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Chevys have dominated Daytona, but this time it could be Ford's turn. Doug Yates like his chances

  Doug Yates (Photo: Autostock)


   By Mike Mulhern



   None dare call it gloating. Engine builders in this sport don't gloat. They knock on wood.
   But you sure can't miss the telling smile on Doug Yates' face this SpeedWeeks.
   That new Ford FR9 engine he helped design may have taken a long time to get out on the track, but it looks like the hot iron here – ironically not for its horsepower but for its enhanced cooling capacity, because that's allowing the 'pusher' – like Matt Kenseth in Thursday's 150 -- to stay tucked in tighter longer in these two-car drafts.

    "The cooling system was one of the biggest things we focused on," Yates says. "Right now, if you can push somebody longer or have a couple horsepower, you're going to choose to push somebody longer."
   Matt Kenseth caught some rivals by surprise in Thursday's 150, able to keeping pushing Kevin Harvick for lap after lap, far beyond what most expected.
   "I think Matt could have pushed him the whole race, just by ducking out a little bit," Yates said.
   "We didn't know that this day would come that we'd be racing two-by-two. But the design group at Ford did a good job working on that part of the engine."
   The new engine was designed internally to run cooler, to help improve aerodynamics, by allowing crews to put more tape on the grill and gain downforce on the nose. That enhanced cooling winds up serving well in these two-car drafts where the trailing car gets little cooling air.

   Yates and partner Jack Roush may still be looking for Ford's first SpeedWeeks win, and enginemen are never overconfident, but gosh durn if Yates – after watching Thursday's 150s – doesn't look like the cat that ate the canary.
   The Daytona 500 has been a Chevy playground for most of the past 20 years, but that may be about to change.
   Matt's Kenseth's 2009 win here was Ford's first 500 win since Dale Jarrett led a sweep in 2000.
   At the moment this 53rd running is shaping up as a Roush-Childress fight, with Roush men Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth looking strong enough to win, and with Richard Childress men Jeff Burton, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer also strong enough to win. Teamwork, with these two-man drafts, should be key….though Dodge's Kurt Busch has done well so far as a freelance hitchhiker.
   The Toyota camp doesn't look bad, just not quite as good at Childress and Roush.
   The Dodge camp, well, that's essentially Kurt Busch on his own so far, and this is sack-racing.
   The Rick Hendrick camp? Iffy. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon did run fast enough Sunday to take the front row for the season opener. But Earnhardt crashed in Wednesday and will start the 500 at the rear. Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt and Gordon could easily be sandbagging and may be much stronger Sunday. But at the moment things in that camp seem a little murky, at least relative to Roush and Childress here.

     Dale Earnhardt Jr. (R) listens to Nationwide teammate Danica Patrick. Clint Bowyer won the pole for Saturday's 300, in Kevin Harvick's Chevy, but Patrick and Earnhardt took row two for the 1:15 p.m. ET start. (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

    Yates, with the Daytona 500 just a few days away, seems quite pleased with what he's seen so far, from his side of the NASCAR battlefield and of the other side too.
    Earnhardt says he doesn't like this type of racing, that he'd rather be master of his own destiny. And Earnhardt suggests NASCAR have a big test later this spring either here or at Talladega, to find some new tricks to kill the two-car draft.
    Yates takes that with a grain of salt: "That's the guy that was on the pole?
    "You like what you do well at…..
    "I think our guys in the 150s did a great job.  We did everything but win the race. Our guys liked it.  If you ask the Hendrick guys, they
don't like it as much.
    "You're never going to make everybody happy.
    "We've done a lot of work on this engine, and we all saw the performance at the end of last year, winning a couple of races there. And to come to Speedweeks and be fast….well, we didn't sit on the pole, but Trevor (Bayne) was third. And then to be really fast in the 150s and able to 'push' that long says we've done our homework -- not only on power but also cooling."

    When it comes to engine cooling, Toyota's Kyle Busch says his engines, compared to the newer Ford and Chevy engines, "are old technology."
    Yates, who spent some two years helping design this new Ford engine, bristles: "We got a lot of criticism because we were the last guys out with our engine; but it seems being the last guys out we combined all the best technology into one…and I wouldn't expect anything else from Toyota to hear something like that.  Maybe you should ask Jack about that; he'd probably have some good comments for you."
    Busch pointed to water temperature as a potential factor here, saying he feels uncomfortable running more than 240 degrees, while Chevy teams may run as much as 290 degrees.
     Yates agrees that the cooling design of an engine can be a huge difference. "You design the engine to operate in a certain range…and when we came down
here, that range was already pretty high," Yates said.
    But then NASCAR ordered teams to install pressure relief valves to limit cooling systems to 33 psi. That set off a storm of criticism from car owner Richard Childress, who had put a lot of money in his engines' cooling designs.
    Yates says the new limits "made a whole new ballgame. 
   "Now it's really all about what the cylinder head and the block see for pressure and temperature."

