The DIRTCar UMP Sportsman's...
The DIRTCar UMP Sportsman's are making the move to crates in '08. Photo by Big Joe Alexander
Apply that theory to Gary's situation and you could effectively triple the cost of his motor program should the manufacturers bail on the crates.
At this stage, GM as well as the others are firmly committed to the crate motor program. In fact, GM's new 525hp crate motor was unveiled at the recent PRI trade show. That said, crate motor racing is here to stay.
The First Step
In a recent conversation with John Kilroy over at Performance Racing Industry he said, "The most dangerous thing about crate motors is that it changes the 'ecology' of racing. When the technological competition goes away, I think the sport is in danger of becoming boring to its original, hardcore audience."
Racing is driven by technological competition whether or not it is chassis, body/aero or engine technological competition is the foundation of the sport. Let's take the 2007 World of Outlaws Late Model Series as an example. In analyzing the final Top 10 points finishers we find five different engine builders. What's more is each of the five engine builders visited Victory Lane multiple times. That obviously can't happen with crate racing. The WoO Late Model Series is an example of Kilroy's ecology of racing theory. Solving or avoiding that problem or impending problem falls squarely on the shoulders of the promoter and track owner. However, we as industry participants cannot necessarily rely on those promoters and track owners to develop the programs to maintain that ecology of racing.
This is the epitome of a tech...
This is the epitome of a tech inspection. Promoters don't have to go to this level to ensure a fair crate race but they do have to do something. Photo by Bob LeSuier
While major sanctions like the World Racing Group which owns the World of Outlaws and DIRTCar sanctions in addition to UMP have the muscle to develop those programs, many independent tracks or smaller sanctions do not. But there are ways for the little guy to help in that process.
Solution #1: Just Tech It
"It's no different than the guy who says 'I don't like the 55 spec tire rule because they treat the tires,'" says Fasttrak President and Founder Stan Lester. "I told that guy, 'you don't like that rule because you're too lazy to do your job and punch a tire.'"
Lester's Fasttrak Series is one of the most prominent and well run crate racing organizations around and its success centers on that one philosophy of doing your job. The bottom line says Lester is "if people don't tech it'll never work."
Sanctions and tracks who blindly look the other way to the crates (or any cheating for that matter) need to wake up. If they let guys race cheated up crates from rogue engine builders are they really providing a mechanism for low-cost entry level racing? No. Not in the least. In fact they are contributing to the problem.
As a track owner or promoter, you have to have a solid tech inspection program in place, regardless. Since there are a whole number of tracks that do not, it may be incumbent on the industry leaders to develop some type of mechanism to do just that (Ed. Note: I know, be careful of what I ask for).
NASCAR's spec engine could...
NASCAR's spec engine could be a better alternative to crate motors. Photo by Jeff Huneycutt
Solution #2: Ditch the bolts
Make finding the cheated motors easier by ditching the seals. You can still have the crate motor come complete from the authorized builder or GM. Without the bolts, tracks and sanctions do not have an excuse to not peek inside the engine. Yes, this option is just that simple.
Solution #3: Spec It
"That NASCAR deal is an interesting concept," says Scooter Brothers referring to the spec engine that made its debut in 2007 in the Grand National Division. "They basically sell you a kit and then the engine builder gets to assemble it and throw his little pixie dust on it. It's still all the encrypted parts and you still have control over it. Yet every one of the engine builders believes he can do a better job than the guy down the street of putting it together. Now that's an interesting slant on the whole deal."
A spec engine could be the best solution of all. The manufacturers could offer kits with their own components. However, parts from aftermarket suppliers such as Comp, JE or others would be authorized as acceptable alternatives to the OEM components. On paper everybody wins with that one.
Obviously the answer to the crate debate is a complex one that could fill volumes and offering solutions in three short paragraphs may be, well, contrived. Obviously it is easy to sit here and write "here's the answer, now go do it." It's quite a bit harder to actually lay the road map for success. But since we opened this can of worms, and now that we've got three options, we're going to seek to lay out that road map and maybe we can all work together for the betterment of our great sport.