Indy-car boss Randy Bernard: Looks to be getting a shot in the arm with a new Chevrolet-Indy engine program (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)
By Mike Mulhern
The 2012 Indy-car season is the target now, according to GM reports. Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske currently dominate the Indy-car world, and they are also top NASCAR team owners.
And Gilmore says it's all about Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge and Toyota executives all looking at other passenger-car-related marketing targets besides the standard NASCAR-358 c.i. V-8 market.
Whether such a GM-Indy program would open doors for some NASCAR team owners to expand to IRL operations is an interesting question. At the moment this appears to be just an engine program.
Chevrolet of course is no stranger at Indy. Remember those V-6 Buicks and the Ilmor-Chevy?
However Honda has had Indy-car racing to itself the last several years, with Toyota having dropped out to join NASCAR.
"They're talking about it with turbo four-cylinders or a V-6," Gilmore said, of IRL men he's talked with. "We've talked with GM about that, and they definitely have some interest in that, as long as it's a production-based engine.
"We have definitely talked with the Indy Racing League about that. We (Chevrolet) have some interest in getting back in that series."
Gilmore also said Ford was interested in such a project too. "There is a lot of interest," Gilmore says. "Especially if we could get more races together."
Gilmore said part of the impetus not only for Chevrolet and Ford but for Dodge and Toyota too "is the goal of reaching out and hitting a different market, and not have such a V-8 target."
NASCAR's mainstay motors for decades have been V-8s, except for a few years with V-6s in the then-Busch series, and of course the four-cylinder Baby Grands.
"So I think it (Indy-car racing) would be a good market, especially for GM, because we've got the Vortec four-cylinder. The Malibu I drive has a Vortec four-cylinder and it's got a lot of power; when you step on the gas, it's hard to tell the difference between it and a V-8."
Gilmore pointed to an interesting twist to the proposed new Indy-car engines: "They want an engine they can target to between 550 horsepower and 750 horsepower, so they can make different powers for different types of race tracks, because of different downforce requirements. That might a little difficult, but they could do it with a turbo four-cylinder.
"We (GM) could build a turbo four-cylinder that would be really reliable."
And such an engine could be tuned for NASCAR's Trucks and Nationwide cars too, Gilmore said: "I don't think the power requirements (for Trucks and Nationwide) would be that much different from what they (IRL) are looking for.
"We're at 750 horsepower with Trucks and Nationwide right now. So there are some things we could get to.
"We have had some conversations with them. They have some lofty goals with their target pricing. But where they're trying to get to is where we're already at with our Truck program. So I think it's very accomplishable."