Dennis Wells is no stranger to the Circle Track audience. For more than forty-five years, through his efforts at Wells Racing Engines, he has gained both experience and knowledge when it comes to engines that populate this segment of motorsports. This month, we bombard him with a litany of questions relative to the current and future status of these type engines, parts, and racing. We think you'll enjoy and find interesting how he responds to these inquiries.
Regarding the health of the current engine builder market, are you experiencing growth or just maintaining market share? Do you see any trends here?
One thing is pretty clear right now, and that's a trend more toward a father/son or father/daughter racing combination in place of a car owner having a highly experienced or professional driver. We're also building less expensive motors and rebuilding more used motors and parts, even from other builders. I think the overall economy has played into this by virtue of less money racers have to spend on their pastime. Plus, not only are these customers living closer to us but they are also racing closer to home. Again, I think this is a reflection of how the economy is affecting the sport, at least at these levels, especially in terms of fuel costs driving to and from the tracks.
Are you seeing new technologies appearing in the parts that you use or is there an absence of this, among the customer engines that you're building or rebuilding?
One major improvement we're seeing is a shift away from titanium valve spring retainers to ones machined from tool steel, thus allowing smaller springs to be used as well. This way you don't need to replace the titanium retainers every rebuild. The smaller springs are also lighter and don't require as much pressure. What this comes down to is not necessarily a change in engine speeds but improved parts life. With the lighter valvetrain components, there's also an accompanying reduction is valve bounce. We know this because engines that have been using these lighter pieces don't show valve seat damage or keepers locked into the retainers. It's pretty obvious that any increase in parts life is going to reduce overall rebuild frequency and costs.
In order to meet the power levels required in the engines you build or rebuild, is it necessary to modify the parts you use or do they pretty much work right out of the box?
Our practice is to conduct a close inspection of all the parts we use to make certain everything is within tolerance. Even in instances where a part may have been manufactured overseas, we deal with American manufacturers who may have outsourced their parts overseas but who have strict quality control requirements to maintain their own specifications. So I guess it's fair to say that if parts pass our inspections, we generally use them right out of the box. If we saw any exceptions to this, we'd change our practices.
What role do you see EFI having in the various circle track applications, both now and going forward?
Some people may disagree with me, but here's my observation. I think it's going to take some time before a younger generation becomes more involved in racing who literally grew up with computers. They aren't intimidated like many older racers who are familiar and comfortable with carburetors. For example, I have some drag race engine customers who are scared to death of carburetors and don't understand how they work. But they have no problem at all going onto our chassis dyno, opening up their laptop, and tuning that way.