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The Notebook: Fuel Injected engines in NASCAR? Maybe so.....

  These NASCAR engines may be super-high-tech, but why are they still using carburetors? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern


   BROOKLYN, Mich.
   The Sunday NASCAR Notebook:

   Browsing the stock car racing garage in the hours before Sunday's Michigan 400, one of the hot topics was engines.

   -- Fuel injected engines in NASCAR?
   Perhaps in 2010?
   When NASCAR Sprint Cup director John Darby, a few weeks ago, raised the issue of 'fuel injected' racing engines in NASCAR, it raised eyebrows.
    NASCAR Cup engines are some of the most technically advanced engines in racing, except for the antique carburetors. Every other major form of racing, even ASA, uses fuel injected engines. And when was the last time anyone saw a carburetor atop a street car engine, after all.
    But NASCAR has long shied away from things electronically complicated like electronic fuel injection, for fear – with goodly reason – that the mechanical wizards on these racing teams might figure out a way to put some tricks in that electronic box.
   Now however NASCAR officials are raising the issue to team owners of fuel injected engines – possibly in the Truck series as soon as next season, according to one scenario – and asking how owners think NASCAR ought to police it.
   That's just one of numerous issues NASCAR and team owners discussed in a major session earlier this month, to consider where this sport ought to be five years from now.
   Why fuel injection now?
   One, to improve NASCAR's image and make the sport look more high-tech, and more up-to-date with what Detroit really puts out on the street for real people.
   Two, to use it as another item in a line of 'green' initiatives, again for public perception.
   And perhaps three, to entice other car makers – read Honda and Volkswagen – into this sport.
   "We think fuel injection is just the right way to go in NASCAR," Pat Suhy, Chevrolet's NASCAR field director, says.
   "And it wouldn't be that difficult. Every other top racing series uses fuel injection. We could put something together in about a week – depending on how simple or complex you wanted to do it – and then test it for two months or so, and be ready to go."
   However Ford's Greg Erwin is a little more skeptical about the fuel injection issue: "Fuel injection is not something you're going to be able to phase in over the winter. It's a little more complicated than that. It would be a pretty big undertaking.
   "Heck, it's taken all of us two years to figure out these cable-driven pump drives…and they're still breaking cables."
   And what about the idea of cutting these 900-horsepower NASCAR engines back to something more reasonable – for better racing – like 650 or 700 horsepower? Certainly the 210 mph corner speeds at this track and a California, and the follow-the-leader racing that tends to create, must have come up at that NASCAR-owners meeting?
   Apparently not.


  Reading sparkplugs (Photo: Autostock)

-- Ford's continued delay of the debut of its new NASCAR engines is drawing questions: Why the long delay of the motor that was unveiled in January.
   Reliability issues are a possibility. But no one is saying.
   The engine was to have run in Sunday's Michigan 400, but its debut has been delayed again. It was to have run at Daytona in July too, but didn't.
   Rivals say that the delay apparently means that Ford won't be giving the new motor in any of its championship contenders this fall. And they're calling Ford's delay "strange," since the company could easily put the new engine in the cars of men clearly not making the chase and not risk any title contenders.
   The man in charge of the project, Doug Yates, wasn't at the track over this weekend to discuss the issues.
   Jim Covey, a top General Motors/Chevrolet race engine designer, says he knows how difficult it can be to get a new NASCAR up and rolling.
   Covey won honors as 2007 race engine designer of the year for his work on the now-standard Chevrolet R07 engine, which is dominating the NASCAR tour this season. "One thing we at Chevrolet had going for us, in the development of the R07 was we had four different teams working on it, and the competition helped us," Covey said. "Now not every one of those teams got all it may have wanted in the new engine, but the competitive effort helped the overall project."
   That of course contrasts with what Dodge, Ford and Toyota have – Toyota designed its NASCAR engine in-house; Ford has combined its engine operations under one roof; Dodge's two main teams, with owners Roger Penske and Richard Petty, have not worked very closely at all on the new Dodge engine.
   Covey says that, while Chevy's R07 rollout went smoothly (of course the engine had been in development in various guises since 1999), the new Dodge R6 NASCAR engine has had its problems, "even though it's into its eighth month of the second year on the tour."
   Indeed, one of the tour's top Dodge drivers, Kasey Kahne, blew one of the new engines Friday. Kahne drives for Petty-Gillett, and that four-car team didn't get one of those new engines into one of its cars until May, and even now not all four teams have the new stuff.
    The Roger Penske team, on the other hand, got into the R6 engine last season, and now Kurt Busch is in the thick of the hunt for the title.
   Toyota's NASCAR debut also went smoothly. "But Toyota really had its back to the wall on that, because they didn't have any backup," Covey points out.
   Covey adds that Ford is under no particular pressure to get its new engine out, "because they are doing a very good job with the engine they have right now."
    Ford's Matt Kenseth won Daytona and California earlier this year, but the marque hasn't had a tour win since. So Ford went into Sunday's 400 winless in its last 20 starts.
    The most likely track now for Ford to debut the new engine would be Atlanta, a notorious engine-killer of a track.


