transition to the new powerplant.

"The IRL rules require that all engines use the same attachment points, so the Gen IV block bolts to the tub and the bellhousing just like the Gen III engine - but that's where the similarities end," Bayless explained. "Virtually every component on the car that interfaces with the engine must be changed in the Gen III to Gen IV conversion.

"All of the engine support systems - the cooling system, the lubrication system, the exhaust system, the electronic engine management system, the airbox, the clutch, the throttle cable, the bellhousing and the gearbox input shaft - have to be replaced or modified. Forty major chassis components have significant changes."

GM Racing and Chevrolet teams operated on a tight timetable to have the cars ready for the Kentucky race. Several teams were able to get a head start by converting their spare cars; others had to make the conversion after last Sunday's race at Gateway International Raceway.

"The Panther Racing team did an outstanding job when they converted the first test car," Bayless said. "Based on their feedback, we modified the prototype parts and used them as patterns for the production run of parts. The experience we gained with each successive conversion meant that the process became progressively faster and easier.

"All of our suppliers made a monumental effort to get parts to us as quickly as possible," he noted. "I think that Sam Hornish's performance at Michigan got everyone's enthusiasm up - not only the Chevy teams, but also the vendors as well."

Racing Around

Chevrolet continued its winning ways in NASCAR Winston Cup competition last weekend as Robby Gordon won the Sirius 400 at the Glen in his Richard Childress Racing Monte Carlo. Chevy took four of the top five finishing positions, and leads the NASCAR manufacturer's championship standings.

Chevrolets will be racing in four major motorsports series this weekend: IRL at Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR at Michigan International Speedway, NHRA at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway and the American Le Mans Series at Mosport in Bowmanville, Ont. Chevrolet is the only manufacturer currently competing in the IRL, NASCAR Winston Cup, NHRA and American Le Mans Series.

-gmr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby Gordon , Sarah Fisher , Buddy Lazier , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr. , Sam Hornis , Vitor Meira
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing , Richard Childress Racing