While General Motors led the way on the creation of racing crate engines, Chrysler...
In addition to the actual cost factor, many see the crate engine as a threat to the future of the lifeblood of racing-the research and development that has led to the state of the sport.
Engine builders faced with the prospect of losing business have started to look at options. Some have explored building engines for dirt Late Models, which appear to be among the last to make a change, though Cherokee Speedway in South Carolina will be instituting a crate engine plan in 2004.
In addition, the racing aftermarket will be affected by the idea. "The parts suppliers who make pistons, cranks, rods, heads, cams, blocks, pans, etc., would be virtually run out of business," says Hovis. "That's not to mention all the fine machine shops and machine shop equipment manufacturers. All of the ongoing research and development that shows up each year in engine products would dry up. The aftermarket sponsorship help that a lot of racers count on would simply no longer be there."
"Your engine builder worked past midnight because you needed your motor for Saturday night and you're leading the points," continues Koch. "He was at the track in 35 degree weather to make sure you stayed in the show. Now he's out of work.
"What about innovation? Who is responsible for all the trick new parts? Detroit? Track owners? No, it's the manufacturers and companies that work with engine builders and race teams to produce what the market wants."
Schwanke's program enlists the help of aftermarket companies. "In our sealed engines, there are 27 aftermarket companies involved," Schwanke says. "We are not alienating the aftermarket because we need the aftermarket. It's more advantageous for us to use their advice with this new technology. Valvesprings, rod bolts, pans, belts, accessory drives, injection harnesses-they're all aftermarket. My direction was never to exclude the aftermarket."
...and Ford are attempting to close the gap. Each is making an alternative to the ZZ4, wit
If the opponents of the crate engine believe it will not work, they must have other ideas in mind. In many cases, they do.
"I don't have a specific recommendation," says Dorton, "but I have a theory that would work. You've got to do something to keep money from being the only way to win races. Ingenuity and driver ability and crew ability is what should win races, not cubic dollars. I'd like to be involved in specific ways to do it. I could be very helpful in that respect. Maybe it's fuel injection.
"I still haven't been able to grasp the feasibility of having to worry about restricting speed, yet allowing exotic cylinder heads and induction systems to come about. Why did we have to go from an 18 degree head to an SB2? It obsoleted everything out there. Why not leave the 18 degree heads alone and let you progress some of the technology from there?"
The direction concerns Hovis: "What's next, crate chassis? The racers' ingenuity would cease to exist. The mechanical chess game of power, longevity, and the delicate balance thereof would end. This truly is the heart and soul of racing. In our opinion, the crate rule would be the beginning of the end of racing as we love it. A realistic and enforceable engine claim rule would accomplish what the crate rule would not."
"Everybody in our sport, including the racer, needs to pay attention to the crate engine trend," says Koch. "Track owners need to understand where this type of program will lead. Those of us in the parts and assembly business will do well to work with racers and operators, to supply race quality parts at affordable prices, and come up with rules that make sense. Or we can stand back and watch another American industry bite the dust."
"Racing cannot exist at its current cost level," says Schwanke. "Promoters need a program to help keep the sport going. A sealed engine program is one step that will help the future of the sport."
The debate could go on infinitely. Existing examples of success like the ACT program support the idea of crate engines, but unanswered questions remain. This dialog will continue, maybe as long as racing itself exists.