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A major engine dilemma now, on the eve of the Daytona 500

  Doug Yates: a big Daytona headache, with the big race only days away (Photo: Autostock)

   By Mike Mulhern


   The track may be quiet today, relatively, except for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, but NASCAR engine men are working furiously to deal with the 206 mph drafting speeds seen in Saturday night's Shootout and with new engine rules designed to slow the cars by fouling up the engine cooling systems.  
    Doug Yates, who heads Ford's Roush Yates engine operation, is spending a lot of time right now in the engine dyno room working with his Daytona 500 engine designs.

   "Obviously as we ran practice and the Bud Shootout, those speeds are too high, which is a big concern," Yates says.
  "Second – NASCAR doesn't like the way the guys can push other cars for many laps. 
   "So I think the first objective with these rules changes is it looks like NASCAR is trying to break the cars up and they're trying to limit how hot we can run these engines. 
    "They are going to limit the frontend (grill) opening and put a pressure release valve (on the radiators) at 33 psi, which is going to bring down the operating limits of the engine. 
    "What we've done this morning (Monday) -- probably like other shops -- is we've gone to work on the dyno, to understanding the system, and we're working to optimize what we can, so when we can have a safe, reliable race."
   Blown engines, under either scenario – changing something or change nothing – would now seem to be a major issue hanging over the Daytona 500.
   "The engines are turning more RPM than we had planned and what we feel comfortable with, and they're also going to run hotter," Yates says.
   "With this rule change, it's going to bring down how hot we can run them, and it is concerning."
    So after months of preparation and testing for the sport's biggest race, teams are facing a major engine reliability issue.
   "It is a very big deal – We've worked for a long time, especially on the water systems, to be able to run the temperatures we do," Yates frets.
   "What's concerning about this is it's (now) mainly a driver-driven decision."
   Specifically, the driver will have to decide when his engine is running too hot and how long he can run it too hot in a draft. The longer a two-car draft sticks together, the faster and faster it can run.
    "If the driver is pushing somebody, he has to pay attention not only to what's in front of him, but also to his water temperature gauge," Yates says.
    "He has to know when to get air to the nose.
     "When you put that much emphasis on the driver watching the gauges, you open yourself up to some potential failures, just because it’s not easy to do."
    Dodge engineering specialist Howard Comstock agrees that the rules change puts more pressure on drivers than he would like to see, particularly as difficult as racing is at this place anyway.
   "As an engine builder, this is a big change for a big race," Yates says. "So we're going to do a lot of homework."
   On top of all this, there is the possibility NASCAR could change the size of the carburetor restrictor plate, to cut horsepower.
   "Absolutely," Yates says.  "I wouldn't be surprised from the speeds I've seen that we could have a plate change.
    "So we are preparing as if that might come."
    The high RPM being turned in these fast drafts not only surprised people, but Yates says "I was a bit surprised there weren't more failures."
    Kasey Kahne did blow an engine early in the Shootout.
    The RPM Yates says "is concerning.
    "For years NASCAR has wanted more (rear end) gear in the car so the guys have more throttle response.
    "But the engines are really over where normal operating range would be for a plate engine.  We're turning almost as much RPM at Daytona as we turn
at Michigan -- with an engine that's designed to turn 1,000 RPM less."

Why Not A Smaller Plate?

The smaller the plate, the less RPM the engines usually turn - I am astonished they're turning 9,800 as not that many years ago it was a big deal when plate motors turned 8,000.

Junior's comment elsewhere about possible "junk on the roof" - if it's the return of the roof blade, it will be a good thing - it makes the draft super effective (not that it hasn't been strong the last year or two).

re 9800 rpm. not sure what

re 9800 rpm. not sure what the deal is on the rpm. i do know that jeff gordon says fox' rpm on the screen was all wrong. with the gearing teams are allowed here, jg says that would be like 218 mph. i need to find some engine men and try to get some answers...but most likely no one will want to say much until after the race itself obviously.

Good update, Mike. Did Yates

Good update, Mike. Did Yates elaborate on if NASCAR will eliminate the reductions to the cooling systems if they do decide to go ahead and reduce the size of the restrictor plate? I hope the racing remains unchanged by the rules changes, but I'm guessing a return of the 43-car mob is coming.


This is just another example of what a farce the superspeedway races have become: restrictor plates, "out of bounds" lines, special engine cooling rules, last-minute rule changes. This is a joke. How many years have we been dealing with this? They still can't come up with a decent solution? NASCAR looks foolish.

RPM Problem!!

I could be wrong, but for the better part of resistor plate racing the cars would only turn apox 7,000 RPM range!

But I have a suspicion that Nascars gear ratio is to low and they did that to promote passing or hoping that with higher RPM they would be able to pass!!! Need to raise the gear ratio!!!!!

Now the extra RPM is straining engines and this is promote the two car tango!

Nascar needs to start removing some of these rules and give the car owners or mechanics freedom to beat other teams, instead of Nascar trying to stick up the show!

Nascars actions or panic at Daytona makes me think this is a movie they are recording instead of a race!!!!

speed limiter on ignition?

Reference is often made to "hitting the chip"--ie. reaching the engine speed where the ignition cuts out.

Why won't NASCAR try running a lower RPM chip on the ignition, combined with whatever gearing works appropriately for the track size and desired maximum speed, to keep things in check? Seems simple, but maybe I'm missing something obvious.

Good racing is not based on whether an engine can turn faster & faster--"back in the day", engine speeds were no where near what they are today--1500 to 2000 RPM less. The engines of today would be bulletproof if the RPM was capped at 8000, and the actual racing, with the proper gearing, would be just as good, maybe even better. AND the engines would cost less in the long run.....gee, imagine that!

no more restrictor plate racing!

The answer to restrictor plate racing has always been obvious and easy. Reduce the engines to 305 cubic inches and reduce the width of the tires by one inch. Repeat as necessary.

These changes shouldn't be limited to Talladega and Daytona either. Moving to smaller engines is greener than an ethanol mix, although it won't enrich NASCAR's coffers. Most of the motoring public moved to V6s and four cylinders long ago and unless they're used for towing, our pickups have smaller engines too.

I'm not certain that they need to run narrower tires on all of the tracks, but it would be nice if they had to brake for the turns on tracks other than Bristol and Richmond.

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