For the last three issues of Circle Track, we've chronicled the buildup of one of the first Ford Late Model Stock race engines using Ford's new Boss 351 block and N351 cast iron heads. We've shown you the updates to the new block and head castings, and we've taken you step by step as race engine specialist Charlie's Automotive went through the machining and assembly processes. We've also shown you every component in the build and explained why brothers Charlie and Robert Long chose those particular components.

But that's all practically worthless without some sort of test. After all, if the completed engine is down on power or unreliable what good was the build? So instead of simply stopping after the carburetor was bolted on, we followed up with Charlie and Robert as they installed the new engine into their house car and took it to Myrtle Beach Speedway for the season-ending Myrtle Beach 250.

Myrtle Beach (SC) Speedway is a 0.538-mile paved oval that hosted NASCAR Nationwide Series races until the 2000 season. For the last 17 years, it has also held a late season, big money NASCAR Late Model Stock race that has drawn the top teams and drivers from across the Southeast. Team owner Charlie Long decided that would be the testing ground for the new Ford motor.

But before the motor could be dropped into the car, the new V-8 had to be broken in on the dyno. "The break-in was pretty uneventful," Charlie Long says. "It ran pretty much dead on the way all of our other Windsor Late Model Stock ran. The motor seemed to perform best at 31 to 32 degrees of total timing, which is typical to what we've seen with other motors running the older N351 cylinder heads. And that, of course, is a lot less timing than you usually will see on equivalent Chevrolets, which sometimes need in excess of 40 degrees.

"Peak horsepower was also what we expected to see based on our experience with other LMS Fords. The peak was right at 445, which is-at least on our dyno-as good as we see with any motor running a 500 cfm two-barrel. We would love to have seen more power than other Fords or Chevrolets we've built before, but I know that wasn't Ford's idea. Its plan all along was to provide a block and cylinder heads which are easier for engine builders to work with but produce the same power levels-or else NASCAR would never have made the new components legal."

The race was originally sched-uled to be held over the weekend of November 22. The Charlie's Automotive team brought two cars to compete. The car with the Boss Ford was the Number 1 and was driven by Jonathan Cash. The second car had an older Ford motor that made practically identical power; it was the Number 2 and was driven by former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Scott Riggs.

Long says that the two cars left the shop with the same setups, and after the practice sessions both differed slightly because of driver preferences but the setups were still very close (as were the lap times). In qualifying, Cash turned in the third fastest time, and was the fastest Ford overall.

But when race day rolled around, so did the storm clouds. The speedway was able to complete the support races and the Late Model Stock field did take the green flag, but could finish only 43 laps before the rain started falling. Up until that point, things were going well for the team.

"Starting up front really helped, and I was able to move up into the lead around lap 18 or so," Cash says. "The car was a little bit loose, but not too bad and the engine ran really well."

Once the rain began, speedway officials tried to wait it out, but sitting under red-flag conditions for an hour, they decided to postpone the rest of the event until the next weekend.