A lot changed about PRI this past year. New ownership, the return to Indy, and being merged with IMIS, but other than the location, little changed for the Advanced Engineering Technology Conference (AETC).
The three days leading up the PRI tradeshow are all about hardcore engine technology. Each day gives attendees a variety of speakers covering many different topics, all pertaining to the most hardcore aspects of race engines. Each day has five speakers presenting on whatever they specialize in, feedback from some of the brightest minds in the race engine world (builders in attendance), and great door prizes and give-a-ways from the sponsors. When the conference breaks for lunch, you get the chance to sit and break bread with the expert and ask all the questions you have. Each table becomes a mini round table on many different topics. With this many brilliant minds in one place, you can learn a ton just from listening!
Although the AETC doesn’t just cover circle track engines, much of what is discussed can be transferred over. Even the stuff that doesn’t (like forced induction technology) still gets you thinking about ways to transfer the theory and logic to what circle track racers do.
If you are an engine builder, engine mechanic, racer, or simply a guy who wants to learn more about engines, the AETC is a great way to spend a couple of days. If you’ve never been, 2014 is the perfect time to go!
Ben Strader—EFI University
Advanced Performance Tuning For Forced Induction Systems
When Ben Strader from the EFI University took the stage I honestly wasn’t expecting to take much away from his portion of the conference. This is in no way a negative comment or narrative about Ben, but what he was presenting was very far outside of the circle track world.
Ben talked about advanced tuning for forced-induction EFI combinations—not exactly in the circle track wheelhouse. But some of what he talked about really made me think. Ben discussed exhaust size and how normal atmospheric pressure can affect it. It was all linked to restrictions and how boost changes as restriction changes. While the boost portion of the conversation doesn’t necessarily apply to us, the concept of minimizing restriction does.
To put the theory into a practical situation, if you have a race motor that made 650 hp on the engine dyno, using a large round-tube header, then put a stock, cast manifold on the same engine when you put it in the car, it isn’t going to make the same amount of power. The idea is that the same amount of air can get in, but less air can get out. With forced induction you can add more pressure on the intake side and force it through the engine, but in a naturally aspirated circle track engine, we depend on the atmospheric pressure to push the air though the engine. Because of this, header size is extremely important.
From there, the conversation talked about pressure gradients across the intake valves and how it relates to volumetric efficiency. While all of this is important, we simply don’t have enough room to go into all the details.
Harold Bettes—Power Technology Consultants
The Myths, Legends, and Facts of Airflow, Engines, and Dynos
Harold Bettes was the second speaker and MC of the conference. He presented on the facts and myths of airflow and dynos. This informative lecture covered a lot of information, starting with outlining an effective attitude to have for airflow R&D testing, as well as some basic airflow facts. Harold went on to talk about the different between testing intake and exhaust flow, stating that all exhaust flow testing should be done using an exhaust pipe.
Harold discussed airflow and valve shape and how the two are connected. He explained the important aspects at low, mid, and high lift, and how the valve, seat shape, port shape, and port size effect airflow. In the same discussion he talked about how port shape is more influential than size.
Harold explained the importance of port molds as a design tool and how effective they can be when designing a port. Port molds allow for careful measurement of port cross sections, accurately locating the minimum cross section, and they are relatively inexpensive, but yield valuable results. The information Harold presented can be extremely helpful to anyone who regularly works with cylinder heads and airflow.
Lee Carducci— Arrow Racing Engines
How to Embrace and Transform the Latest OEM Engines and Technology into Competitive Race Engines
Lee Carducci comes from Arrow Racing Engines, who builds the engines for the Dodge Viper race cars. Lee’s presentation was about how Arrow designs and builds its engines and components to live on the race track. Coincidentally, much of what they use are unmodified OEM parts.
