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Corvette ZR1 paces the Indy 500 field as Chevrolet seeks its fifth win of the season

Chevrolet’s return to the IZOD IndyCar Series for the 2012 season has been a triumph, as Bow Tie-powered cars have won all four of the races of the season. But Chevrolet is taking nothing for granted as the teams approach the fifth, and most important, race of the year: The 2012 Indianapolis 500.

The Indy 500 is arguably the most-watched, most important single race of the year, with top drivers from around the world competing on a global stage. It also holds a special place in Chevrolet’s history.

“Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been a proving ground for manufacturers since Louis Chevrolet, our co-founder, first raced there in 1909,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet Marketing.

Chevrolet competed previously in Indy car racing as an engine manufacturer in 1986-93 and 2002-05 with V8 engines, winning 104 races, powering six driver champions and scoring seven Indianapolis 500 victories.

Prior to 2012, IndyCar has used a “spec” V8 engine. For 2012, IndyCar changed the engine formula from the V8 to a much smaller, but turbocharged, V6. Chevrolet management saw this as a perfect opportunity to re-engage with the series, as now, the V6 reflects some of the technology used in passenger car engines, such as turbocharging and direct fuel injection. IndyCar also uses E85 fuel, which is 85 percent renewable ethanol. Multiple Chevrolet passenger vehicles can use E85 fuel.

Chevrolet partnered with Illmor, a longtime technology company headed by race team owner Roger Penske, to develop the all-new engine, and Penske’s powerful team was the first to sign up for the Chevrolet engine. Penske drivers won those first four races of the season, and also were the top qualifiers.

Chevrolet has won seven times at the Indianapolis 500, including four times with Team Penske. Regardless of how Chevrolet ends up, there is no question that a Chevrolet will lead the field: For the 23rd time, a Chevrolet is pacing the Indy 500 field, this time the 638-horsepower Corvette ZR1, the most powerful production car to ever lead the field.

“This is a truly momentous year for Chevrolet when it comes to performance, with our continued success on and off track, and especially with our return to the IndyCar Series, powering some of the fastest cars on the circuit,” said Jim Campbell, GM vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports.“I can’t think of a better way to mark the 60th Anniversary of Corvette than having it lead the starting field of the Indianapolis 500.”

Though the Indianapolis 500 entry list can vary up until the last moment, at present, here are the Chevrolet teams that will be vying for the 33-car starting field:

2: Ryan Briscoe, Sydney, Australia; IZOD, Team Penske.

3: Helio Castroneves, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra, Team Penske.

4: J.R. Hildebrand, Sausalito, Calif.; National Guard, Panther Racing.

5: E.J. Viso, Caracas, Venezuela; CITGO/ PDVSA, KV Racing Technology.

8: Rubens Barrichello, Sao Paulo, Brazil; BMC/Embrase, KV Racing Technology.

11: Tony Kanaan, Salvador, Brazil; GEICO/Mouser Electronics KVRT, KV Racing Technology.

12: Will Power, Toowoomba, Australia; Verizon, Team Penske.

17: Sebastian Saavedra, Bogota, Colombia; Team AFS, AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport.

20: Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, Fuzzy’s Vodka, Ed Carpenter Racing.

21: TBA, Ed Carpenter Racing. Carpenter has a second car entered, with no driver or sponsor yet listed. There are multiple candidates, all looking for money to fund the effort.

22: Oriol Servia, Pals, Spain; Panther/DRR Racing.

25: Ana Beatriz, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Team Ipiranga, Andretti Autosport/Conquest Racing.

26: Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa.; Team RC Cola, Andretti Autosport.

27: James Hinchcliffe, Toronto; Team GoDaddy.com, Andretti Autosport.

28: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda, Andretti Autosport.