Chevy & The Spirit Of Racing

Heidebreicht Chevrolet car racing

Chevy and NASCAR go together so naturally that it’s hard to imagine one without the other. In fact, Chevrolet may never have been founded if it were for racing. It was the racing car Louis Chevrolet helped build for his brother, Arthur, in mid-1911 for the very first Indianapolis 500 that caught the eye of entrepreneur William Durant. Durant was the founder of GM, though at that point he wasn’t with the company (he later rejoined them). The men met, talked about their shared passion for all things on wheels, and founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in November of the same year.

In the beginning, car makers were allowed to be directly involved in NASCAR. Chevy participated on a small scale in those days, sending select teams and cars to popular racing circuits. Their cars were popular on the circuit. It caught international racing attention, too: a GM dealer took a ‘40s Chevy to the 6,000 plus endurance based Race El Gran Premio Internacional Del Norte and returned victorious.

The invention of their 265-cid V-8 small-block engine in 1955 changed the sport. The engine was effective, inexpensive to build, and easy to modify. Car enthusiasts of all levels were able to customize it or modify as they wanted. Enthusiasm for racing grew in leaps and bounds. Chevrolet was marketing a 283 horsepower engine with optional fuel injection that pushed the output over 290 horsepower for the 1957 Corvette, calling it “one horsepower per cubic inch”. In 1956 alone Chevy cars racked up three wins in the Grand National and twenty five wins in Short Track racing, along with endurance and climb trophies.

In 1956, at Daytona Beach , a Chevrolet-designed automobile was the first in the sport to record a speed over 150mph. Zora Arkus-Duntov used a fuel-injection engine in a 1956 Chevy Corvette, outfitted it with a full-body belly pan, and gave it fins very similar to what is used in racing today.

A year later, in June of 1957, the Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (AMA) decreed that automobile factories could no longer be directly involved in professional racing. Manufacturers could no longer build and race their own cars.

The AMA ruling dealt a serious blow to racing, but the racing spirit was strong with Chevy. They kept building for speed and maneuverability, creating such classics as the ’62 Corvette Stingray, and began branching out into the GTO class. Chevrolet GTOs placed in all but one of the International Motor Sports Association’s Camel GT races in 1971, and three of those were outright wins.

1972 is considered the first year of “modern racing”, when the field of events was narrowed to the 31 races per season that make up the Grand National Tour. At one of the first events, the Atlanta 500, Bobbly Allison drove his Chevy to victory by less than a fifth of a second. His competitor, A.J. Boyd, switched to a Chevrolet the following season.

Chevy may not be able to directly compete these days, but their cars are a force to be reckoned with on the track. They have the most recorded wins of any manufacturer in history. Thirty-nine Championship winners have driven Chevys, with the nearest competitor claiming fifteen wins. Many of the highest-caliber drivers depend on Chevy. Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Danica Patrick all chose Chevrolet cars.

The Chevy racing spirit can be found off the track as well. At Michigan Heidebreicht, you can feel it on a test drive our one of our Stingrays. Are you ready to become a member of Team Chevy?

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