Follow me on

Twitter Feed Facebook Feed RSS Feed Linked In Youtube

Has Jack Roush finally discovered Rick Hendrick's NASCAR-winning engineering tricks?

  Jack Roush: It's been a while since winning the Daytona 500, but maybe the tide is finally turning (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   BRISTOL, Tenn.
   Jack Roush has a lot to deal with at the moment.
   Yes, he's probably going to have three teams in the NASCAR championship playoffs in a couple of weeks, with Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. And, yes, Roush does have that Daytona 500 trophy Kenseth earned for him.
   But the Roush operation this season has been a little off. Edwards had a league-leading nine Cup tour wins last season, but he was still winless going into Saturday's night Bristol 500. Doug Yates' fellow Ford operation has struggled too. But at least David Ragan, off form much of the year, got a win in Friday night's Nationwide race.
   "We've tried a lot of things this year, but we haven't had the success with new ideas that we had last season," Roush says.
    "But when we get in the chase, we will have cars that are low-risk and high-confidence…that will be a change from what we've had most of the year.
    "We've looked at every race this year as an opportunity to learn something new that will help us go faster in the chase."
   What do those Rick Hendrick-engineered Chevys have that has proven to be such an edge this season? One theory is that Hendrick teams are using an exotic, and expensive, high-pressure engine cooling system (with as much as 50 psi) that allows those cars to run more downforce on the nose, making the cars turn better on high-speed tracks.
    "We're making some inquiries right now about new things that might revolutionize our cooling systems as well," Roush says, without further explanation.

    Roush is not only dealing with all that, and trying to find the tricks needed to run against arch-rival Hendrick, but he and Yates are also working feverishly to get the new Ford engine off the dyno and onto the race track. And that engine project has gone slower than anticipated.
    "We are working our way through the development of it," Roush says, "and we'll only incorporate it when we're confident the risk is minimum and it has the prospect of being competitive with what we already have.
    "The engine we have now is a great engine. I'm interested in seeing how the power check comes out from the 11 engines NASCAR took from Michigan last weekend to test.
   "There's no reason to make that change (to the new Ford engine) until we've got the easy questions answered and have the available hardware.
   "We have hesitated to place orders for large quantities of blocks, cylinder heads and manifolds, until we have verified feasibility. And that's the process we're in. Before we make that investment we want to make sure we understand any problems that might be there."


  Doug Yates: MIA this summer? Must be working on that new Ford engine (Photo: Autostock)

