The Racing Capital
of the World
July 16, 2012 | By Bruce Martin
There is a famous commercial, promoting Chevrolet’s grass-roots American heritage, that went “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.” Nearly 30 years since that famous sales pitch hit the television screens, it could be modified to “Auto Racing, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Chevrolet.”
Chevrolet and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been linked together for the past 101 years as the Chevrolet Brothers competed in the early years of the Indianapolis 500, with Arthur Chevrolet racing in the inaugural 500 Mile Race in 1911 and again in the 1916 Indianapolis 500. Louis Chevrolet competed in the 1915, 1916, 1919 and 1920 Indianapolis 500s and finished seventh the 1919 race.
And Gaston Chevrolet won the 1920 Indianapolis 500 after finishing 10th in his rookie appearance in 1919.
Nearly 35 years after that historic victory by Gaston Chevrolet, the car company bearing the family named created an American classic – the Corvette – in 1953.
The iconic brand and the iconic track have joined forces in the past with the Chevrolet Corvette pacing the Indianapolis 500 11 of the 22 times that Chevrolet has served as the Pace Car. Chevrolet vehicles have paced the Crown Royal Presents the “Your Hero’s Name Here” 400 at the Brickyard powered by BigMachineRecords.com every year since its inception in 1994. But for the first time in the illustrious history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Corvette will be in competition at “The Greatest Race Course in the World” as it competes in the inaugural GRAND-AM contest at the IMS road course Friday, July 27 during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard.
It’s off to the Brickyard, where Chevrolet and the Corvette hope to write history in the Brickyard Grand Prix, the first GRAND-AM Road Racing event at Indianapolis. The Corvette competes in the Daytona Prototype class of the Rolex Sports Car Series.
“One thing we were really working hard to do was increase the relevance in the Daytona Prototype category,” said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “In terms of styling, that car is recognizably a Corvette that we sell in the showroom. We had our Corvette designers work with our racing team to meet the rules but have that car look like a Corvette. We want to increase relevance in every series from what we race to what we sell in the showroom from the powertrain side.
“Corvette is such a special product-brand customer base that the reaction to the Corvette Daytona Prototype when we rolled it out last November was exciting and more than expected. We had 16,000 people view the unveiling of that car live online, and we had a great reaction from the customers.”
Corvette Rolex Sports Car Series teams include GAINSCO, Wayne Taylor Racing, Spirit of Daytona and Action Express. There is a lot of expectation for the GRAND-AM race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time.
“For Chevrolet, this is going to be a fantastic weekend with Cup, Nationwide and GRAND-AM series,” Campbell said. “We’re going to have Chevys racing and pacing all weekend long. The key to our success with the Corvette has been the relevance to what we are racing to what we are selling in the showroom. The collaborative effort with our Corvette DP teams to putting a winning effort on the track. It’s great racing. We love it.”
And that sets the stage for Campbell and Chevrolet officials to dream of a three-race sweep at the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard.
“It’s always the goal to win,” Campbell said.
It didn’t take long for Corvette to make it to the winner’s circle. On March 31, Corvette scored a 1-2 finish at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., in just its second race in GRAND-AM competition. Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia took the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette Daytona Prototype to Victory Lane for Chevrolet’s first victory for the iconic Corvette. It was also team owner Troy Flis’ first Daytona Prototype class victory.
"It was very rewarding to celebrate the victory with the Spirit of Daytona - Corvette DP team at Barber Motorsports Park, in Alabama,” Campbell said. “The effort to bring the all-new Corvette Daytona Prototype to the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series was a collaboration of a talented group of partners. When a trip to Victory Lane comes so quickly after the introduction of a new race car, it is a tribute to those who worked to bring the vision to reality. We are all very proud of our teams and their continuing commitment to success.”
The success of the Corvette is important to General Motors and its performance division.
“It is fantastic to finally see our new Corvette Daytona Prototype in the winner’s circle,” said Mark Kent, director of Chevrolet Racing. “It has been a big effort by a lot of people. A lot of hard work; it is good to see that hard work finally pay off with this win.”
With the famed Corvette racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a new chapter will be written in the glorious history these world-famous brands enjoy.
“It’s two American icons,” Campbell said. “The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Corvette have an incredible tradition of racing and performance. We are very excited to have the Corvette Daytona Prototypes racing at Indy, and we are going to have a great turnout of Corvette customers from all over the country come in and watch the Daytona Prototypes race.
“It is going to be very special. Our Corvette Corral is going to be full because we will have Corvette customers coming from all over the country. Without a doubt, that whole weekend has relevance what we do on the track to what we do in the showroom. We will be pacing every race and racing every race promoting what we do on the track from Cup to Nationwide to DP, and make sure we have the relevance to what we sell in the showroom.”