We are seeing more and more OEM engines being used in the lower ranks of circle track racing. Many Mini Stocks, Bombers, Hornets, or Tuner Car classes require an unmodified factory four-cylinder engine be used in competition. While this certainly keeps costs low, there is always some grey area in the rules.
Outside of the stock engine classes, we have also seen classes emerge that require stock or mildly modified V-8s. We have seen a lot of engines from the Chevy LS series being used. Mildly modified OEM engines being used for oval track racing is a great way to keep costs down for lower series of racing. It will be exciting to see how this trend evolves.
Ron Totunno and Greg West—Federal Mogul
Inside Sealing—Fel Pro Laserweld Technology
The gentlemen from Fel Pro spent their time on stage covering the finer points of engine sealing. While there are a lot of things that need to be sealed, the main focus of the presentation was head gaskets. The duo explained the basic construction of the company’s MLS head gaskets, going into detail about each component. They explained the manufacturing processes for each layer, as well as each parts contribution to common goal of sealing the heads to the block.
When the presentation moved past the make up of the gaskets, other aspects of quality engine sealing were discussed. The pair talked about surface finish and what is required with each of its line of gaskets, surface flatness, bolt prep, and torqueing procedures. Cylinder pressure, clamp load, and cylinder head lift were also discussed.
The presentation also covered testing procedures that Fel Pro uses on its line of MLS head gaskets. The company measures head lift and deflection at 1,700 psi of cylinder pressure with 9,000 pounds per bolt load. The head gaskets are also tested under various levels of preignition. Preignition cause large spikes in cylinder pressure, as well as heat, which can kill head gaskets.
To sum it all up, the keys to good head to block sealing is to reduce head lift by using the right block and cylinder heads, using the correct fasteners for the application with good thread lubricant, apply the correct amount of clamp load, and avoid spikes in cylinder pressure. Keep those things in mind and you’ll have a happy engine!
Chris Paulsen— C&R Racing, Inc.
Designing and Optimizing Cooling Systems for Performance and Durability
Cooling systems are often overlooked in short-track racing, but Chris Paulsen from C&R Racing stressed not only the importance of a good radiator, but the entire cooling system. Chris’ discussion was based around cooling system design, with a focus on pressurized cooling systems. While these types of systems are the norm on Cup and ARCA cars, the technology is slowly trickling down into the Super Late Model ranks.
Aside from cooling the engine, Chris also discussed airbox design. He talked about how important the inlet shape was and the design of the box to ensure the incoming air slows enough before it hits the radiator to sufficiently cool the water in the system. Airboxes for both asphalt and dirt were discussed, specifically the floor design. For an asphalt car, getting as much air into the airbox is key. The air can have a direct path to the radiator, because not much debris will enter the box. For dirt, on the other hand, the floor of the airbox needs to have a hump in it so there is no direct path to the radiator. This hump stops any dirt and debris from becoming lodged between the fins of the radiator.
Chris also talked about core design, coolants, and the effect straight water has on raw aluminum. His presentation was very intriguing, and you can most likely expect an in-depth story on cooling systems in a future issue of CT.
Vincent Roman— Burns Stainless LLC
Development Tools and Testing Methods for the Optimization of Exhaust Performance
Engines are nothing more than air pumps. The more efficiently you can move air through the engine, the more power it can make. Vincent Roman of Burns Stainless presented about the processes the company goes through to design and test exhaust system for optimal power.
When Burns Stainless designs an exhaust system, they look to maximize the power band without sacrificing maximum power. They do this by optimizing the header primary tube length to the upper range of the rpm band of interest. They also optimize the collector design to provide good midrange torque. And they optimize the tailpipe to maximize the flow of exhaust gases. This is accomplished by looking at the Ideal Gas Law, incompressible and compressible flow, head loss (friction loss), and the Four Stroke Otto Cycle as the technical concepts for design.
