A few years ago, Circle Track presented its readership with a series of powertrain-related stories designed and intended to carve out areas within the NASCAR Cup community applicable to the "Saturday Night" or weekend racer. In the course of developing this original "technology transfer" string of stories, I was privileged to work with a longtime friend of mine, a hard-core motorsports enthusiast and racer in his own right, Charles H. Jenckes.
While we're both automotive engineers, Charles holds multiple advanced engineering degrees and (aside from his academic accomplishments) has previously directed engine development engineering programs for such Cup luminaries as Joe Gibbs Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. He's currently involved with similar exploratory programs in Formula 1 and Moto GP, dealing with engines running in stratospheric speed ranges of 19,000-plus rpm. Incredible stuff, at the very minimum.
We've managed to lure Charles back into another editorial project in which he and I will once again link mutual experiences and interests by building on our long-standing involvement with various types of race engines, directed to your benefit. In particular, we're going to "raise the bar" of your hands-on awareness about precisely how Cup-level engine technology can be applied directly to the weekend racer. In that context, there are some pretty exciting slants we'll be providing to an assortment of engine components, component mixes, construction basics, and companion topics that'll include reasons for and the technical basis behind this transfer of information.
While we're both quick to recognize and admit that chassis science is critical to the successful performance of virtually any race car, a measure of attention given to how it is powered and related concerns about durability are also important. I can still hear Smokey saying, "To finish first, you damn well first need to finish."
This string of stories will run over a minimum of six issues, drawing comparisons between these two levels of racing in the selection of engine parts, parts combinations, parts longevity, and the power to win races.
All racers need to determine the value of engine performance, and this isn't confined to gross power. Other factors come into play, including where in an engine's speed range power is important, how much you should spend on certain areas of power improvement, and the relationship between power and winning races.
From there, we'll dig into the basics of building a solid foundation for a successful circle track engine. Over time, you've likely read and heard about many of the traditional topics, but maybe not in the way we plan to discuss them. We'll talk about major engine components, including bore-stroke relationships, piston rings, rods, wristpins, and the all-important oiling system. Then, we intend to discuss parts that really produce the power: cylinder heads, valvetrains, and intake manifolds.
In the process of transferring specific information and practices to the weekend competitor, the intent is to ask (and answer) the question, "What's useful that you can learn from the current trends in Cup engines?" Plus, since none of us have unlimited budgets, we'll be keeping an eye on the costs associated with suggestions being made and help you find practical shortcuts to accomplishing a useable measure of what the "high-budget" teams enjoy.
Neither Charles nor I expect you'll agree with everything you read, but that's OK. Differences in opinion can lead to several beneficial consequences, including new thoughts, reconsideration of old ones, and the possibility that fresh perspectives about presumably "worn-out" topics can become the keys to winning performances. It happens all the time.
And here's another point to consider: Chances are the series material will be sufficiently packed with information and you'll want to read each segment more than once, saving them for future reference and consideration. Where applicable, we'll be providing various documentation and data support in the form of charts and graphs. Sometimes these enable a clearer understanding of concepts and points, rather than a collection of words. There may be some additional surprises, too. So buckle-up and avoid the marbles. We're planning some fun and informative laps. The series begins next month.
Editor's Note: Jim McFarland has been a valued contributor to Circle Track over the years. He has a history of automotive journalism coupled with a successful 25-year background designing components for high-performance and race engines. We couldn't be happier to have him back in the pages of Circle Track.