It wasn’t easy. After all, 100 years is a long time. Especially with an international motorsports heritage as storied as ours. So, after much thought. And much discussion. And maybe a spirited fistfight or two, we finally whittled down an encyclopedia’s worth of success to the top 10 defining moments in Chevrolet racing history. The hard, fast proof that Chevy Runs Deep.
#10 | Zora’s wild ride
1956: To publicize the ’56 Chevy’s new V8, Zora-Arkus Duntov, father of the Corvette, agreed to race an as-yet-unrevealed preproduction model in the annual Pikes Peak Hill Climb. Assaulting the treacherous course in full camouflage without a roll bar, he not only won his class, he set a new record and catapulted Chevy into the postwar performance spotlight.
#9 | The Chaparral Can Ams
1964-70: In 1964, Jim Hall, with covert assistance from Chevrolet Research and Development, shocked race-sanctioning bodies and forever changed the motorsports world. His incredibly innovative designs, incorporating high mounted wings, movable aero packages, underbody suction fans and more, dominated the Can Am circuit, snatching victory at the USRRC Championships in ’64, the 12 Hours of Sebring in ’65, and the Nurburgring 1,000-kilometer in ’66. Following a stunning 1-2 finish at Laguna Seca, race officials finally caught up to the Chaparrals, spelling the beginning of the end for the program. Gone, but not forgotten, the Chaparral spirit lives on in every Cruze Eco we build.
#8 | Victory is electric
1997-99: Echoing Zora Arkus-Duntov’s dramatic test run in ’56, Larry Ragland made history driving a special Chevy S-10 to victory at the 1997 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. This time, without using a single drop of gas. Not content with taking the Electric Vehicle Class, sounding the death knell for oil and changing the world, Larry went on to prove the viability of electric power − and lay the groundwork for the Chevy Volt − with wins in the 1998-99 Super Stock Truck Class and overall victory in the 2000 High Tech Truck Class.
#7 | Cruze crushes WTCC
2010: In a shocking departure from Chevy’s signature large displacement V8s, the Cruze made its presence known at the World Touring Car Championship in 2010. After a season dominating BMWs around the globe, Chevrolet scored a devastating one-two punch − seizing both the Driver’s Championship and the Manufacturer’s Championship. Proving that, yes, there just might be a replacement for displacement.
#6 | Dale Earnhardt Sr. wins the Daytona 500
1998: After 19 years of chasing the checkered flag at the beach, Dale Sr. finally conquered the Daytona 500, recording his first and only victory in the “Great American Race.” The scene that followed is widely considered to be one of the most touching moments in sports history, as crews and competitors alike lined Pit Road to shake his hand on the long, slow drive to Victory Lane.
#5 | Corvette versus the World
2008: Corvette slayed the monsters − BMW, Ferrari and Porsche − to seize its eighth consecutive Manufacturer’s Championship, making it the most successful team in American Le Mans Series history and conveniently placing Chevrolet in the crosshairs of global competition.
#4 | Jimmie Johnson takes Five
2010: After making a habit of winning in everything from stadium S-10s to off-road Silverados, Jimmie Johnson rode Chevy V8 power to an unprecedented five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver’s Championships − the first driver ever to do so. Leaving some to wonder, was it the man? Or the machine?
#3 | Impala meets Daytona
1959: On February 20, the now-legendary Impala locked in its first-ever win in its first-ever race. Guided by Bob Welborn’s steady hand and lead foot, the checkered flag started a trend of Daytona dominance for Chevrolet that continues to this day.
#2 | Mr. Corvette goes to France
1960: Because of an unofficial ban on factory racing at the time, legendary sportsman Briggs Cunningham introduced Corvette to the continent. In its international debut, Corvette ruled the “Big Bore” GT category, scoring the first-ever Chevrolet victory at Le Mans − a winning tradition proudly continued today, most recently with a spectacular GTE Pro class trophy at the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.
#1 | The race that started it all
1907: Legend has it that William “Billy” Durant, founder of General Motors, invited Louis Chevrolet and his younger brother Arthur to race for the honor of being his personal chauffeur. Louis, already an international racing sensation, easily blew away Arthur. Stunned by Louis’ seemingly complete disregard for personal safety, Billy handed the prized job to Arthur on the spot. Even so, Louis won in the long run. A few short years later, with Billy’s enthusiastic backing, the first Chevrolet was born. The rest, as they say, is history.
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