  On top of all that, Roush is now suddenly faced with what looks like a new, still somewhat nebulous, NASCAR-Daytona initiative to re-badge this sport – in some way – as more eco-friendly and more appealing to younger demographics, from say 15-20.
   NASCAR executives held a major meeting about that two weeks ago, and another such meeting is planned.
   Just what may come out of all that is unclear, but the current hot topic of fuel injected engines appears to be only part of the big picture.
   One top engine man suggests that two years from now the current NASCAR 358 (which has been the sport's staple since the mid-1970s) could become flat obsolete.
   It may all be focused around the new dynamic in the automotive world -- with its struggles to sell passenger cars, with the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, and the newly created companies in their place. NASCAR executives are now looking big-picture, about where this sport should be, down the road, and how it may need to reposition itself.
   That comes amid declining crowds and sluggish TV ratings, and a sense that NASCAR might need to put some more pizzazz into this whole sport.
   Chevrolet and Toyota have rushed to embrace the new push; but Dodge and Ford appear more leery.
   Ford's Roush certainly has mixed emotions about the newly-raised prospect of NASCAR bringing modern fuel injection systems into its racing series, perhaps as soon as next February.
   Yes, it would be good for this sport's image, in several ways.
   But Ford just spent millions of dollars designing a new NASCAR race engine, at NASCAR's urging, and that new engine still hasn't made it to a starting line….and now there is the prospect of a new engine project ahead.
   On top of that, there is the new Nationwide car-of-tomorrow to work into the sport next season, and Roush plans to have four top Nationwide teams running in 2010…with still no indication of how many races, or where the new Nationwide COT may run.
    "Fuel injection is straightforward…though there are some challenges. Obsolescence, obviously," Roush says.
   "The hardware you've got now is not inexpensive. You'd scrap all the carburetors, scrap all the fuel pumps.
   "Then you'd have to calibrate the (new) fuel system differently, and run it at higher pressure. And you'd have to have a bypass, a recirculation system. Which makes it more complex, though not exorbitantly expensive.
   "But everything you've got now becomes obsolete.
   "It is likely that you could maintain the current air management component – the intake manifold. That's where I'd start. And put an air control valve on top of the manifold, and weld bosses to put eight fuel injectors into the intake manifold runners.
   "But how do you monitor calibration and make sure you don't get traction control or some other performance enhancer involved? NASCAR has been adamant about not having traction control in this sport.
   "So would NASCAR let the calibration be open to the teams…which I would suggest they should, just as you can now change the jets in the carburetor. So you can change air fuel ratio aspects of the engine.
   "However what electronic hardware would you use? And would you inspect that?
   "But NASCAR is interested in sending the message out to the American public that we are responsible about the environment, we are concerned about minimizing our carbon footprint. And fuel injection could be more fuel efficient.
   "There is also a discussion of alternate fuels. Propane was discussed. Though it's not imminent, there are a lot of reasons why propane would be a good choice. And E-85 is fairly low fruit and could be easily used…though the virtue of ethanol is being debated.
    "Those are things you could look at, if you were interested in minimizing our balance of payments to foreign countries, and to demonstrate we're responsible citizens.

   Green, green? (Photo: Autostock)

    "There would be no problem in picking any one of the after-market systems (for fuel injection). It's just a matter of picking the vendor, and figuring out the parameters.
   "NASCAR just asked us to think about it and be prepared for another meeting. I've got some people who will have some recommendations."
    What's the time frame for any change?
   "Over the winter you could decide to put it in the Truck series, which is probably the place to showcase it," Roush said. "But you would have to consider the economic challenges in front of the Truck racers right now.
   "The only time frame was we should collect our thoughts and be ready for another NASCAR meeting, which I would expect before the end of the year.
   "And, depending on the economic climate, I wouldn't be surprised if NASCAR doesn't look at some concept things during the off-season…and there could be a decision made to do something for one of the series next year."
    Roush says he hasn't put a fuel injection system on a NASCAR engine yet.

   Might this all be part of a hopeful plan by NASCAR executives to make the NASCAR race engine itself more closely aligned with engine designs actually used in high performance passenger cars? Think Mustangs, Corvettes, Camaros…..
   "There is certainly that consideration," Roush says slowly.
    "But in the process of making a multi-million-dollar revision of our engines to the new Ford engine….there is no reason why the engines we've got wouldn't be reasonable candidates for fuel injection.
   "I don't think there is a compelling argument to be made for a new engine. But if they want to put fuel injection on top of the current engine, that's pretty straightforward."


   David Ragan's Friday victory at Bristol brings a long-awaited smile to car owner Jack Roush's face (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



I love all the articles and time you have devoted to the engine situation in NASCAR lately. As I stated in a previous articles comments section, it would be very easy to switch to FI and Jack Roush confirms it. Personally I dont see the point though. They are still racing engines based on 1950's designs and throwing fuel injection on them isn't going to do anything to improve demographics. It will be a giant waste of money.

What NASCAR should really do is stop this maddening HP race with the new Ford engine and not accept any new engine designs in pushrod configuration going forward. They should start a new project and plan a new engine design based on overhead cam technology that is in all new cars and implement FI at that time. It would also be the time to dramatically cut HP levels and return real side by side racing to the fans. Will this happen? Likely not, but we can only dream.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

© 2010-2011 www.mikemulhern.net All rights reserved.
Web site by www.webdesigncarolinas.com