    A key change for Yates and other engine men was NASCAR's decision this week to go with an even smaller restrictor plate, after seeing a lot of RPM in Saturday night's Shootout. "NASCAR has done a good job by backing off on the restrictor plate size," Yates says. "RPM was a huge concern for us. 
    "The Bud Shootout was not a sustainable pace for us, and I think we would have had issues if we tried to run that fast for 500 miles.  We were seeing 9100-9200 RPM, which is faster than we turn at Fontana and Michigan (where teams use unrestricted engines)."
    Drivers qualify here at only 8200 but were drafting Saturday at 9200. Having an engine turn 9200 RPM for the three to 3-1/2 hours of the 500 would have been a challenge. Going with a smaller plate, Yates says, "will give us some comfort Sunday," by cutting RPM back to 9000 or so.
    Blown engines, though, appear a risk here.  
      Harvick, who worked very well with Kenseth Thursday but got shuffled out of place, says he senses the Roush Fords have an edge in cooling. And Harvick says his engine men are worried about durability Sunday.
      However Yates says he's comfortable, though he anticipates some drivers may "let the temperatures get out of control.
    "As an engine builder, you live a little on the nervous side anyway, and expecting the unexpected.  I'm anxious to get into the race and get through the race
and then go from there.
     "But I like what I see so far.  I like that our cars can push so long. As long as our drivers do their job right and position ourselves at the end where we've got a shot at this thing, I think we're going to be good."

    Two-car packs have been seen at Talladega the past two years, but here this time everyone is seeing how effective that is. Sure, two-car packs aren't new; Donnie Allison and Richard Petty used that trick back in the 1970s to lap the field.
    But this time it's an epidemic.
    And it's looking like this may be the form of racing at Daytona for the next few years, until the Florida sun wears this new asphalt down or bumps develop.
   "I would say the cat is out of the bag," Yates says.  "You even see the Nationwide guys over there trying to do the same thing.
   "It's clear two cars are faster than one.
    "Everybody has asked the question 'Why didn't we do this before?'  But I think the car, the track, and the situation have presented this. 
     "We saw it at Talladega a little bit, but not to this extreme.
    "Now as soon as they start the race, you're picking your partner and hooking up."
    Changing this dynamic?
    Maybe changing the rear bumpers might work, since the push draft is dependent on two drivers matching nose and rear.
    But Yates says he doesn't anticipate NASCAR changing anything before the 500.
    When the 500 rolls around, Yates says he expects "more of the same."  That's two-car packs and a very high closing rate.
    "That's something guys are going to have to really be aware of, so they don't get themselves in trouble."

    The gas window? Will fuel mileage be a factor in the 500? Not clear. Yates projects about 110 miles on a tank, at six mpg.
    And tires? "I think you could run the whole race on one set of tires," Kenseth says. "You won't need tires. But pit stops are so long now, people will get tires."

 Ford's new engine at its January 2009 unveiling, with Jack Roush (L) and Doug Yates (R) (Photo:Autostock)



I didnt see a Chevy team have

I didnt see a Chevy team have a cooling issue!!!!!!!!

Something strange about the Duel 150.s, here Bayne in a Ford is pushing Jeff Gordons Chevy!

He didnt help any Fords!

Also Jimmy Johnson Chevy was a back most of the time pushing Fords A.J Almingdinger!

The New Ford Engine was to get on par with Chevy, and I think a copy of these mainly spec engines!Ford ran the same engine designed in 1991 until this new engine came out!

Its the Chevy Horsepower advantage that Ford and TOYOTA should be complaining about!!

Didnt see Jeff Burton or Kevin Harvick whos two Chevys drafted together have any problems, and when it was time to go, the left Edwards and Biffle in the dust!

The real story is what brand "leads the most laps", and from what I seen Chevy still has horsepower advantage!

I dont buy this cooling issue "the topic" should be Chevys horsepower advantage !

got to agree with you on this

got to agree with you on this one.... fact is ... if you got the power you will be out in front.... no power... oh well your just taking up space

I would just love to watch a

I would just love to watch a ford run right up there against those chevys and toyotas.... I really just like to know what happened to the Fords a couple years back it was a ford and chevy duelling it out week after week... then came toyota and the fords and dodges just fell off the map.... I wish them well in DAytona... but really i do not see anything beating a chevy out there... but we do have hope..

The FR9, The steam engine

The FR9, The steam engine that will win The 2012 Daytona 500 Good Luck to the rest of the field they will need it!! Go Fords Go

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