A Chevrolet engine hasn’t powered a winning IndyCar team since Sam Hornish, Jr. took the 2002 Indy Racing League title. Coincidentally, that was also the last year that a Chevy engine powered a car to victory in the Indy 500, with Helio Castroneves taking the win for Marlboro Team Penske.

That changes in 2012, as Chevrolet is again returning to the Indy 500 and to American open-wheel racing. Rule changes specify twin-turbo V-6 engines displacing 2.2-liters, which should produce between 550 and 700 horsepower depending upon the track and event.

Developing a small-displacement, high-horsepower turbocharged engine that runs on E85 biofuel will ultimately produce results for Chevrolet’s production cars as well. Rule changes also allow for a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), like those used in Formula 1, which could ultimately aid Chevy in producing performance-oriented hybrids for consumers.

Jim Campbell, GM's vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports, uses the Chevy Corvette as an example of how racing produces a better street car. The enhanced aerodynamics, carbon fiber body panels, performance traction control and carbon ceramic disc brakes found on the Corvette ZR1 are all derived from Chevy's successful Corvette racing program.

As manufacturers look for ways to improve performance while simultaneously gaining fuel efficiency and reducing emissions, the lessons learned in competition will be directly applied to production cars. Who doesn't want faster cars with less of a thirst for gasoline?