There is no denying that crate motors are now a big part of stock car racing. The lower initial cost of a sealed crate motor-versus a built race engine-has allowed many new racers to find their way into the sport and made racing just a bit more affordable for veterans.

So far, Chevrolet has been the 800-pound gorilla in the crate motor market. To its credit, the company was the first on the scene with a viable crate motor that could be raced economically. Chevrolet has made its crate motors readily available, and they make good power. Since crate classes began gaining acceptance a few years ago, Chevrolet's 602 and 604 oval track crate motors have been so dominant that they've practically become the only options available. That's too bad, because part of the fun of racing is enjoying the competition between the sport's two major players, Ford and Chevrolet. Without Ford in the mix, it always seemed like something was missing in the crate motor classes.

Hopefully, all of that is about to change with the introduction of Ford's newest circle-track-specific sealed crate motor. This is Ford's second attempt at a racing crate engine, and quite a few changes have been made to make this engine more attractive to racers. Also, while Ford's new motor has the same out-put figures as the Chevrolet crate engine (sanctioning bodies would never accept the engine if it were more powerful than Chevy's offering), its design is a departure from what you might see in a Chevy crate motor.

"We're in a bit of a different situation than Chevrolet when it comes to producing crate motors," explains Jesse Kershaw of Ford Racing Performance Parts. "A cam-in-block V-8 isn't an engine configuration in any of our cars or trucks anymore, so to build a race motor like this, we can't simply pull one off of the assembly line.

"This means we have to go with parts out of our Performance Parts catalog and supplement them with some select aftermarket parts. Because of this, we know we won't be able to build the least expensive crate motor available, but we do feel we are offering one of the most economical engines because of the durability that comes from the high-quality parts used. Still, there's nothing exotic here. All the components are off-the-shelf, and costs have been contained pretty well."

Ford is actually producing two new crate motors. One of them is a a 347 based on a 302 block with a shorter deck height. This is an interesting piece but not as likely to be accepted by circle track sanctioning bodies because the 302 block gives the engine a lower center of gravity than comparable Chevy 350s. The motor that caught our eye is Ford's Z351SR, which is based on a 351 Windsor block. Ford's list price for this sealed crate motor is going to be somewhere around $7,700, but the street price will likely be below $7,300. That sounds like a lot, but when we got the opportunity to dig into one, we were genuinely impressed by the quality of the components used throughout the build. For example, full-roller aluminum rockers are used where you might expect to find cheap stamped-steel units. The combustion chambers in the cylinder heads are CNC-cut for consistency from one engine to the next. And a performance damper is used that is a lot less likely to slip and cause timing problems than a stock damper. These are the kinds of touches that just might give Ford loyalists racing in the crate motor classes an opportunity to return to the Blue Oval.