Burns also spends a lot of lime looking at the area of the exhaust system. With stepped headers and transitions from collectors to exhaust tube, the area of the exhaust system changes. Because of this pressure, wave dynamics come into play. Increases or decreases in size will cause pressure waves within the exhaust system. The system can be adjusted and sized properly to take advantage of the positive pressure waves and reflection rarefaction waves to optimize the exhaust system. While wave tuning is not a new concept, it is essential in optimizing an exhaust system for maximum power in a specific rpm range.
How to Use Cylinder Pressure and Valve Motion Measurements to Improve Performance
Cecil Stevens came to AETC to present on cylinder pressure and valve motion. His discussion started with some background and went into Lunch Box Joe and Professor Kofferman’s testing procedures for cylinder pressure. He talked about cylinder pressure measurements as the continuous recording of cylinder pressure every crankshaft degree. Lunch Box Joe’s testing requires a dyno (must hold plus or minus 25 rpm), a test engine, pressure transducers, a crankshaft encoder, a data acquisition system, analysis software, and a computer. What this system cannot report is individual, cylinder vs. cylinder, or cycle vs. cycle performance. He then went into each part of the system, explaining how each part works and the procedure for testing.
The second section of his presentation discussed camshaft profiles, valve events, and engine cycle events, addressing how each related and affects cylinder pressure. Valvespring pressure and valve bounce, as well as their effect of performance also were covered.
Bill McKnight— Mahle Clevite, Inc.
The Science of Bearings and How They Can Be Optimized to Maximize Performance
Bearings always seem to be a hot topic of discussion with engine builders. When Bill McKnight from Mahle Clevite took the stage, people’s ears perked up. Bill started his presentation by saying his job as an educator is to make complicated stuff simple.
Over the next hour, Bill discussed the lubrication challenges of bearings, the balancing act of characteristics of hard and soft bearing, bearing trends in the OE world, the bearing material portfolio, and he talked about bearing coatings. Bill explained the differences between hydrodynamic, boundary, and mixed lubrication for bearings. It was very informative, made for some great discussions during lunch and the breaks.While this seems like a lot of information (and it is), it’s only the tip of the iceberg as it is all you can fit in an hour-long presentation.
Stephen Golya and Dane Kalinowski—JE Pistons
The Design and Analysis of High Performance Rotating Assemblies
Stephen Golya and Dane Kalinowski from JE Pistons were tasked with speaking to the group about the latest in piston technology. Both are on the JE engineering team, with Golya being the Principal Engineer.
The duo discussed many things including JE’s design philosophy, its analytic methods, piston material choices, and manufacturing processes, as well as the company’s quality management and dyno testing capabilities.
The team talked about the development of JE’s SBC LSX 912FRL piston, as well as the billet vs. forged piston debate. The pair talked about the pros and cons of each piston type, including the manufacturing process and the machine used to produce each.
Keith Jones— Total Seal Piston Rings
How To Optimize Cylinder Finish for Maximum Piston Ring Seal
Engine sealing is important. Keith Jones of Total Seal Piston Rings is an expert on the subject and talked about changes in engines and rings that have an effect on ring seal. Keith explains that cylinders are much harder than they have been in years past. Rings are much thinner and lighter with lower tension, and both have exotic coatings available. Beyond the hard parts, oils have significantly changed, with reduced friction and viscosity. The reason for all of this is the need to squeeze more energy from less fuel.
Keith went on to discuss many different topic in relation to piston rings and engine sealing, and it started with the purpose of piston rings. He went on to talk about what is required to achieve proper ring seal, and named proper cylinder prep, the correct rings, piston design for the correct application, and the correct oil as key requirements. He also spoke about honing and how it affects ring seal. He went into to proper honing and crosshatch angles. It was very interesting to hear how different crosshatch angles can affect oiling and ring rotation.
Keith’s presentation was extremely informative. There was a large amount of info to take in and it is great information to have for your next engine build. So be on the lookout for a dedicated story on that subject in a future issue.