   So just when will Jack Roush (L) and Doug Yates (R) debut this new Ford engine for racing boss Brian Wolfe? (C) (Photo: Autostock)

    -- NASCAR executives talked in May, when facing the Kentucky Speedway issue, about being very close to having the 2010 Cup schedule all ready to go. But now it's late August and still no 2010 Sprint Cup calendar.
   What's the holdup?
   Another question too – with Las Vegas Motor Speedway so clearly needing a second Cup weekend, and with this sport clearly needing the marketing punch of a place like Vegas, and with the city of Las Vegas itself needing NASCAR more than ever (to validate the marketing value of that town), why isn't track mega-owner Bruton Smith simply pulling the trigger and moving one of his less productive Cup race dates to Vegas for 2010?
   Perhaps there is an internal debate in Daytona over the shape of the 2010 10-race chase, with a look to maximize the national marketing potential of NASCAR's championship run.

    Las Vegas: Needs a second Cup date...and NASCAR needs a second Cup date in Vegas (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

-- Earlier this summer some NASCAR teams were raising questions about NASCAR's secret engine dyno tests of team engines after races.
   Too secret was the complaint.
   And it was a complaint here again Sunday from some Detroit car executives, who says they do not get any results sheets from NASCAR about its various engine tests. NASCAR does give each individual team its own results, but Detroit engineers say that NASCAR doesn't hand out any overall results sheet.
    NASCAR officials insist all Cup engines – Chevrolet, Toyota, Ford and Dodge – are fairly close in horsepower and torque.
    But some key Detroit figures point out there is no way to know for sure.
   The past many years NASCAR used a mobile chassis dyno at-track post-race engine tests at fairly regular intervals, with those results and comparisons available to the teams, to see how they stack up with the competition.
   However this season, in part because NASCAR couldn't come to financial terms with that dyno company, and in part because it makes more sense to run engine tests under more controlled conditions than a track infield, NASCAR is doing all its post-race engine comparison tests at its Concord, N.C., R&D shop. Now – particularly since Rick Hendrick's Chevys teams are dominating the sport this season – there is pressure on NASCAR to release that comparison data.

    -- Tickets sales for NASCAR events, no secret here, aren't selling as briskly as they once did.
   So there are a lot of promotions going on at various tracks to try to fill the seats.
    And apparently more than a few under-the-table promotions, to keep from aggravating fans who have already paid good money for good seats only to discover they're sitting next to somebody who got some cut-rate tickets.
    Now anyone who flies much knows quite well that the price of an airline ticket from Point A to Point B can vary significantly for seats on the very same flight, depending on when you buy it.
    But that concept – changing the fare in order to fill the plane – doesn't work that well in NASCAR, apparently. When fans find out they're sitting next to someone who paid a lot less for that seat, that ruffles feelings…to the point where those fans might simply stop buying tickets early – say, renewing each year, in the days after the race – and wait for last minute deals.
   Still perception – on TV – is part of NASCAR's problem right now. A camera showing a packed house is going to generate more sponsor enthusiasm than a camera showing empty seats.
   Why not simply give tickets away, if necessary, to fill the stands?
   Well, maybe some tracks are finding quiet ways to do that.
   But Michigan track president Roger Curtis says that because fans are very, very sensitive to the issue, he doesn't want to put new, cheaper ticket deals out for fans after first posting ticket prices.
   "There are some tracks out there, that as they get closer to their race, they cut the price of the tickets in order to fill their stands," Curtis says.
   "But we will not do that, not as long as I am president here."
   Some tracks – North Carolina Motor Speedway at Rockingham was one prime example – attract strong walk-up crowds, fans waiting till the last minute, maybe even that weekend, before deciding whether or not to attend.
   However that makes for a very iffy business model, if the track depends too much on ticket sales.
   So advanced ticket sales are very important in this sport.
   At the moment, though, with the economy as bad as it is, especially in places like nearby Detroit, ticket sales and renewals are tough.
   Of  course there is more to filling seats than just ticket prices and hotel rates.
   "Our red flag went off in 2005," Curtis says, pointing the start of the decline of auto sales and the ripple effect through the area economy.
   "And when I got here in 2006, one of the first things we talked about was (ticket) renewal rates. Part of the issue was traffic."
   Yes, certainly, because Michigan International Speedway traffic control had been notoriously poor over the years.
   Now traffic control may be improving….but what about the economy itself?

