I have been quiet about how I think the way racing has been going for a few years now. The last time I wrote an opinion piece for Circle Track it was my thoughts on crate engines and how they aren't exactly the cure-all many people pretend them to be. That last article cause me and our company a lot of grief, so I want to make it clear I'm not targeting any specific companies or organizations.
I have been involved in the engine side of motorsports for 50-plus years and our business has been around nearly as long as well. My intention is to share my feelings on the path motorsports continues to take—especially stock cars.
I'm sticking my neck out again because I truly love what I do, and I want to do what I can to see that this great sport continues.
Keith Dorton with one of his winning 9.0:1 Super Late Model race engines. Dorton says that
Everyone knows that since Bobby Allison suffered that big wreck at Talladega in 1987, speed has been restricted at both Daytona and Talladega. A restrictor plate underneath the carburetor was a logical choice for a temporary solution. Engines in that era were producing approximately 650 horsepower open and 400 restricted. Millions of dollars have been spent on these special engines since then. It has been common for teams to spend a good portion of their yearly budget on these engines for just four races. I will add that, to my knowledge, none of this R&D into plate motors has been beneficial for anything else.
Today, new open, or unrestricted, engines can produce nearly 900 horsepower. These new engines have greatly added to the cost for this type of racing. And with that added horsepower, the speeds have increased to the point that we are approaching 200 mph on many 11/2-mile racetracks. These speeds have not made for a better race for either drivers or spectators. We can only be thankful for the vast increase in safety of the cars and tracks to help protect the competitors while they race at these speeds.
You might think, "The Cup teams have tons of money, who cares how much it costs them to race?" but these trends affect us all. I know I sound very negative, but that's just the way it is. Smokey Yunick told a lot of us in the business years ago, "Boys, you'd better find a way to keep the cost down or you will find yourself out of a job!"
Dorton preps a Chevy R07 block for a race engine build. The R07 is an excellent engine des
It has been my job to find ways to increase horsepower, and I have always tried to keep up with technology. And I have also never met either a driver or a crew chief that didn't want a horsepower advantage over their competitors. There are forms of motorsports that have a place for unlimited technology and horsepower, but that's not oval-track stock cars.
GM, Ford, and Mopar have all developed engines exclusively for stock car racing that share no real parts that are used in any of their street engines. But along with the cost of these new engines, they make so much power that you have to restrict them in some manner. NASCAR's Nationwide and Truck series both basically use the same engines as the Cup series but require teams to use a tapered spacer to cut down the horsepower. They are capable of producing 900 horsepower but the tapered spacer cuts that down to the 660 to 700 range.
Here's a real-world example: I recently finished an engine that will race at Daytona in the ARCA series. This engine had all the exotic parts normally seen at this level of racing, including a super-light crank, rods, pistons, and rings. It used a six-stage oil pump and an intake manifold that cost $3,500 alone. And for all that when you installed the restrictor plate required by the racing series it only made a little more than 360 horsepower at 7,000 rpm! That's a ridiculously small amount of power for an engine that came with the same cost as a Cup motor. All the competitors could have bought a new OEM engine for less than $8,000 that makes that much power.
Lots of racing classes allow an SB2 like you see here, but require a restrictor plate to k
It's my opinion that we shouldn't be building these obscenely powerful—and equally expensive—race engines if we're just going to add a restrictor to cut the output. It's just a waste of everyone's hard-earned money. From my experience, I believe that an engine with 660 to 700 horsepower and a maximum rpm of around 8,500 would be ideal for top-level stock car racing. And for feeder series that power output can be brought down to 600 to 630 horsepower with a carburetor change. And with the technology we have now, those engines could have a life expectancy far greater than what is currently being used at a dramatically reduced cost.
I think one good way to accomplish this might be to switch from a solid-lifter valvetrain to hydraulic lifters. A few years ago we were approached by the officials of what used to be the Hooters Pro Cup Series about doing a spec engine for their series. I didn't think much of the idea but realized that if we didn't do it someone else would. We devoted a year of R&D on this engine and a substantial expense. Since developing the engine, it has raced that series (now called the X1R Pro Cup Series), as well as the PASS South Series.