IRL Chevys fall from lofty perch

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com
After completing more than half of the season, the Chevrolets continue to struggle in the Indy Racing League.
There has not been much to boast about for Chevys in the first nine races, as they are winless after capturing 14 of the 15 events ran last year.
Chevrolet has finished in the top five just twice so far, with defending champion Sam Hornish Jr. finishing fourth at Richmond and fifth at Pikes Peak.
"Everybody knows that were down on horsepower right now, so we're just trying to take the cards we're dealt and do the best we can," said Hornish.
It appeared that Chevy might break the winless streak this past Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway.
Hornish Jr. started next to last in the field but managed to work his way up to first right before reaching the halfway point, posting the first lap led by Chevrolet this season.
"We knew there was something not quite right with that engine we had in, so we had to work hard in trying to get it that much better," said Hornish. "We had a good handling race car but we were not that much better, it's just that we knew how to work the draft to our advantage."
Unfortunately for Hornish, a caution came out after making a green flag pit stop, which relegated him a lap down to take him out of contention for the win.
"We've had real fast race cars here at Nashville the past three years, and we got hit under yellow last year, and the year before that we had an injector to go bad," said Hornish. "This time the pit-stop put us back, but one of these days I'm going to come here and get one of those guitars."
Hornish quickly made it back to running on the lead lap, but track position was something the Pennzoil Panther Chevrolet would not be able to overcome.
"We were looking for a top five showing, and I think you can consider that as having a good weekend," said Hornish.
This was the first time all season that Chevrolet had led after being down on horsepower to the Toyotas and Hondas, which are averaging speeds around five miles per hour faster.
"We're just trying to be consistent as possible, and make sure we make all the races and try to stay out of trouble," said Hornish. "We're just trying to keep our heads up and keep swinging until we're able to turn things around."
Heading into next week's race at Michigan, it might be a different tale for the Chevrolet camp, after making the announcement on being approved to use their new Gen IV Chevy Indy V-8 engine.
"With being how good we were here at Nashville, and how much better that engine is we're real excited -- so we'll be ready to go then," said Hornish.
Hornish plans to try out the new power plant at Michigan, which creates some excitement, especially after being so competitive at Nashville.
This attempt will help secure Chevrolet's position in Indy Racing, after a struggling qualifying effort at Nashville left all six car-make entries in the last seven spots of the starting grid.
"The request by GM Racing was based on performance deficiency demonstrated during the current season and the reliability problems created by efforts to address the performance deficiency," said senior vice-president of IRL Brian Barnhart.
There were no Chevys inside the top ten at the end of Saturday night's race, as Hornish was the top of the class for Chevrolet with an 11th-place finish.
"While continuity and consistency are important consideration for the IRL, it is equally important that the league's hallmark of competitive, side-by-side racing, be available for our fans and competitors," said Barnhart.