03-14-2007: Team Chevy Poised for Return of Impala SS to NASCAR
Source: GM Media
Rocket Science and Years of Safety Research Incorporated Into the Impala SS Bring Enthusiasm and Optimism for Race Car's Debut
DETROIT - After two years of conducting wind tunnel and track testing, developing scale models, submitting designs and collaborating with its teams, GM Racing is ready and optimistic for the Impala SS debut at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 25. The race will mark the first of 16 Car of Tomorrow races in 2007 as well as the return of Chevrolet's Impala nameplate to NASCAR competition.
"We feel comfortable with the position we are in due to the time, communication and resources that GM has invested to work closely with NASCAR on the rollout of the Impala SS," said Pat Suhy, GM Racing NASCAR group manager. "I think our integrated approach in working with NASCAR on its new-generation race car has been valuable in helping them meet their four key objectives and valuable for us, particularly in gaining increased manufacturer identity with the Impala SS."
When NASCAR's Research & Development Center began moving forward with its seven-year program for the Car of Tomorrow, it set out to achieve four objectives. NASCAR's new-generation race car would include additional safety features, provide increased competition, reduce costs and incorporate more manufacturer identity.
Since March of 2005 when initial manufacturer meetings began, GM Racing has worked hand-in-hand with NASCAR to help develop the Car of Tomorrow and to help achieve these objectives. Extensive wind tunnel and on-track testing done by GM allowed GM Racing engineers to assist with safety and aerodynamic changes to the race cars as well as provide recommendations on the new wing and splitter. GM also enlisted the help of its design studio which allowed for greater input on design cues, resulting in the Impala SS race car more closely resembling the Impala SS production vehicle.
"Chevrolet stylists were actually in the wind tunnel with our racing team working with modeling clay to shape the front end of the Impala SS race car," said Suhy. "In working with NASCAR early on, we were able to jointly determine how much real estate we could use for manufacturer identity. I think those early efforts really paid off and it is evident in the additional manufacturer cues on the Impala SS compared to the current race cars."
GM Racing is also offering its support with the new template process that is required with the change-over to new race cars. NASCAR recently displayed the new inspection process in Bristol. While inspection still focuses on exterior body measurements and templates, the new process has multiple templates to be applied to a car at the same time.
"One unknown for Bristol is how NASCAR is going to be applying the templates," said Suhy. "As NASCAR and the teams continue to work on a gold standard for the template process, GM Racing is trying to help in any way we can. Members of our team who understand the templates and the bodies are working behind-the-scenes with NASCAR and the teams to make sure nothing is left to chance when we arrive in Bristol."
Chevy Drivers Rely on Momentum and Brand's Racing Heritage for Impala SS Debut
GM Racing engineers are encouraged with the performance of the Impala SS after Team Chevy drivers posted impressive speeds and had favorable feedback of the new Chevy model during the Car of Tomorrow test sessions in Bristol, Tenn. on Feb. 28 and March 1. In the second and third sessions, Chevy drivers testing the Impala SS posted eight of the top-10 fastest lap times.
"The Bristol test went very well for Chevrolet," said Suhy. "All of our teams have put a huge amount of effort into the Impala SS development through track testing starting as early as the middle of last year. I think it showed up on the track in Bristol. While we can't say for certain how the Impala SS will perform on race day, our observations from the test session indicate that our Chevy teams will continue to be successful with the Impala SS."
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Impala SS, sat on top of the charts following both Feb. 28 test sessions after recording the fastest speed of the day. Hamlin also credits the years of extensive preparations invested to prepare for the Impala SS debut.
"Our team has done a whole lot of homework on this program the last couple of years," said Hamlin. "I am pretty happy about where we are standing because not only are we fast but we are really good on the long runs and that really matters here. I am definitely excited to come back."
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the No. 8 Budweiser Chevy also commended the current performance of the Impala SS.
"It (the Impala SS) actually drives better than our other cars do here (at Bristol)," said Earnhardt. "The car is an inch wider. It has a little more grip. I am really pleasantly surprised really.
"It has exceeded my expectations at this point and how the car is driving... I enjoy the way my car drives. I think we will get it even better. A lot of guys are running really good which gives me promise that it will be OK."
Team Chevy drivers will also benefit from the racing heritage of Chevrolet and the Impala brand as they prepare to debut the new race car. Chevrolet is the most successful nameplate in NASCAR with 598 NASCAR Cup victories, 23 driver titles and 30 manufacturer championships while the Impala boasts numerous stock cars wins and back-to-back NASCAR championships.
After introducing the Impala in 1957 (as a 1958 model) drivers immediately took to the car with Bob Welborn winning the 1959 Daytona 500. In 1960 Rex White won the NASCAR Cup championship and Ned Jarrett followed that up with a second consecutive NASCAR title for the Impala in 1961. Stock-car legend Junior Johnson also ran the famous white No. 3 Impala in 1963 collecting seven wins, 12 top fives, 13 top 10s and nine pole starts in 32 races.
Team Chevy Prepares for Life After Bristol
With the Impala SS making its debut at short tracks and road course events in 2007, GM Racing engineers are already looking ahead to the mile-and-a-half tracks where aerodynamics play a significant role in on-track performance. The findings are also being communicated to NASCAR in an effort to help share ideas that have already been researched and tested by GM Racing.
"Since the mile-and-a-half tracks are very aerodynamic dependent, we're trying to find ways to balance the car even better and give the teams a little more adjustability," said Suhy. "Right now we have full-size wind tunnel programs, scale-model programs and CFDs (Computational Fluid Dynamics) being developed to find that balance and adjustability. We're looking out for our best interests but if there are areas that are potentially affecting all of our teams, we review those issues with NASCAR as well. That way NASCAR can consider our input and determine if there is a series-wide solution for all competitors when the issue may not be on their radar yet if enough testing hasn't been done or if teams haven't had the opportunity to test on track."