National Corvette Museum Honors Those Who Laid The Foundation For Corvette Racing

Every trip to the National Corvette Museum can be a new and informative experience, thanks to a team of committed enthusiasts who strive to make telling the story of Corvette as exciting as the car itself. One way they do that is to constantly evaluate the displays and bring in new exhibits that tell a new portion of the history of Corvette.

One of the most recent displays at the NCM celebrates the vast history that Chevrolet has in all forms of racing. While the current C7.Rs are showing Corvette’s prowess on tracks around the world, the thread of performance that weaves through today’s Corvettes was actually begun years before, even before there was a Corvette!

Early examples of Chevrolet’s quest for performance include a 1909 Buick Model 16 Indy Racecar, 1910 Buick Bug and a 1915 Cornelian.

This new display brings Chevrolet’s early racing history, the very cells that comprise Corvette Racing’s DNA, to Corvette’s home town of Bowling Green, Kentucky. The fact that Corvette is now built at the Assembly Plant, celebrated at the Museum, and has its own home track, directly across the interstate, just proves how inter-woven the thread of performance has become for Corvette. It’s quite fitting that the NCM have an exhibit that shares the entire story, from the beginning.

At 9:56 am on March 1, 1990, this ZR-1 and an L98 powered Corvette took to the 7.712-mile track at the Firestone Test Center in Fort Stockton, Texas. This very car ran a full 24 hours, averaging a speed of 175.885 miles per hour. It also set new world records for 5,000 km and 5,000 mile average top speeds, proving itself to be the “King of the Hill.

NCM curator Derek Moore explains the purpose of the new exhibit, titled Chevrolet Racing: Louis to Le Mans. He states, “The idea of the exhibit started with Corvette’s success at Le Mans over the last few years, and with the recent heyday of how well Corvette Racing is doing, I wanted to look at how Chevrolet wound up at this point…the way to do that was to start all the way back with Louis Chevrolet and his success as a race car driver. Chevrolet is born out of the early days of Buick racing with Louis Chevrolet driving, so, we started with Corvette Racing’s success and backed it up to the roots of Buick and what Louis Chevrolet was doing driving for them.”

The performance of fuel injected engines has been established ever since the first units were installed back in '57. There is an interesting "Fuelie" cutaway hanging from the ceiling and the NCM brought in one of the famed "Black Widow" 57 Chevys specifically for this exhibit.

Corvette is celebrated completely at the National Corvette Museum, and we think this new exhibit serves to more adequately point out the foundation that was laid, even decades before the resin began to flow. Moore says that while each car played an important role in Chevrolet’s racing history, they also each have a side story that makes the exhibit have layers of interesting history. Attendees will learn about all aspects of Chevrolet racing, ranging from NASCAR and the Indianapolis 500 to the most recent Corvette Racing endeavors by viewing the early 1997 Chevrolet C5.R Homologation and C6.R GT1 test cars.

Other highlights of Chevrolet performance are displayed, such as a fuel injection cutaway, to race suits, trophies from various races and more. The Tommy Morrison 1989 ZR1 24-Hour World Record Corvette moved through the NCM to join the various displays in a rightful showing of its significance in Corvette’s history.

…we started with Corvette Racing’s success and backed it up to the roots of Buick and what Louis Chevrolet was doing driving for them. – Derek Moore, NCM Curator

All in all, the display paints a broad stroke of the various efforts that have afforded Corvette the performance that we all enjoy. The ’Chevrolet Racing: Louis to Le Mans’ exhibit runs through January 4, 2019 in the National Corvette Museum’s Exhibit Hall. For more information on planning a visit to the Museum and NCM Motorsports Park, visit the NCM’s website. The Museum is open daily, 8am-5pm CT and can be reached at 800-53-VETTE. It is located at I-65, Exit 28 in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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