IRL: Oldsmobile heads for championship again

FORT WORTH, Texas - After eight races, 1,624 laps, and 2,336 miles of racing in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, it all comes down to this - a 208-lap shootout at Texas Motor Speedway on October 15. Forty-eight drivers have competed in the...

FORT WORTH, Texas - After eight races, 1,624 laps, and 2,336 miles of racing in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, it all comes down to this - a 208-lap shootout at Texas Motor Speedway on October 15. Forty-eight drivers have competed in the IRL series in 2000; now three have a shot at the $1 million championship.

The Excite 500 will be a battle between manufacturers as well as drivers. The top two title contenders, Buddy Lazier and Scott Goodyear, rely on Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 racing engine. Eddie Cheever, the only other driver with a mathematical chance to win the Northern Light Cup, drives an Infiniti Indy-powered machine. With the driver and team championships on the line, Oldsmobile entries will have a powerful weapon in their arsenal - cylinder heads with a new high-velocity port design that promises faster acceleration and quicker throttle response.

Lazier is in the driver's seat with a 38-point lead over Goodyear. Both drivers use IRL Aurora V8 engines prepared by Speedway Engine Development of Indianapolis. Cheever is third in the standings, three points behind Goodyear.

Oldsmobile's advanced engine components made an immediate impact in their competition debut at Kentucky Speedway six weeks ago. Goodyear captured the first pole of his IRL career in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Dallara powered by an updated Oldsmobile engine. Lazier scored his second victory of the season in Hemelgarn Racing's Delta/Coors Dallara using the new parts. Twice Lazier was able to drive through the field after extended pit stops.

"The new engine pieces have been a major gain," said Lazier. "I feel the power everywhere - bottom end, top end, everywhere. Power is a driver's best friend!"

Championship Scenarios

Oldsmobile clinched its fourth consecutive IRL Engine Manufacturers championship with Scott Sharp's victory in the Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11. An Oldsmobile driver is certain to win the rookie title as well, with Airton Dare, Jeret Schroeder, Sam Hornish Jr., and Sarah Fisher all in the running for the freshman honors. Oldsmobile will sweep the IRL manufacturer, driver, team, and rookie championships for the fourth straight year if Lazier or Goodyear wins the title in Texas.

"We expect another close, exciting race at Texas Motor Speedway," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL/Road Racing Group manager, "and naturally we are hoping that an Oldsmobile driver comes out on top. Buddy Lazier and Scott Goodyear are both championship caliber racers.

"The new engine components looked perfect after the race in Kentucky," Negri reported, "and we are pleased with the progress that has been made in testing. Oldsmobile teams have gained valuable experience with the revised cylinder head design and the updated engine specifications, so we anticipate another strong performance in Texas."

Smaller Is Better

While "bigger is better" is a familiar mantra in motorsports, GM Racing engineers took a different approach to improving the championship-winning IRL Aurora V8. They reduced the size of the passages in the engine's multi-valve aluminum cylinder heads to speed up the flow of air and methanol into the cylinders. Then they recalibrated the Delphi electronic engine management system to match the engine's new airflow characteristics.

Just as a river picks up speed as it flows through a narrow gorge, the IRL Aurora V8's smaller ports increase the velocity of the intake charge and fill the cylinders more completely at lower rpm. Increasing the amount of fuel and air that can be burned efficiently yields more power for acceleration and passing.

The new high-velocity port design complements the reduction in engine displacement from 4.0 liters to 3.5 liters that took effect in January. The benefits of the smaller port area are most noticeable on short 1-mile ovals where the engine must accelerate quickly coming out of the corners. A wide torque curve and quick throttle response can also give Oldsmobile drivers an edge on superspeedways as they work their way through traffic. Last June's race at Texas Motor Speedway saw a dozen cars running in the lead pack - a situation that is well suited to the revamped Oldsmobile engine's broad power band.

History is on Oldsmobile's side at Texas Motor Speedway; IRL Aurora V8 engines have won all six IRL events previously contested on the high-banked oval. Oldsmobile also has a strong numerical advantage with 26 of the 28 entries for the Excite 500 using IRL Aurora V8 engines. By continuously improving the IRL Aurora V8 racing engine, GM Racing has laid the foundation for Oldsmobile's fourth championship season.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Airton Daré , Scott Goodyear , Jeret Schroeder
Teams Panther Racing