Like the ring selection, rod length is not specified in the rules so we opted for a longer 5.840-inch ultralight rod. The track is a fast 3/8-mile and Justin promises to be aggressive behind the wheel, so we went with the longest rod Bob normally recommends on a track of this size. One thing to remember when going with such a long rod is that you want to keep the rpm up, so running something that long isn't recommended on shorter/tighter tracks. Generally speaking, short rods make torque and long rods build horsepower.

In the course of our rod discussion, Bob mentioned that he even offers a 5.930-inch rod that he likes to run on 4/10 and longer tracks, but since we're not running Bristol Motor Speedway with this car (yet) we stuck with the 5.840.

Race Engineering's H-beam rod weighs less than 500 grams. For comparison, stock 5.2-inch rods weigh around 630 grams.

Unfortunately, the rules don't permit any lightening of the crankshaft, so Bob and company left the counterweights and stroke alone. They did however prep and balance the crank, and as we mentioned earlier, we do have an advantage with this smaller main E89 motor. Those smaller mains mean decreased bearing speed for reduced friction. In addition, Bob turned the rod journals down to the standard 2-inch Chevy journal size which not only reduces friction, but also adds strength by allowing increased fillet sizes.

Once the block and crank were delivered to Race Engineering, Bob and his crew got right to work getting everything prepped for all those wonderful new parts. First, the crank and stripped block are thermal cleaned and normalized (stress relieved for added strength ) at Lake Park Machine in Lake Park, Florida. The block was then pressure tested, jet washed and square decked. Cylinders were then bored and honed with a torque plate and main caps installed. This simulates the stress of an assembled block which means that the cylinders are round and straight when the head and crank are installed.

The mains are then align honed to ensure proper main bearing clearances. Bob says he typically shoots for 0.0027-inch on average, however, he can go a little tighter with no problems as all bearing clearances are measured with a dial bore gauge during assembly. Unlike some shops, Race Engineering never uses plastigauge. This is critical as many engine failures can be traced to improper bearing clearance.

Finally, the block is machined for a mechanical fuel pump. Our motor was originally fuel injected as most small-main blocks generally are, however, they still have a mounting flange for a mechanical pump. So all you need to do for the conversion is to machine the opening.

With most of the block work done, it was onto the crankshaft. As we said earlier, the rules prohibit us from playing around too much with the crank, but there was still plenty to get done to it. First off, the crankshaft is cleaned, then normalized (stress relieved) before going into the crank grinder. The second step is to turn the mains 0.010-inch to the low limit. Even if the crank is new (or perfect) Race Engineering always turns the mains 0.010-inch under to achieve proper racing clearance. That's because stock motors run less clearance than required for racing and it's not possible to turn a standard journal crank 0.001-inch or so and keep the journals round.

Step number three is to turn the rod journals to 2.000-inch Chevy small journal, which also generates larger fillets for added strength. However, care must be taken during assembly as V-8 bearings aren't chamfered on both edges and narrowed bearings only clear one side. So, V8 bearings must be checked and modified. Race Engineering stocks and installs bearings that have both edges chamfered. This whole process results in reduced bearing speed, proper clearance (vertical and horizontal), and a stronger part. Finally, the crankshaft is carefully balanced.

What's Next?
In the next installment we'll follow along as the guys at Race Engineering begin putting the internals of the engine together. What we'll have when we're finished is a race-prepped short-block assembly that's ready for final assembly and a session on the dyno. Stay tuned!