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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chevrolet to Make IndyCar Return in 2012?

Rumors have swirled around the IndyCar blogosphere today that Chevrolet, as part of a major recommitment to motorsports by parent company General Motors in 2011 and beyond, will return to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012 with a V6 engine to compete with Honda.

The announcement will supposedly be made on Friday, November 12, and also includes expanded GM commitments to sports car and drag racing.

Chevrolet withdrew from IndyCar in 2005, taking its last win at Texas in June of that year with Tomas Scheckter.

The marque replaced Oldsmobile in 2002 as GM's brand of choice in the series, taking all but one win in that season. But as the larger-budgeted Honda and Toyota programs shifted over from CART, Chevrolet engines were rendered increasingly uncompetitive, until the unthinkable - a partnership with longtime Ford engine supplier Cosworth - occurred in 2005. All in all, Chevrolet engines won 18 IndyCar races, although only four came from 2003-05.

Panther Racing carried the torch for Chevrolet initially, winning the 2002 championship with Sam Hornish Jr. on Chevrolet power. But this time around, if the buzz is to be believed, the leader of the bowtie brigade will be Chip Ganassi, who won NASCAR's two biggest races - the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 - with Chevrolet power this year.

But Ganassi was not high on the food chain with GM in NASCAR; Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, and Stewart-Haas Racing are among the more notable Chevrolet teams in that series. Rival manufacturer Ford swooped in with a lucrative offer, intent on making Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing their number two team.

According to reports, Ganassi had intended to sign with Ford until learning of GM's commitment to go back to Indianapolis in 2012. As open-wheel racing has always been Ganassi's bread and butter, he reconsidered.

Nothing has been confirmed as of yet. In particular, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard called the news "pure speculation." Though it is standard practice not to confirm any big deals such as this before their official announcement, the tone of Bernard's comments suggests that there may still be a long way to go before any engine deals are signed.

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