NASCAR Vice President of Competition, Robin Pemberton, is flanked by officials from Freesc
They are calling it a “historic technology partnership.” Some people would call it long overdue. Some would even call it the worst kept secret in the garage area. Whatever you want to call it, it will have an influence on short track racing. It is EFI, specifically NASCAR EFI.
Just prior to the season-opening ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway in February, NASCAR announced the aforementioned partnership with Freescale Semiconductor and McLaren Electronic Systems to develop and integrate fuel injection systems into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Officially, NASCAR is targeting its introduction for the 2012 season.
Basically, Freescale will provide the chip or processor for McLaren’s engine control units (ECUs). The ECU will manage the fuel and ignition systems in the engines for all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars. Freescale used to be part of Motorola and makes most of the processors used into today’s production automobiles. It’s now the “Official Automotive Semiconductor of NASCAR.”
McLaren, which is now known as the “Official Engine Control Unit of NASCAR” is part of the McLaren Group, a British company that encompasses a number of organizations including the Formula 1 teams of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
The deal brings the sanction that has used carburetors since its inception in 1949 into the 21st century in terms of technology. In the press conference, NASCAR’s vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said, “Selecting these two industry leaders reflects our commitment to this new technology which our manufacturers and teams have embraced. This is a positive step that will provide greater fuel efficiency and a greener footprint while maintaining the same great competition we have seen on the racetrack.”
Now, I’m not 100 percent sure that the manufacturers and teams willingly embraced the move to EFI or the selection of the two technology partners. After all, can you see Ford, GM, or Chrysler getting excited about having a British company’s ECU controlling their engines? Then again they did weather the entry of Toyota into what was, at one time, a decidedly American sport. And the switch is certainly going to cost the teams money, a significant amount of money. But it had to be done. NASCAR had to make the move to EFI and it had to do it sooner rather than later.
Loyal readers of Circle Track will know that this magazine has been investigating the concept of EFI in oval track racing for more than two years. We got serious about it and you read about the initial Project G.R.E.E.N. dyno test in the May ’10 issue. That test proved that EFI was more efficient and delivered increased performance attributes over a carburetor. We took that a step further with the track test that was chronicled in the Jan. ’11 issue. That test proved that EFI and E85 could make a very effective, very racey oval track racing platform. Our EFI-powered stock car ran an actual competitive race a full five months before the NASCAR announcement.
I’m not saying all of this to puff out our chest, but we, as a magazine, take our leadership position on the technology front very seriously. Now, NASCAR’s move to fuel injection should help legitimize EFI’s use in short track racing. Whether we as a group like to admit it or not, the upper echelon of motorsports has influence on what we as racers do on a weekly basis. Need an example? Just look at the influx of “Cup technology” into Late Model racing, both dirt and asphalt. The RoushYates motor in CT’s own Project DLM is based (very heavily) on the same technology that engine builder uses in its NASCAR programs. And in the series we run, we’re not the only ones who have these engines. In fact, seeing a RoushYates logo at a short track was once a rarity, but no longer.
The simple fact is what happens at the Cup level, eventually, trickles down to our world of short track racing. The announced move to EFI (something everybody saw coming) means that youngsters around the country who dream of a career in NASCAR are going to have to familiarize themselves with and build their knowledge of EFI systems if they ever want to achieve that dream.
Because we as a magazine are willing to carry that torch and look over the hill and around the corner at what is coming down the road, racers concerned about the future of our sport will have a place to turn when they want to better their career.