Chevrolet IndyCar V6 debuts with win at St. Petersburg
Chevrolet’s return to North America’s top open wheel racing series for the first time in six years resulted not only in a convincing victory, but placed four of the top five spots in the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the season opener for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Former IndyCar champion, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and “Dancing With The Stars” champion Helio Castroneves, winless since September of 2010, won the March 25 100-lap street race in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. It was the first outing for the new Chevrolet IndyCar V6 racing engine, which features direct injection and turbocharging, both of which are available on many Chevrolet passenger car engines.
An emotional Castroneves, who drives for Penske Racing, credited the power and fuel mileage of his Chevrolet engine for the victory, in part because Castroneves was able to complete the race with only two pit stops, while some competitors required three stops.
“This is a great day for General Motors and obviously for Chevrolet, who made the commitment to come back into IndyCar racing,” team owner Roger Penske said. IndyCar had previously been a “spec series,” with every competitor running the same engine. For the 2012 season, IndyCar adjusted the rule set to make it more compelling for other manufacturers to participate, including reducing the engine displacement from V8 engines to V6s. Chevrolet seized the opportunity to showcase the capability of high performance, small displacement V6 engines. Additionally the series has elected to demonstrate the benefits of renewable fuels by racing with E85 Ethanol. At St. Petersburg, fast qualifier Will Power, driving a Penske car with a Chevrolet engine, set a faster time than the V8-powered IndyCars did in 2011. Power finished seventh.
Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay’s finished third with Chevrolet power, while Andretti teammate James Hinchcliffe was fourth in the car previously driven by Danica Patrick, who moved to NASCAR's Nationwide Series in 2012 racing Chevrolets for JR Motorsports. Fifth was Ryan Briscoe, Castroneves’ Penske teammate. The only non-Chevrolet in the top five was Scott Dixon, who drove his Honda to second, more than five seconds behind Castroneves. Chevrolet took the early lead in the manufacturer points race with 9 to Honda's 6 and Lotus' 4.
On Memorial Day weekend, Chevrolet’s IndyCar teams will return to the Indianapolis 500, where Gaston, Louis and Arthur Chevrolet competed decades ago – Gaston won the race in 1920. Penske Racing, Castroneves’ team, has 31 open-wheel victories with Chevrolet power, and seven at Indianapolis alone, where Castronevers will be going for his fourth victory.