Friday, July 27, 2012
Chevrolet brings Camaro into NASCAR for 2013
Chevrolet became the final American manufacturer to roll a pony car into the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the 2013 Camaro was unveiled a few miles from its unofficial birthplace.
Before the Nationwide race at Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Clermont, Ind., last July, a group from the design studio for Chevrolet descended on NASCAR garage with calculators, cameras and open minds.
After meeting with NASCAR, measuring the styling lines of the Ford Mustang and Dodge Challenger and being briefed on the parameters for construction, the designers were sold on racing its top-selling sports car in a stock car series.
"What we formed was the design studio and racing group all got on the same page about what can we do," said Shane Martin, the Nationwide program director for Chevy. "They got a feel for the box they can work in with NASCAR. That really is the biggest thing that made this product a success."
In the past, Chevrolet officials had expressed reservations about compromising the "iconic" body contours of the Camaro for NASCAR. But next year's model, which was revealed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway before the Nationwide cars turned their first laps on the oval in preparation for Saturday's inaugural Indiana 250, will feature many of the production model's familiar traits, including a power-bulge hood and a recessed grille.
In introducing a next-generation car for Nationwide in 2010, NASCAR was more flexible in allowing manufacturers to incorporate more styling elements, primarily on the upper front facia, nose and hood. That helped sway Ford (Mustang) and Dodge (Challenger) to bring their pony cars into the circuit in the first year.
Jim Campbell, vice president of motor sports for Chevrolet, said his company wanted to wait after reintroducing the production Camaro in 2009. The car has led its segment the past two years, and Chevy reintroduced the Camaro to road racing over that span, too.
"We felt this was the time after we re-established Camaro in the market to go into Nationwide," Campbell said. "It's about really increasing the relevance in what we race on the track and how it connects to what we sell in the showroom. We want to do that in every series.
"The other thing is in selling sports cars, to keep the momentum, you need a lot of product news and relevant racing news. This is another chapter."
Citing the addition of biofuels and electronic fuel injection in the Sprint Cup Series, Campbell said the 2013 Camaro was the latest example of NASCAR accommodating the goals of manufacturers. In brainstorming sessions with NASCAR, Campbell said, new dashboard configurations and wheels that are more similar to those on productions cars have been discussed as medium- to long-term projects.
In the short term, there will be greater continuity in Nationwide with three of the four models stemming from the same breed.
"This is an exciting moment for us," NASCAR President Mike Helton said. "To have the Camaro in Nationwide against the other pony cars is fun for an old guy like me."
Points leader Elliott Sadler, who won last week at Chicagoland Speedway in an Impala for Richard Childress Racing, said, "It's like two heavyweight boxers going after each other to have the Mustang race the Camaro. There'll be a lot of bragging rights next year."
The Nationwide Camaro was designed completely through scale-model wind tunnel testing and computer animated drawings. Martin said teams would be receiving parts in the next couple of weeks and RCR would have the first car in the wind tunnel Sept. 13. An on-track test is slated for December at General Motors' proving grounds in Yuma, Ariz.