Tom Ghent is the Development Manager at Roush Yates Engines who worked with Dodson during the development process of Valvoline's NextGen racing oil.
Likewise, the rod bearings...
Likewise, the rod bearings also look good. There are obvious signs that these bearings have been in an engine that has been run hard, but Ghent says he sees nothing out of the ordinary that would make him worry.
"Valvoline approached us around April 2011 about possibly running a recycled racing oil," Ghent explains. "I wasn't too sure about it at first, but we have a great working relationship with Valvoline and they know what we need in our racing program so we told them we would be willing to look into it." Ghent says that he and the rest of the Roush Yates Engines crew were more than willing to leave the engineering of the actual product up to Valvoline since that is its expertise. RYE, on the other hand, was concerned only with how the oil performed in its racing engines.
"We did a lot of research validation," Ghent says of the process. "What the stuff was made of didn't concern us as much as how it compared with the oil we were using previously. We looked at both power and durability.
One of Roush Yates Engines'...
One of Roush Yates Engines' new FR9 race engines costs as much as a small house, so there is no doubt that only the highest quality oil will be used in it, no matter the cost. The fact that RYE is confident enough in a recycled oil formulation from Valvoline is a great sign that it will work well for Saturday-night racers as well.
One of the first things RYE did with the oil was put it through an AVL dyno durability test. An AVL dyno isn't just for straight power runs. It can be programmed to simulate the stresses an engine sees on the racetrack over time. So, for instance, it can replicate tracks from Martinsville to Talladega, mimicking not only the upper rpm limits reached at the end of the straights, but also the way the engine is loaded on turn exit. It can even replicate the driver spinning the wheels on a restart.
"After that we would tear the engine down and look at critical areas to see how well the oil was protecting the engine," Ghent says. "We'd look at the lifters, the camshaft, the piston skirts, the bearings and the cylinder wall wear just as a start. And I have to say, I was surprised at how well this oil did.
"Once it passed the AVL test," he continues. "Then we took it to a track test."
And after track testing, the engines were again torn down and inspected part by part to see how well they held up with the recycled oil. Besides simple friction protection, Ghent says that he also looked very closely at how well the oil held up in extreme circumstances.
"You don't want to test only under perfect conditions," he explains, "because you will rarely have that in racing. So during the dyno testing we would spike both the water and oil temps to see what would happen. You will get that during a race if for example you have a hot dog wrapper covering the grille, and you want confidence that the engine will live like that for a bit so you can wait for a caution. If you have to come in for a pit stop under green, that can ruin your whole day.
"So we actually tested this oil for short bursts up in the 300- to 320-degree Fahrenheit range. We don't like to run the oil that hot, but knowing you can if you have to for a few laps gives you a nice comfort zone. The recycled oil held up really well and was definitely no worse than the virgin racing oil we had been using."
After Ghent and the rest of Roush Yates Engines' staff had given the NextGen racing oil their stamp of approval, it was introduced in racing engines in actual competition for the NASCAR Nationwide Series first and then finally made its way into Cup competition beginning with the July event at Kentucky Speedway. With the exception of the Roush Fenway drivers that made the Chase for the Cup, the oil was run by practically every team powered by Roush Yates Engines after that.
Currently, the Valvoline NextGen oil used by Roush Yates Engines is a custom formulation made specifically for its needs. But it's a great example that a recycled motor oil can be successful in racing. And although as this went to press we hadn't been able to confirm it, we have heard that there will soon be options available for Saturday-night racers.
So, maybe the next time that Prius owner gets all smug with you about your race car, you can stick it to him and ask him how much oil he recycles?