  The new Dodge R6 engine has been slow to speed, after more than a year and a half on the NASCAR tour (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Interesting article with lots

Interesting article with lots of information. I agree with the Pat Suhy it would be very easy to go to fuel injection. Will it happen any time soon? I doubt it. Will they ever reduce HP? Not likely until after they see how much the new Nationwide car slows down next year. Nascar drastically cut Natiowide power last year via the tapered spacer. With the advent of the new Cup COT, those cars would have been faster than the Cup cars if they didn't. We saw again Sat how much better the high downforce and lower HP cars in the Nationwide series provides so much better racing. As for the new Ford Cup engine, I hope they get it out soon but am not holding my breath. Ford's current engine design dates back to the early 90's so they must be having reliability troubles with it on the Dyno or having issues with parts suppliers.

I'm not really sure why

I'm not really sure why NASCAR is suddenly so interested in FI. I have to believe it has something to do with bringing new car makers into the sport.

I'm not buying that they

I'm not buying that they really are interested. EFI brings nothing to the sport that it needs and all it can do is bring new rules and performance headaches to the sport. I have no idea why the idea has suddenly cropped up.

Carbs work and are easier to

Carbs work and are easier to police. Fuel injection is grossly overrated, an example of technology for technology's sake instead of for some legitimate reason. Fordpower is wrong - it's not easy to go to fuel injection and no one has given a credible reason to do so. The "image" argument is irrelevent - no one is turned off NASCAR because it doesn't run fuel injection, and the "green" argument is BS - there is no environmental need for fuel injection and environmentalism is an ideology-driven scam to start with. And cutting horsepower? With carbs you just stick a plate between the carb and intake - will someone offer what the EFI version of a restrictor plate is going to be? Even if one exists, the technology arms race angle of the sport has to be contained and when you introduce new technology you wind up finding policing it to be too difficult.

I'm not wrong, you are! Lets

I'm not wrong, you are! Lets lay out the steps it would take to go to injection shall we? First, weld some fuel injector bungs onto the current intake manifold, mount a computer and wiring harness in the car, put a throttle body and elbow in place of a carburetor, and then tune the car with a laptop...DONE. They can run the exact same restrictor plate they do now under the throttle body, or simply run a smaller throttle body. Apparently you are stuck in the stone ages still like NASCAR is. Fuel Injection is not taboo or hard to tune, modify, or run. It would be EXTREMELY easy for NASCAR and the manufacturers to come up with a fuel injection package for all the teams to run. All the hardware to do it is readily available and cheap. I could care less if NASCAR goes to it or not, but the argument that would be difficult is BS. What NASCAR really needs to do is drop 300 HP from these cars and put some downforce back into em. Going to FI will do nothing to make the racing better

Yeah, right. It is

Yeah, right. It is impossible to name one technological aspect racing has introduced over three-plus decades that has done anything to improve the racing, and it is impossible to find anything in EFI that has made racing ANY better. It is not being "stuck in the stone ages" to point out that carburators work and are easier to police than EFI.

This coming from the same guy

This coming from the same guy who was against putting data recorders in the cars strictly for recording crash data. You're right about one thing (probably the only time you've been right), the environmental slant is BS. There is no such thing as man-made global warming. It's the biggest scam in the history of mankind. But I digress.