Dan Jesel—Jesel Valvetrain Innovation
Tomorrow’s Valvetrain Trends and the Latest Advancements for Performance
Jesel has been around a long time. The company makes great products and their stuff can be found in all kinds of race engines. When Dan Jesel addressed the crowd, it was interesting for a lot of reasons. He talked about his background in racing and how his engine business transformed into Jesel Valvetrain Innovation out of sheer necessity. It all started with valvetrain problems in a small-block Ford engine. The problem was remedied when he moved the rocker arm and used a big-block Chevy rocker. And with that, Jesel was born!
Since 1980, Jesel has grown into one of the top valvetrain companies producing rocker arms, valvesprings, pushrods, roller lifters, camshafts, and cam drives. Dan spent a good portion of his hour talking about some of the product development Jesel has done over the years, including its beltdrive systems, and one of its latest products, the split cam gear for large OD camshafts.
Jon Sams and Laura Shehan—Holley Performance Products
How to Setup and Tune Race Carburetors for Optimal Performance
Having a properly tuned carburetor is a huge part of winning races. Jon Sams and Laura Shehan of Holley were speakers at AETC to discuss the setup and tuning of race carbs. The presentation started with a discussion about choosing the right carb. It starts with the application. A carb used for circle track racing is going to be vastly different from a carb designed for drag racing. Next, engine configuration is considered. For this, they look at engine size, max rpm, normal rpm operating range, camshaft, and induction type. The fuel being used is also considered and all of these combine to determine the appropriate carb for the application.The duo then went into the testing procedures and how Holley builds and tests its race carbs. They discussed cfm, wet flow bench testing, dyno testing, and common ways to tune a Holley carb. They went into details on idle circuits, fuel level and pressure, main circuit, booster, jets, power valves, and high-speed air bleeds. Just about every part of the carb was covered and the presentation in extremely informative.
Brian Kurn— Four-Stroke Design
Finding Hidden Horsepower in Exhaust Port Design and Optimization
Engine builders will tell you that an efficient exhaust system is essential to making big power. According to Brian Kurn of Four Stroke Designs it all starts in the exhaust port. He talked about how the exhaust port is normally overshadowed by its big brother—the intake port. He discussed what the exhaust port does, what blowdown is, he explained pumping work, and the exhaust port’s role in overlap. He also talked about why the exhaust valve is so much smaller than the intake valve.
He then went on to talk about how the shape of exhaust lobe of the camshaft effects the shape of the power curve. He touched on low speed power losses from early exhaust valve opening and high speed power gains from a reduction of pumping loss. Traditional and advance methods for testing were also discussed, with pros and cons given each set. It was very interesting to hear about how computational fluid dynamics and combustion analysis are used to virtually test exhaust ports, and how accurate the results are.
Ozzie Hutchins— Roush Yates Engines
Understanding and Optimizing Engine Oiling Systems For Racing
In any race engine, the oiling system is extremely important. Ozzie Hutchins of Roush Yates Engine presented on the topic and did a great job of breaking the oiling system down. He discussed the system as a whole, and broke down each part, its purpose and duty, and how each can be optimized.
He explained how the oiling system is there for lubrication, cooling and heat rejection, and cleaning. He discussed the different types of lubrication and the important aspects of each. He explained the different types for different bearing types found in race engines, how pistons and valvetrain components are cooled by the oil, and how contaminants are removed as the oil passes through the engine. An optimized oiling system will do all of these things efficiently.
From there, Ozzie discussed how each component can be optimized for the greater good of the entire system. When you can minimize friction, you gain horsepower. And as racers, isn’t that what we are all after?
The AETC is an extremely informative multi-day conference gear towards hardcore engine technology. If you’re a novice looking learn about engine or a seasoned vet looking for an advantage for your race engine, this is the place to learn it. If you’re interested in attending the 2014 AETC (and we strongly recommend it) visit www.aetconline.com for more information.