The Chevrolets and Hondas that millions of Americans drive have at least one thing in common with the high-revving, single-seat open-wheeled cars that will be zipping around the track during next Sunday's running of the Indianapolis 500.
That would be the engineers who develop the cars.
Chevrolet and Honda both offer engineers jobs working in their company's racing operations. Some of the same elements that are crucial to winning on the track -- slippery aerodynamics, reliability and fuel economy -- carry over to production vehicles and vice versa.
Chevrolet engineers who have worked on the company's race cars have gone on to help create and test such street-legal production vehicles as Cadillac's V-series performance cars, the track-ready Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 and the Chevrolet Cor-vette Z06, the fastest production Corvette ever.
"We actually transfer people into the racing program and then back into production development," Dave Leone, Cadillac chief engineer, said during the recent introduction of the Cadillac ATS-V.
Honda operates a separate business in Santa Clarita, Calif., called Honda Performance Development. About 150 engineers work there designing, building and testing race engines, suspension systems and prototype parts, some of which will be used Sunday, May 24, at Indianapolis.
"It's a way to bring in associates from all over the company," said Lee Niffenegger, a senior engineer for commercial motorsports at Honda Performance Development.
Niffenegger has worked on both sides of Honda's business, spending his first 13 years in r&d, where he helped engineer production cars such as the 2006 Honda Civic Si, the performance model of the Civic line.
He says reducing weight is one area where engineers working on race cars can transfer their knowledge to production vehicles.
"It benefits everything -- braking, acceleration, stop-and-go turning, fuel economy. In racing, you can attack weight by spending money using more exotic materials. That is starting to trickle down from racing as you learn more and as suppliers get the costs down."