Fuel injection is easy and could lead to better racing. If NASCAR wanted to slow the cars down (they need to), just use a smaller throttle body. The fuel system would adjust accordingly and do so much better than any carburetor ever could.

I know what your slant is, it would be easier to cheat. Not if NASCAR seals the computer boxes and sets them up themselves. They could give the engine tuners some tuning ability but they could set the boxes up where they couldn't tune outside the box. There are ways to cheat any setup. If NASCAR implements it the right way, it could actually be easier to curb the cheating than it is now.

Technology is your friend. Embrace it.

I heard on a radio show this

I heard on a radio show this weekend (www.LTNRadioNetwork.com) that NASCAR will use a very simple version of fuel injector compared to what we have on modern cars. I think this is an effort to eliminate some of the enforcement gaps that modern EFI systems present.
Also according to the show, the fuel injectors nearly double the fuel efficiency of the engines without affecting horsepower.

Hey, yes -- good word. Ed

Hey, yes -- good word. Ed Cluka is always ahead of the curve on stuff.


Nascar should have never

Nascar should have never given GM its new RO7 engine in the first place!
I remember them getting a SB2 engine in the late ninties, after total domination of the sport with Dale SR and Jeff Gordon wins and titles!

Then after total domination of the sport the last 8 years they give the a new RO7!!!

If another brand had started winning like Hendricks Jimmy Johnson you will see a very quick rule change!

Toyota is learning after they got started and had to make changes to their engines!

Whats wrong with another brand winning 7 championships?

Ford probably realizes and that is why they reduced there teams in the early 2000s, why spend all the money for the same result!

GM has great cars and teams but Nasacar should be more even handed when handing out the rules! Us "CAR FANS" are not watching as much anymore because of the predictabity of who wins!

Actually NASCAR should not

Actually NASCAR should not have let Dodge and then Toyota come into NASCAR with the engines they did -- NASCAR created a hp-design war that was unnecessary and has not made for better racing. But after letting Dodge have the good stuff, NASCAR couldn't deny Toyota. Chevrolet and Ford were not happy with that. So they've both come up with new engines. Chevy was quicker out of the box. But Ford's Jack Roush was correct to complain about NASCAR's meaningless but expensive horsepower wars. I might argue about a 'Chevrolet' edge and -- considering the plight of the Childress camp -- call it a 'Hendrick' edge. But this horsepower game has been absurd -- now drivers are using close to 900 horsepower --- that's 300 horspower more than they need for good racing. Cut 200 horsepower at least, and maybe some of these races would be so boring....
too much horsepower, too little aerodynamic downforce. Consider the Saturday Nationwide race at Michigan, and how thrilling that was -- because those cars have a lot more downforce and a lot less horsepower.

I think the reason they are

I think the reason they are looking at fuel injection is not a greener NASCAR. It is because foreign manufacturers are interested in NASCAR. Specifically Volkswagen. They will not enter the top three series because they want to use fuel injection and NASCAR does not currently use it.
The best way for NASCAR to police it if they went to fuel injection is using a sealed box and giving certain specs that the injection system has to meet. If the team violates, nail 'em with loss of points and big fines. Look at the sealed engine in the Nationwide series. Violating that rule carries a penalty and fine.

Why don't they go with

Why don't they go with mechanical fuel injection?

my take on fuel injection is

my take on fuel injection is that it would make the racing better. I think it would help reduce emissions because of fuel efficiency. There is man made global warming and anyone who thinks it is a scam needs to wake up and smell the bacon and eggs.

The only way to stop teams from trying to cheat the system is simple use a sealed box that is tuned by Nascar. Look at the restrictor plate they eliminate cheating by issuing them during race weekend. Simple, teams can use their own system for testing at their shops and off track. During NASCAR sanctioned testing and racing they have to use Nascar fuel injection computer boxes. Put serial numbers on them like they do with the restrictor plate and record seal numbers. Anyone tampering with it gets a fine its that easy.

And I also think they are looking at fuel injection is pressure from volkswagen and Honda. KEEP THEM OUT OF MY NASCAR. TOYOTA BOUGHT THEIR WAY IN TO THE SPORT AND I HATE IT.

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