As I write this the Circle Track crew is fresh off of two solid weeks of trade show travel, first in Orlando at PRI, which was immediately followed by IMIS in Indianapolis. Of course, next year both of these shows will combine into one under the PRI banner and take place December 12-14, 2013. For this year’s versions the shows had some innovative new products that really got us excited for the 2013 racing season.
With IMCA making the move earlier in the year to allow the GM 604 Crate Engine into its marquee Modified class, I saw something at PRI that caught my eye, and likely caught the eye of many a crate motor racer. Comp Cams had displayed a set of springs it called the Crate Motor Valve-Spring. Now anybody who runs a crate motor like the GMPP 602 or 604, knows that the valvesprings on those motors need to be replaced after a month or two of racing otherwise you’re doomed to the rear of the pack. Comp’s new valvesprings are more resilient, will last a whole season, and they look stock…get that? They look stock. Here at Circle Track we don’t advocate chea…I mean creative engineering but you can bet there will be more than one crate motor sporting those springs in 2013, whether or not it is a sealed division and whether or not the rules say “no aftermarket valvesprings.”
People who know me know that I’m not one for sealed engines. I think it robs racers or engine builders of exercising their creativity and it offers a tailor-made opportunity for somebody to cheat the motor up. I get that the idea behind the crate is to save the racer money and to get more cars on the track because of its affordability. I also know that it has worked in a number of areas of the country. I also believe that the same thing can be accomplished by implementing a spec motor rule, but that can be a subject for another column entirely.
Should these motors be allowed in a marquee division, like the IMCA Mods? Officially, IMCA has said that affordability and drivers’ reluctance to claim engines prompted them to consider the 604 for that division. I am of the opinion that these motors have no business being in the feature show. While they are affordable, they lack a certain thunder that accompanies a built motor.
But perhaps even more important than that whole argument is that, in my opinion, sealed motors don’t afford younger racers the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of how an engine works, and that in and of itself is a real problem in the racing business today. To further complicate the issue, our industry is made up of Mom and Pop family owned businesses, many of whom rely on engine builders to buy parts that they produce. If we go completely to crate engines and don’t support the family-owned businesses or educate our young racers on the value of supporting a family owned business, we begin to erode the very foundation of our industry.
It goes something like this. Racer A started racing when he was 14 years old, by the time he is 24, he has raced in three different, yet progressively more competitive divisions, all of which had reasonably open or spec motor rules. Each division had a solid contingency program from parts manufacturers that gave Racer A additional money at the end of the year. This was money that he relied upon to pay for fuel to/from the races.
Fast forward five years down the road and Racer B is following Racer A’s path, the only difference is that the divisions now allow sealed motors in. Consequently, the parts manufacturers who had supported those divisions pulled their contingency money in protest. At the end of the year the money Racer A had used for fuel is no longer available to Racer B and that negatively impacts his dad’s ability to put diesel in the dualie to haul to the races…so…he…stays…home…A racer staying home for reasons that we as leaders of the industry can control is a dangerous path to go down. Racers staying home don’t buy parts, they don’t pay entry fees and they don’t buy hot dogs at the concession stand. It begins a domino effect that this industry cannot afford.
Until next month, Go fast and Turn Left.