"How the hell do you think that's going to make a difference," is my recollection of Smokey's reaction the first time he and I discussed certain ways of improving fuel atomization and the combustion process. Challenging as this might have seemed at the time, we eventually came to some conclusions you may find worth considering. Some of these notions have been touched upon in prior Enginology columns. But even though the majority of circle track engines are carbureted (EFI is on the way, however), most of the following paragraphs will contain information that fits both.

To launch this discussion, let's review a couple prior points. First, there is a clear distinction between airflow quantity and quality. In carbureted engines, fuel typically passes over a longer path to the cylinders than for EFI systems. However, both environments can benefit from providing air that both helps support good fuel atomization and aids fuel suspension (minimizes mechanical separation of air and fuel). It's important that inlet air paths and motion within the combustion space, at the minimum, don't reduce the efficiency for either of these requirements.

Next, recall we previously shared that fuel particle size relates to flame speed; e.g., the smaller the droplet the less time is required for it to be "processed" by the chemical reaction we commonly call combustion. Since larger fuel particles take longer to "burn" (if you will), net flame speed effectively decreases. And, as you know, both these conditions are unavoidably linked to spark timing (the point of spark delivery as a function of crankshaft angle).

Finally, there is the issue of Indicated Mean Effective Pressure (IMEP) which, for purposes of this discussion we'll define as the "net" working cylinder pressure. What do we mean by that? Simply that IMEP is the mathematical difference between positive and negative pressure, acting on a piston during any given operating cycle. More specifically, it's the difference between pressure on the piston prior to TDC of the power stroke (ignition) and then thereafter during the down stroke.

Believe it or not, all of these conditions and their effects can be impacted by not paying attention to how fuel is conditioned prior to and during combustion. Furthermore, since air/fuel mixtures operate in confined spaces and change movement direction with rapid frequency (generally at the rate of milliseconds), taking precautions to do what you can to enhance the reduction of liquid fuel particle size (often mechanically) can be beneficial to increasing power. Now let's talk about some practical ways you may want to consider accomplishing this goal.

There are various schools of thought on how you should treat wet-flow surfaces, both outside and inside the combustion space. Opinions are often based on experience, although sometimes that experience doesn't include any form of scientific analysis or basis in fact, just a dyno sheet. And even though data of this type is arguably a strong point from which to work, getting results without clear knowledge of how they were obtained can leave you in the dark when attempting to make further improvements.

Stated another way, if you don't know why or how you caused a change, what are the chances to repeat the process or make it better? Take time to figure out the "why" behind the "what," if you plan any sort of scientific approach to making changes.