Doug Yates held a Q&A session this afternoon at Daytona International Speedway to talk about the cooling system of Ford's FR9 engine and why it seems Ford teams can push cars longer than its competitors.
DOUG YATES, Head Engine Builder, Roush Yates Engines
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW THE FR9 IS WORKING AND ITS COOLING ISSUES? "First, I want to say I'm really proud of the Ford FR9 by Roush Yates. We've done a lot of work on this engine and I think we all saw how the performance was at the end of the year last year by winning a couple a races there, and to come to Speedweeks and be fast - we didn't sit on the pole, but Trevor was third, and then to be really fast in the 150s and be able to push that long says we've done our homework, not only on power but also the cooling system, so I'm really proud of that. Obviously, it's in the driver's hands. They've got to watch their gauges closer than ever. It's up to the driver to get some nose to the air, but, as you could see, Matt could push the 29 for a long time yesterday. I think he could have pushed him the whole race just by ducking out a little bit, so, from that standpoint, we're really proud. I think NASCAR has done a good job by backing off on the restrictor plate size a little bit. RPM was a huge concern for us. The Bud Shootout was not a sustainable pace for us and I think we would have had issues if we tried to run that fast for 500 miles. We were seeing 9100-9200 RPM, which is faster than we turn at Fontana and Michigan and places like that with a restrictor plate engine. So the challenge with this plate engine is we have to qualify at 8200 and race at 9200, so kudos to NASCAR for backing that off a little bit, which, I think, will give us some comfort for Sunday."
HOW MUCH OF A THRASH WAS IT TO MAKE THE CHANGES AND HAVE CONFIDENCE YOU'LL BE ABLE TO MAKE 500 MILES? "On the engine side we went home Sunday and our engineering staff does a great job. We had an engine set up with the water system and went through a lot of different iterations and I think we made some really good decisions coming down here. It's a typical Daytona. You never know what you're gonna get, but this is our Super Bowl and I'm excited to be here and getting ready to go out and race in what we all see as probably the start of something different for the Daytona 500s as we know them."
TOYOTA SAYS IT'S AT A DISADVANTAGE BECAUSE IT'S OLD TECHNOLOGY. DO YOU HAVE ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY IN TERMS OF COOLING? "I think we've done a great job. We got a lot of criticism because we were the last guys out with our engine, but it seems being the last guys out we combined all the best technology into one and I wouldn't expect anything else from Toyota to hear something like that. Maybe you should ask Jack about that. He'd probably have some good comments for you (laughing)."
DOES WATER TEMP MAKE THAT MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE OR IS THE ENGINE DESIGN MORE IMPORTANT? "It's a huge difference. You design the engine to operate in a certain range and when we came down here that range was already pretty high, but when they put the PRV (pressure relief valve) on the cooling system that limited how much pressure the system could see, that made a whole new ballgame. Now it's really all about what the cylinder head and the block see for pressure and temperature. That's the critical part. If you start boiling in that combustion chamber, then you have issues. I think, along with Ford, we've done a great job on our engine design and, hopefully, they're saying the same things after Sunday."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE COOLING SYSTEM WITH THE FR9 THAT MAKES IT MORE EFFECTIVE? "I think it's a combination. What we've done good as a group with Roush Fenway and Robbie Reiser and all the guys is work on our system as a combination. Maybe the other guys have or haven't, but, together with the radiator and the header tank and the engine, we've designed it to run hotter and to have less grille opening. We saw that from the first day we rolled it on the track. It's hard to speak to exactly what everybody else is doing, but the way we've looked at ours is it's a system and let's work on it that way."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON ALL THESE CHANGES? SOME FEEL THE LAST COUPLE MONTHS OF TESTING HAS BEEN A WASTE. "We chose not to come and work on something that we felt like we couldn't race. I saw some guys working on systems that were unconventional, so we stuck to try to work on speed in the race cars, try to work on the package and the things that we knew that we could race good, and I think we made a good decision on that. We'll see how it turns out Sunday."
DOES IT MATTER WHERE THE GRILLE OPENING IS AND WHETHER IT'S UP OR DOWN? "The noses are the same, but different. We've studied that in the wind tunnel and the positioning does matter. Also, where the opening is for a single-car run versus when you're running right behind somebody - where the air is - is different, so the guys have worked hard on that, so the opening position does make some difference."
WILL IT BE HIGHER FOR SUNDAY OR LOWER? "You guys can look at the cars and answer that for yourself."
ARE THERE TEAMS IN THE TUNNEL NOW TESTING THAT SORT OF THING? "We went back in our data from the tunnels and we had tested some of those configurations and felt like we understood it pretty well when they changed the rules, but the fun part about being in NASCAR, and I do sympathize with those guys because they came here and were running super-fast and had to really react on the fly, but I heard Dale Inman say something the other day which I thought was really cool. He said, 'There's gonna be a race and there's gonna be a winner,' and we just want to get ourselves in position to do that."
HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE 500 TO BE DIFFERENT THAN THESE SPRINT RACES? "I think you get 43 guys out there, I'd hate to be the 43rd guy because he's not gonna have a partner, but, hopefully, we don't have that in our camp, but I think it's gonna be more of the same. I think we're gonna see some two guys and one of the guys will spin out like we've seen. You saw the closing rate of the 20 car to the pack yesterday. That's something guys are gonna have to really be aware of and make sure they're on top of that so they don't get themselves in trouble, but it's gonna be interesting. At the end of the day, some cars are faster and some drivers do a better job drafting. At the end of the day, you're still gonna see the best guys rise to the occasion."
ARE WE GOING TO SEE SOME ENGINES BLOW? "I hope not. As an engine builder, I think the situation is controlled for everybody, but we've seen some and we probably will, especially if the drivers let the temperatures get out of control or if the cooling systems exceed their capacity and then have to come back down and operate the rest of the day, which is really tricky and something we have to be on top of."
HARVICK SAID HE THINKS HIS ENGINE BUILDERS ARE TERRIFIED. ARE YOU? "As an engine builder you live a little on the nervous side anyway and expecting the unexpected. I'm anxious to get into the race and get through the race and then go from there, but I like what I see so far. I like the fact that our cars can push so long and just as long as our drivers do their job right and position ourselves at the end where we've got a shot at this thing, I think we're gonna be good."
DO YOU THINK THE FR9 HAS BETTER COOLING OR COULD SOME OF THE OTHER MANUFACTURERS BE SANDBAGGING? "Just the talk in the garage and listening, it's interesting the guys that approach you and ask you questions when you're doing well, so it's clear that our guys are doing a good job with the cooling systems and the engines are doing a good job. Now, I think it's just up to us getting these cars ready and going out there and being smart about it."
HOW MUCH EMPHASIS WAS PUT ON COOLING WITH THE FR9? "If you go back through all of our press releases, the cooling system is one of the biggest things that we focused on. Right now, if you can push somebody longer or have a couple horsepower, you're gonna choose to push somebody longer today, so I think that was a good choice and it was by design. We didn't know that this day would come and we'd be racing two-by-two, but I think the design group and Ford did a good job in working on that part of the engine."
WAS THE FR9 DESIGNED WITH PACK RACING AND RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING IN MIND? "No. It was just designed so we could run more tape on the front end - more downforce and less drag was really the intent and today we're in a situation where that's pretty important."
IT LOOKS LIKE THIS IS THE STYLE OF RACING WE'LL SEE HERE AT DAYTONA FOR A FEW YEARS. "I would say the cat is out of the bag. You even see the Nationwide guys over there trying to do the same thing, so it's clear two cars are faster than one. Everybody has asked the question, 'Why didn't we do this before?' But I think the car, the track, the situation has presented itself to do this. We saw it at Talladega a little bit, but not to this extreme and now as soon as they start the race you're picking your partner and you're hooking up."
WERE THE GRILLE OPENINGS DIFFERENT SIZES FOR EACH MANUFACTURER OR THE SAME SIZE? "It's been standardized. They were larger. If you watched the Bud Shootout, there was no tape on the front end of these cars. The guys were just running max opening because when you're pushing, all you want to do is keep it as cool as long as you can, so they closed that up to limit that. So far, it doesn't look like it's had the effect they thought it would. It's the same for everyone." IS THERE ANYTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO ELIMINATE THE TWO-BY-TWO RACING? "I don't know. The track is so smooth and they did such a nice job, and the bumpers line up, that's probably a better question for a chassis guy than me."
DALE JR. DOESN'T LIKE THIS KIND OF RACING AND SUGGESTED A BIG TEST AT DAYTONA OR TALLADEGA, TO TRY STUFF ON THE ROOF AND CHANGE THIS STYLE OF RACING. WHAT DO YOU THINK? "That's the guy that was on the pole? (laughing) You like what you do well at and what you excel at, and I think our guys in the 150s yesterday did a great job. We did everything but win the race, so I think if you ask our guys today, they liked it. If you ask the Hendrick guys, they don't like it as much today. It's racing. You're never gonna make everybody happy, but, at the end of the day, you're here to get an advantage, you're here to try and win the race and I like our position as Ford Motor Company and Roush Yates Engines, so we'll go out and try to do a good job with it."
DO YOU EXPECT ANYMORE CHANGES? "We try to stay really close with NASCAR on where they're going and what they're feeling, and I think they like what they saw yesterday and I think that's what we'll have on Sunday."
HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING FROM THE NEW FUEL BLEND? "What we're seeing is it takes more laps on the engine to really read the spark plugs. Obviously, we try to do as good a job as we can at the shop understanding the air-fuel ratios and from the test, but, still, you want to get that plug check and do that last minute tune-up and it just takes longer to get a build-up on the plug, which is a little bit of a learning curve in itself."
WHAT IS THE FUEL MILEAGE HERE? "Our fuel mileage is somewhere in the range of 6.0, and it really depends on if you're out front and you're pushing or if you're getting pushed because your mileage is gonna vary."
WHAT IS YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF HOW MANY LAPS OTHER MANUFACTURERS CAN PUSH? IS IT 3-5 LAPS? IT SEEMS THE FORDS CAN PUSH LONGER. "I think we all kind of watched the same thing and that's what it appeared like yesterday."
IT LOOKED LIKE YOU GUYS COULD PUSH THE ENTIRE RACE? "That would be a nice scenario."
HOW MUCH OF IT IS THE DRIVER DOING THE RIGHT THING AT THE RIGHT TIME? "The driver is huge like always. This is a driver and equipment sport. The driver is our quarterback, our all-star, and it matters. The best drivers, the ones that figure it out the quickest are gonna excel and the other guys are gonna have to play catch up. I think yesterday you could see Harvick and Matt really did a nice job and Greg and Carl did a nice job. Hopefully, those guys will do the same on Sunday."
-source: ford racing