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Chevy makes progress on IndyCar engine

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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IndyCar, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.

With the iconic bow-tie brand making its return to America's top open-wheel series next season, officials from General Motors updated the manufacturer’s progress with its Chevrolet engine program being developed at Ilmor Engineering in England.

INDY, INDEED

Get more of SPEED'S IndyCar coverage here.

The initial design of the engine is complete. Chevrolet is scheduled to run the engine in June and track testing will begin the third quarter this year.

Jim Campbell, General Motors vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, said the new engine rule package for 2012 makes Chevrolet’s return to IndyCars "very appealing." The last time Chevrolet was in IndyCar was 2005.

"The use of technology that we use on the production side and the ability to transfer the technology is key, related to things like small displacement engines, V6s, turbo-charging, direct injection and E85 fuels," Campbell said. "Also, the IndyCar allows us to add additional fans and prospective customers. We also noticed that last year in the ratings, 40 percent increase in the 18 to 35 males on TV. All those things were very appealing, and that’s the reason we decided to come back in.

"Plus, we also have an amazing tradition here. Louis Chevrolet, the founder of the company, and his two brothers Arthur and Gaston, raced or prepped cars in the Indy 500. One hundred yeas ago was their first century."

While it was announced in November that Penske Racing will reunite with the Chevrolet brand in IndyCars, Campbell would not comment on which additional organizations plan to come on board. Chip Ganassi, who carries the Chevrolet brand in NASCAR, would seem like a logical addition if the manufacturers have the patience to haggle out a deal.

Cream of the crop

Who picked up an IndyCar race win in 2011?

"We’re talking with all the teams including Chip," Campbell said. "All of these teams have been dealing with Honda over the years because of their previous association with the series. All of our conversations has been well-received. There’s a lot of excitement that an American brand is coming back into the series.

"Our approach to motorsports, we have a lot of success with what we call the key partners approach. We get the strongest partners/owners we can and then we work all the common issues together as a team. It works in NASCAR and it works in other series where we compete. So, we’re looking for team owners and organziations that fit that style and we’ll see where it goes."

Given Penske’s return to the General Motors on the IndyCar side, is it possible there could be a shift to Chevrolet with the NASCAR program? Penske Racing’s stock car program has struggled and with just two teams competing full time on the Sprint Cup Series in Dodges, the amount of shared data is limited.

“We look at every series uniquely,” Campbell said. “We’re proud to be associated with Roger in the IndyCar Series, and over the years our companies have had a number of relationships on the business side with Roger and his team. On the NASCAR side, we have a really strong set of owners from Richard Childress, Tony Stewart, Chip Ganassi and Rick Hendrick.

“We have a roster of teams and drivers that have been delivering a lot of wins over the years for us. In terms of that series, that’s where we’re at right now, but we’re always evaluating every series — our technology entries as well as our team partners. Time will tell, but I’m very pleased with our NASCAR side.”

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