IRL: Kentucky: Chevy preview

Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevrolet Notes for the Belterra Casino Indy 300 * The Turning Point Last week's announcement that the IRL IndyCar Series' 2005 schedule will include road races at Watkins Glen International in New York and Infineon...

Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevrolet Notes for the Belterra Casino Indy 300

* The Turning Point

Last week's announcement that the IRL IndyCar Series' 2005 schedule will include road races at Watkins Glen International in New York and Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., marked a turning point. The IndyCar Series has raced exclusively on oval tracks since its inception in 1996, but next season the drivers, teams and engine manufacturers will have to prepare to turn right as well as left.

Although a Chevy Indy V-8 hasn't competed in a road race since the CART season finale in Monterey, Calif., in 1993, Chevrolet already has a deep well of experience at both venues through its participation in NASCAR, SCCA, IMSA and ALMS events. Today's 3.0-liter naturally aspirated Chevrolet IndyCar Series engine is a far cry from the 2.65-liter turbocharged Chevy Indy V-8 that powered Chevy's open-wheel racing program a decade ago.

"The current Chevy Indy V-8 engine is optimized for high-speed oval tracks, so the addition of road races to the 2005 IRL schedule will require a new development program," said GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri. "We currently have two basic engine specifications - a speedway package that is designed to operate over a relatively narrow rpm range, and a short-track combination that has a slightly wider operating band. With the move to road courses next season, we'll continue this philosophy of tailoring the engine to specific types of tracks. A road racing specification typically must be tuned for a wide range of engine speeds. The engine rules that were introduced in 2003 anticipated this move to road courses by allowing the manufacturers to use technical features such as two fuel injectors per cylinder, so it's a matter of tuning the engine for road racing rather than developing an entirely new package.

"Up to this point, the engine systems have been designed for left-hand turns," Negri noted. "For example, the oil and fuel pickups are engineered to scavenge under the g loads produced by an oval track. Those are some of the areas that we will evaluate. We'll go into the first test of the road racing chassis configuration at Homestead Speedway in September with an open mind and see what the data tells us.

"The GM Racing engineering team will also focus on software development for 2005," Negri added. "Traction control will be more significant on road courses, and with more gear changes, electronic controls will play a key role in shifting and overall drivetrain reliability."

* Chassis Changes

GM Racing takes a holistic approach to racing by optimizing the car and engine combination. GM Racing aerodynamics and chassis specialist Kevin Bayless brings GM's technical resources to IRL teams, and he is already thinking about the next steps for road racing competition.

"A road racing setup will require several changes from the current oval track configuration," said Bayless. "First we'll need to install a differential that will allow the cars to turn left and right smoothly. On an oval track, the rearend is equipped with a spool that locks the two rear tires together. On a road course, we'll use a limited slip differential that will allow the rear wheels to rotate at different speeds while cornering.

"The left-side suspension will be changed to allow negative camber, which is the inward tilt of the wheels, for better grip in right-hand turns," Bayless continued. "Some suspension components may need to be strengthened to withstand impacts when the drivers bounce over curbs. The brake package will also be upgraded, since the brakes are now used only during pit stops and on very tight short tracks.

"In terms of aerodynamics, the ductwork for the radiators will be enlarged to ensure adequate airflow to cool the engine at slower speeds. The airflow through the coolers depends on the speed of the car, so with slower speeds on some sections of a road course, we'll focus on keeping the temperatures within acceptable limits.

"The front wing will also be the focus of aerodynamic development to increase front downforce," said Bayless. "The goal will be to produce more traction for turning at slower speeds. Suspension damping will be a new dynamic with turning, braking and accelerating. In effect, IRL teams and manufacturers will have to learn how to adapt a car that is primarily designed for oval tracks to run successfully on a limited number of road courses."

* Kentucky Rewind

GM engines have won all four of the IRL events contested at Kentucky Speedway. Buddy Lazier scored back-to-back victories in 2000 and 2001 with IRL Aurora V-8 engines. Chevy Indy V-8 powerplants propelled Felipe Giaffone and Sam Hornish Jr. into the winner's circle in 2002 and 2003 respectively.

Pennzoil Panther Racing and Chevrolet dominated last year's IRL race at Kentucky Speedway. Starting from the pole, Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara led 181 of 200 laps and set the IndyCar Series average speed record at 197.897 mph (a mark that was subsequently eclipsed at California Speedway). The Panther team notched Chevy's first victory of the 2003 season and the red Bowtie's 15th overall IRL win.

* Chevrolet Drivers on Kentucky Speedway

ALEX BARRON, Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
"I haven't had a lot of luck at Kentucky Speedway in my previous races there. I've been there twice, and one of those times, we could have had a top-three finish, but ran into a mechanical problem that cost us that podium. The track itself is good though. It's another 1.5-mile oval that's pretty high banked. You can run two lines in Turns 3 and 4, but there's a bump in Turn 2 that you have to be cautious of and adjust your car to compensate for it."

TOWNSEND BELL, Panther Racing Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara:
"This is going to be my first race at Kentucky, and we're all looking forward to it. I've heard some good things from the engineers about the car they had there last year, so we're hoping that success continues. We've been really consistent the last three races, and we continue to take little steps forward each time we go out. It's nice to finish as the top Chevrolet, and this race we're looking to battle with Tommy (teammate Tomas Scheckter) for that honor. It should be fun."

ED CARPENTER, Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara:
"I've raced at Kentucky twice before in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and also had my first test in an IndyCar Series car with PDM there. The track is challenging and has little differences each time you run there because after the winter, there always seems to be different bumps on the surface. It's a little different setup to tackle the track vs. tracks like Chicago and Kansas. It tends to modify itself a little bit each year."

FELIPE GIAFFONE, Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet Dallara:
"I'm looking forward to going back to Kentucky. Last time I drove there, we won the race, so I have some really good memories of being in Victory Lane. It's a fairly bumpy track, so the car has to be working well over the bumps. We haven't had a chance to test there this year, but it sounds like the speeds will be up from where we were in Kansas on our last 1.5-mile track."

TOMAS SCHECKTER, Panther Racing Pennzoil Chevrolet Dallara:
"We're really looking forward to the run at Kentucky Speedway. While the track itself can be pretty bumpy on occasion, the Pennzoil Panther team has always had strong cars there. Our engineering staff seems to have figured out how to make the car handle really well anywhere on the track. I remember last year watching the yellow Panther car dominate all the rest of us and wished I were driving it. Well, this year I will be and I can hardly wait. It should be a great race for teams and fans alike. We're also hoping that Steve Namisnak, our vent and jack man who was injured at Michigan, might be able to join us for the race."

* Racing Across America

Chevrolet will be in action at Watkins Glen International a full year before the IRL IndyCar Series' arrival at the historic track as Chevrolet Monte Carlos compete this weekend in the annual NASCAR road race at the Glen. Chevy Silverado pickups will take on the Nashville Superspeedway and Chevy drag racers will sprint to the finish line in Brainerd, Minn. Chevrolet is the only manufacturer that currently competes in America's premier stock car, open-wheel, drag racing and road racing series.

* About GM

General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, employs about 325,000 people globally. 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 192 countries. In 2003, GM sold nearly 8.6 million cars and trucks, about 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.

-gm-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Buddy Lazier , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing