Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevrolet Notes for the SunTrust Indy Challenge * Short Track Season Begins With eight races in the next 10 weeks, the IRL IndyCar Series season begins in earnest this weekend at Richmond International...
Bowtie Bullet Points: Chevrolet Notes for the SunTrust Indy Challenge
* Short Track Season Begins
With eight races in the next 10 weeks, the IRL IndyCar Series season begins in earnest this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Saturday night's SunTrust Indy Challenge on the 3/4-mile Richmond bullring is the first of four races in the summer stretch that will be contested on tracks of one mile or less in length. While horsepower reigns on superspeedways, handling and torque are essential to success on the short tracks.
* Horses for Courses
Just as an open-wheel race car's chassis must be tailored to a specific track, its engine also must be tuned to suit the performance requirements of the diverse venues on the IRL IndyCar Series schedule. GM Racing engineers have developed a new short-track specification for the 3.0-liter version of the Chevy Indy V-8 that will race this weekend for the first time on a short track.
"We have made substantial progress on developing the 3.0-liter Chevy Indy V-8 since the Indianapolis 500," said GM Racing IRL program manager Joe Negri. "It was very apparent at Texas Motor Speedway that Chevrolet is closing the gap. We were encouraged by Alex Barron's third-place finish after starting 22nd, the pace of Ed Carpenter, Tomas Sheckter and Mark Taylor in qualifying, and Felipe Giaffone's top-10 finish. We still have more work to do, but we have a plan and a timetable to regain Chevrolet's horsepower advantage.
"A short track like Richmond rewards an engine with strong mid-range torque and sharp throttle response," Negri explained. "Working with GM Powertrain and our technical partners, we have focused our efforts on giving Chevrolet teams a power curve that will deliver quick acceleration in traffic."
* Getting a Grip
In addition to continuous improvement of the Chevy Indy V-8, GM Racing also has a comprehensive chassis and aerodynamic development program that benefits all Chevrolet IRL teams. According to GM Racing aero/chassis specialist Kevin Bayless, the Richmond oval requires a significant change in setup from the immense speedways that have hosted the IRL's three preceding races.
"Maximum grip is going to be the key," Bayless noted. "It ultimately comes down to who can get the most out of four tires, both mechanically and aerodynamically.
"The teams are going to bolt on anything they can think of to generate downforce," Bayless predicted. "Aerodynamic drag really isn't a concern on a small oval like Richmond, but maximum downforce is crucial to conserving tires in the race. Recent rule changes have reduced the available downforce, but we are always working in the wind tunnel to gain it back. We've recovered some, but certainly not all of it.
"Traction control also could play a role in the corners, but the importance of traction control is diminished by the reduced torque of the smaller 3.0-liter engines," he continued. "In the same vein, drivers will try to maintain momentum because they won't have an abundance of torque to pull them out of the corners and to work through traffic.
"In a previous test at Richmond, the cars generated 5.3 g's of lateral force in the corners," Bayless reported. "These high g forces are going to be very demanding on both drivers and equipment. On a 3/4-mile track with 16-second lap times, there's no time to relax."
* Richmond Record
The Commonwealth of Virginia, the birthplace of patriots and presidents, is also a hotbed of auto racing. GM-powered cars have won two of the three IRL IndyCar Series events contested at Richmond International Raceway. Buddy Lazier won in 2001 with an IRL Aurora V-8 and a Chevy Indy V-8 powered Sam Hornish Jr. to the winner's circle in 2002. Chevrolet propelled Gil de Ferran to the RIR qualifying record at 168.705 mph in 2002 - a mark that is likely to be eclipsed this weekend.
* Chevrolet Drivers on Richmond
ALEX BARRON, Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara: "The Richmond race will be a much quicker pace than last year since they repaved the track surface. I was surprised to hear that lap times from some of the IRL IndyCar Series drivers who tested on the new surface were under 16 seconds. Everything just happens so fast at Richmond because the track is a tight oval, so there will be a lot of close racing."
ED CARPENTER, Red Bull Cheever Racing Chevrolet Dallara: "I've raced at Richmond several times in USAC Silver Crown cars, and I have finished in second and third there, so I really like the track. I'm sure it will be a lot different in an IndyCar Series car, but it's a fun track. Since the surface is smoother now, it opens it up for more racing. It will be exciting and a lot better with the resurfacing."
FELIPE GIAFFONE, Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet Dallara: "I think it should be very good. I guess they have repaved the track. We haven't tested there, but a couple of the teams have already been there. I've heard that the track has a lot more grip. It's going to be fun, but it will be tough on everybody. If we're pulling the g's that they said they were running at the test, it will be tough on the drivers physically."
TOMAS SCHECKTER, Pennzoil Panther Racing Chevrolet Dallara: "I'm really looking forward to racing under the lights at Richmond International Raceway this Saturday night. It's the shortest track we race on, just three-quarters of a mile, so the action is tight, fast and exciting. I think it's one of the best, most exciting races of the year for our fans as well. I remember the great crowd last year cheering and yelling for their favorites. Richmond fans know their racing. They've made some changes to the track including repaving it since we raced there last year, and I hear it's even faster with our cars than it was. The Pennzoil Panther guys are ready to go. We had a very good test in Milwaukee, which is only a mile long, and we made some good gains on chassis setup there so we're looking forward to a great race in Richmond."
MARK TAYLOR, Menards/Johns Manville Racing Chevrolet Dallara: "This will be my first experience there, but I'm ready to get back out and start racing again. The season so far has been frustrating for myself and everybody on the Menards/Johns Manville crew. But we have work to do, so nobody is dragging their feet or hanging their heads. The test last week at Milwaukee was a big help in getting comfortable with the shorter tracks again. It's been tough so far, and while we haven't had the finishes we'd like this season, the guys at Panther have proven we can run at the front with the best cars in the league. So now it's a matter of putting it all together and finishing races."
* Racing From Sea to Shining Sea
Chevrolet is competing in major American motorsports events from coast to coast this weekend. In addition to the Chevy Indy V-8s competing at Richmond International Raceway, Monte Carlos will race in the NASCAR Nextel Cup event at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Chevy Silverado pickups will race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event on the historic Milwaukee Mile, which will also host Chevy Monte Carlo coupes in a NASCAR Busch Series race. Chevrolet Pro Stock Cavaliers and Monte Carlo Funny Cars will compete in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., and the Le Mans-winning Corvette Racing team will be back in action in the American Le Mans Series event in Lexington, Ohio. Chevy races to win across the spectrum of motorsports, and is the only manufacturer that currently competes in NASCAR Nextel Cup, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the IRL IndyCar Series, NHRA drag racing and the American Le Mans Series.