IRL: Kentucky: Indy Racing League notebook 2003-8-13

Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 ready; Penske drivers, Pujols meet INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2003 -- Kentucky is famous for horsepower of the four-legged variety, but the focus at this weekend's Belterra Casino Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway will be...

Gen IV Chevy Indy V8 ready; Penske drivers, Pujols meet

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2003 -- Kentucky is famous for horsepower of the four-legged variety, but the focus at this weekend's 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 Indy Racing League's approval of the Gen IV engine on July 19, all six Chevrolet drivers in the IndyCara Series will race with the new powerplant for the first time.

The roster of Gen IV Chevy racers includes: Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone), Buddy Rice (No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone), Vitor Meira (No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone), Buddy Lazier (No. 91 Delta Faucet/Life Fitness Dallara/ Chevrolet/Firestone), Robbie Buhl (No. 24 Purex/Aventix/Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone), Sarah Fisher (No. 23 GMAC/AOL/ Dreyer & Reinbold Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone).

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. 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."

While IndyCar Series 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 said. "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. 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." While Chevrolet officials are excited about the Kentucky race, so are the drivers."

"To say that we're looking forward to racing this weekend is the understatement of the season for our team," Buhl said. "Chevy's been working hard to level the playing field, and now it's up to us to prove ourselves all over again. Am I anxious? Yes. Am I ready to race? More so than ever."

Toyota leads the Engine Manufacturers Championship 104-79 over Honda. Chevrolet is in third place with 59 points.

Festival of Speed:

The Indy Racing League, Kentucky Speedway and Newport on the Levee will host "Festival of Speed" at noon Aug. 14 at Newport on the Levee in Newport, Ky.

An autograph session with IRL IndyCar Series drivers Sarah Fisher, Robbie Buhl and Scott Sharp along with Red Bull Cheever Racing owner Eddie Cheever will take place from 5-6 p.m. on the Levee Upper Level near the Newport Aquarium. Following the session, Fisher and Sharp will drive IndyCar Series cars through Newport, across the Taylor-Southgate Bridge and into Great American Ballpark where they will deliver the first pitch for the Cincinnati Reds/Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game.

Three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford will sign copies of his book, Lone Star J.R., at 7 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble location on the Levee. e Indy Racing League Fan Experience will be on display throughout the day beginning at noon. The experience features Indy Racing League Challenge race simulators, the Indy Racing League Pit Stop Challenge, an Indy Racing Kids activity area and the Indy Racing Live stage. All properties will be located in the parking areas on the east side of the entertainment complex near the Hofbrauhaus Restaurant.

The Big Ham Blues band will play on the Indy Racing Live stage at noon, while Robin Lacy & Dezydeco will entertain at 6 p.m.

Penske and Pujols:

Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves had the opportunity to throw out the "first pitch" at the St. Louis Cardinals/Atlanta Braves game on Aug. 8 while in St. Louis for the Emerson Indy 250. Both drivers attended Cardinals batting practice where they met Major League Baseball's batting average leader Albert Pujols as well as Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. De Ferran and Castroneves each received a personalized Cardinals jersey from Pujols, and they presented him with a Penske Racing jacket.

On race day, Aug. 10, de Ferran and Castroneves played host to Pujols at Gateway International Raceway where they had the chance to talk before the morning warm-up. Pujols toured the Marlboro Team Penske garage and watched practice from the team's scoring stand with owner Roger Penske. During the warm-up, Penske gave Pujols a "crash course" in IndyCar Series racing.

Apparently this meeting was a good omen for the teams in red and white as Castroneves went on to win the Emerson Indy 250 that afternoon, and Pujols hit the game winning home run in the bottom of the eight against the Braves that night

Nice Deal:

Adventures For Wish Kids will entertain children with life threatening illnesses and their families Aug. 16 at Kentucky Speedway. The organization expects nearly 500 family members to attend the event. The day will include an autograph session with Indy Racing League drivers, who will sign hats donated by Cintas. Meijer has donated a snack bar and lunch has been donated by Outback & Bluegrass Meats Events will include IndyCar Series MBNA Pole Qualifying and the Kentucky 100 Infiniti Pro Series race. Children will meet the Kentucky Speedway mascot "Horsepower," and be able to see an IRL IndyCar Series car.

Kelley Replacement:

Kevin Miller will replace the injured Anton Julian as mechanic and left-rear tire changer for Al Unser Jr.'s No. 31 Corteco Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. Miller was a member of Kelley Racing's crew for Tony Renna's car in the 87th Indianapolis 500. Julian suffered a concussion and a right-knee injury after a pit-road accident in the Emerson Indy 250 on Aug. 10 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Fike Wins Badger Race:

Infiniti Pro Series standout Aaron Fike won the Badget Midget Feature Aug. 10 at Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis. Fike, the 2002 Badger Midget champion, is fifth in the Badger point standing this year.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Buddy Rice , Tony Renna , Aaron Fike , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr. , Johnny Rutherford , Sam Hornis
Teams Panther Racing , Team Penske , Team Penske