Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevrolet Notes for the IRL Emerson Indy 250
* Gateway race is first short-track test for Gen IV Chevy Indy V8
During pioneer days, St. Louis was the gateway to the unexplored West. This weekend Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis will be the site of the next step in GM Racing's exploration of the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 under racing conditions. In accordance with IRL guidelines, Red Bull Cheever Racing, the second-ranked Chevrolet team in the entrant standings, will have exclusive use of the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 engine in Sunday's Emerson Indy 250.
Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Buddy Rice tested the new engine last week at GIR, a distinctive 1.25-mile track that is shaped like a paper clip. Panther Racing driver Sam Hornish Jr., who drove the new Chevrolet engine to a runner-up finish in its debut at Michigan International Speedway on July 27, will use the Gen III version of the Chevy Indy V8 this weekend. All full-time Chevrolet teams are expected to run Gen IV engines in the Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 17.
"We were very encouraged by the results of the first test of the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 under racing conditions at MIS," said GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri. "The next event at Gateway International Raceway will give us an opportunity to test the new package under very different conditions.
"The 2-mile Michigan oval required that the engine run at maximum power over a very narrow rpm range," Negri explained. "Gateway has much tighter turns, so the engine will accelerate over a wider rpm band. This test will give us valuable data on the engine's torque and throttle response, and allow us to evaluate the electronic controls for full-throttle gear changes.
"While the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 performed well in its debut, we are still in the very early stages of its development," Negri noted. "The Emerson Indy 250 is only the second race for this new package, and Buddy Rice will have the only Gen IV engine on the track. GIR is a very challenging circuit that historically produces unexpected results. While we are cautiously optimistic going into this event, we are approaching it as another test session to evaluate the Gen IV Chevy Indy V8's performance and durability on a short track."
* Hot Rod Heart
Buddy Rice, the sole driver with a Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 this weekend in the Emerson Indy 250, is no stranger to fast Chevrolets. Rice, 27, has a stable of Chevy-powered hot rods at his home in Phoenix. On weekends when he is not driving Red Bull Cheever Racing's IndyCar, you can find Rice cruising the hot spots in the Valley of the Sun in his modified '67 Chevy II.
Rice inherited his love for classic Chevrolets from his father, Bud, an avid drag racer who campaigned Camaros, Vegas and Chevy-powered roadsters on drag strips throughout California and Arizona. When Buddy showed a flair for driving, his father sold his drag racing operation to fund Buddy's burgeoning kart career - the first step on a road that would eventually take Rice to the IRL.
"I'm not really sure how the son of a drag racer ended up in Indy cars," Rice admits. "I've been around racing since I was born, and I've been in the garage since I could walk."
Rice is an archetypal "Chevy guy" whose collection has included '55-'57 Chevys, mid-'60s Chevelles, S-10s pickups and Blazer SUVs. His everyday ride is a customized Silverado pickup.
Rice's restored '67 Chevy II has the right stuff for Saturday night cruises. It's powered by a small-block Chevy V8, an engine that has become the cornerstone of the American hot rod and racing industries. GM has produced more than 65 million small-block V8s, and this amazing motor is the most successful production engine in American motor racing.
"The Chevy II is a perfect cruiser for Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons," Rice reports. "I'm always traveling during racing season and messing around with my other toys, so I need a low-maintenance hot rod."
So how does this Gen X racer's 36-year-old Chevy II compare to Cheever Racing's state-of-the-art Indy car?
"The Chevy II is OK in a straight line, but when it comes to corners, it doesn't have the same grip or braking power as my IRL car," Rice observes. "The basic similarities between the two cars are four wheels and a Chevy V8 engine."
* Racing Around
Chevrolet drivers swept last weekend's major motorsports events, winning NASCAR, NHRA and ALMS races.
Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Richard Childress Racing's GM Goodwrench Chevrolet Monte Carlo, becoming the first driver to win from the pole in 10 editions of the Brickyard 400. It was Chevrolet's 10th Winston Cup victory of the season and the 11th for GM Racing.
Corvette Racing teammates Oliver Gavin and Kelly Collins won the GTS class in the ALMS Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres driving the Compuware Corvette C5-R. It was the pair's second victory of the season and Chevrolet's 36th win at the Canadian road course. Their victory extended Corvette's undefeated streak in the GTS class in 2003.
Reigning NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. posted his first victory of the season in his Chevrolet Cavalier at the Fram Nationals at Infineon Raceway near Sonoma, Calif. Coughlin continued GM's perfect 15-0 record in NHRA Pro Stock competition in 2003.
Chevrolet is the only manufacturer currently competing in the IRL, NASCAR Winston Cup, NHRA and American Le Mans Series.