IRL: Chicagoland: GM Racing preview

* Back to the Big Tracks Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway will mark the return of the IRL IndyCar Series to superspeedway competition. The final three races on the IRL schedule will be contested on tracks that reward horsepower:...

* Back to the Big Tracks

Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway will mark the return of the IRL IndyCar Series to superspeedway competition. The final three races on the IRL schedule will be contested on tracks that reward horsepower: Chicagoland Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway (site of the season-ending Chevy 500 on Oct. 12) are 1.5-mile ovals; California Speedway, which hosts an IRL event on Sept. 21, is a 2-mile track.

"With the final three events of the IRL season on big ovals, the spotlight will be on engine performance," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL program manager. "Based on the new Chevy Indy V8's results in superspeedway races at Kentucky and MIS, with a victory and a runner-up finish, we expect that the new Chevrolet engine will be a strong contender.

"Up to this point, our primary focus has been on converting and supplying Chevrolet teams with new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 engines," Negri noted. "While we are still working hard to fill the pipeline, we are now turning our focus to development projects. Engine reliability has been outstanding, which has allowed us to begin work on performance improvements."

* Leader of the Pack

Chevy Indy V8 engines have led 77 percent of the laps in the last two IRL superspeedway races. Sam Hornish Jr. led 126 of 200 laps at Michigan International Speedway on July 25 en route to a runner-up finish in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara. Hornish started on the pole and led 181 of 200 laps at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 17 when he scored his record ninth IRL victory.

* Seven Chevys for Chicago

PDM Racing will rejoin the IRL series at the Delphi Indy 300 with a Chevy-powered entry driven by rookie Ed Carpenter. PDM's Metabolife Dallara will be equipped with the new Gen IV Chevy Indy V8, bringing the roster of Chevrolet-powered racers to seven. PDM last competed in the IRL series at the Indianapolis 500, where driver Jimmy Kite finished 13th.

Carpenter completed his rookie test at Kentucky Speedway with a Gen III Chevy Indy V8, and participated in a successful test last week at Chicagoland Speedway with the new Gen IV version.

"The first test in Kentucky was to get me comfortable in the car, and the second test was to get serious for the race," said Carpenter, who will drive in both the Pro Series and IndyCar Series races at Chicagoland. "We did 95 laps last week and the new Chevy engine ran strong to the end of the test. There is a huge difference in speed between the Pro Series and IndyCar Series cars, and with that speed there is a much greater sensation of the g forces the car is pulling. The mechanics of driving the two cars are similar, so it's just a matter of getting accustomed to the higher speeds."

Carpenter plans to run three races with PDM in 2003, thereby preserving his rookie status for the 2004 season. He will be the 13th driver for Paul Diatlovich's IRL team since 1996. One of the PDM Racing alumnae is two-time IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr., who made his IRL debut with PDM Racing in 2000. In eight starts, Hornish had a best finish of third in Las Vegas and led 38 laps in Kentucky. That performance caught the attention of the owners of Pennzoil Panther Racing, who signed Hornish to drive for them in 2001.

"If I can become as successful as Sam, I'll be very happy," said Carpenter. "PDM is a great little team, and I'm sure that Sam learned a lot from them. I'm confident in what we're capable of doing, and I'm looking forward to getting the job done."

* The Key to Chicago

Chicagoland Speedway is one of six 1.5-mile ovals on the IRL tour, but each of these tracks has its own personality. With 18-degree banking in the turns, Chicagoland falls between the relatively flat 6-degree corners of Homestead-Miami Speedway and the towering 24-degree banked turns of Texas Motor Speedway.

"You need a certain amount of downforce to get around Chicagoland Speedway quickly, especially in race trim," explained Kevin Bayless, GM Racing's aerodynamics and chassis specialist. "The track surface has good grip, so the setup doesn't require as much downforce as the cars run in Kentucky, for example. On a superspeedway, you want the car to have as little aerodynamic drag as possible, but the ambient conditions and the sunlight on the track will dictate how much downforce is required. At Chicagoland Speedway, the teams will have to deal with a bump in Turns 3 and 4 that gives the track character."

* Racing Around

Chevrolet raced to a 1-2-3 finish last weekend in the final NASCAR Winston Cup event on Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway. Terry Labonte led Chevy's podium sweep, with Kevin Harvick second and Jimmie Johnson third. Chevy Monte Carlo drivers finished first and second in the Winn-Dixie 200 Busch Series event on Saturday with Brian Vickers edging teammate Kyle Busch.

Chevrolet will be represented in all four major motorsports series racing this weekend in America: Chevy Indy V8s at Chicagoland Speedway, Monte Carlos at the NASCAR Winston Cup Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway, the Corvette Racing team in the American Le Mans Series in Monterey, Calif., and Pro Stock Cavaliers at the rain-delayed NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

Chevrolet is the only manufacturer currently competing in the IRL, NASCAR Winston Cup, NHRA and American Le Mans Series.

* About GM

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs 342,000 people globally in its core automotive business and subsidiaries. Founded in 1908, GM has been the global automotive sales leader since 1931. GM today has manufacturing operations in 32 countries and its vehicles are sold in more than 190 countries. In 2002, GM sold more than 8.6 million cars and trucks, nearly 15 percent of the global vehicle market. GM's global headquarters is at the GM Renaissance Center in Detroit. More information on GM and its products can be found on the company's consumer website at www.gm.com.

-gmr-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Terry Labonte , Kevin Harvick , Jimmy Kite , Jimmie Johnson , Brian Vickers , Sam Hornish Jr. , Kyle Busch , Ed Carpenter
Teams Panther Racing , Corvette Racing