Schwanke Engines has developed programs with dirt and asphalt tracks across the country th
"As we see it, this rule would truly dull the competitive spirit of what racing really is," says Al Hovis, president of Hovis Racing Engines, "forcing all the racers to run the exact same cookie-cutter engines that they would be forbidden to modify in any way, virtually the hardest thing possible for a true racer to do."
"Let me tell you what is already happening and will continue to happen," says Dorton. "Say you have 20 cars that run a weekly series, and 15 of them have the crate motor and the others are racing on their other engines because it's all they have left. Do you think all 20 of them are the same? There's no way. They're racers. They've spent $7,500 on their crate motors. They're going to call whomever was doing their Late Model Stock and say, 'What can I do to this thing?' They're going to say, 'Everybody has the same power, and I need an advantage.' It's the way of the racer. We either manufacture or buy the bolts and seals and tear the engine down and put in a longer rod, lightweight pistons, change the cam profile, or whatever, and pick it up 30 horsepower. It will not stop at that. That $7,500 engine could easily cost $27,000 before the year is over."
"With chassis rules and setup knowledge so equal today, and all cars with the same power level, all that the fans would see is a parade of cool-looking race cars going in a circle," says Hovis.
"Isn't racing really more than just driving?" asks Koch. "It takes thought, study, and planning to choose the right cam, rod length, etc. These affect performance-not cost. What's the difference if the best driver or the guy with the biggest wallet always wins? Nothing. Shouldn't brains, planning, teamwork, and effort count for something?"
For racing purposes, GM has been at the forefront of the development of the racing crate engine. Ford and Chrysler have joined the fray, giving racers a choice in the matter, provided the track or series is doing the same. For the most part, series are mandating GM engines, usually the ZZ4, under the hood. Body style can often be any make.
Dorton believes the crate engine idea spawned from a realization that engine builders who were specializing in racing engines were making the factory parts perform better. "For quite a few years, we made a good living preparing GM blocks for racing purposes," Dorton says. "We had one individual who developed a billet cap that tied everything together. We put hundreds and hundreds of those caps on hundreds and hundreds of blocks and prepped them for teams. GM eventually improved the quality of their castings and started selling a race-prepared block. They were tired of people making money off them. The company that I was buying the billet main caps from all of a sudden called me and said, 'I'm not going to be able to supply you with caps anymore.' He got the contract to build for GM."
In many of the crate programs, a track or series designates a particular engine builder as the source of the engines. In some cases, the engines are purchased directly from the track.
Schwanke believes racers need more than just an engine to make the idea work. He has developed a whole program that has been tried with racetracks.
"You manage the program by managing the computer," says Schwanke. "It's easier to tech and easier to manage. It involves rotating the computers and looking at the seals."
He cites an example of a track in Pennsylvania that uses the sealed engines and computer modules. At the end of hot laps, the track tech officials approach the cars with a cardboard box that contains the electronics boxes. The competitor takes the box from his car, drops it into the cardboard box, and pulls out a new box. It's a random selection, designed to discourage any alteration.
"Without the computer technology and the rotation of the components, you open up the possibility of something going wrong," Schwanke says. "In order to be successful, the program has to be managed."
Schwanke's engines are built to a horsepower level. His programs are developed with the idea of either outright purchase or an engine lease option.