Ford Racing interview: Roush, Simon

Ford Racing press release

Roush, Simon Look Ahead To Daytona

Jack Roush, owner of the Roush Fenway Racing Fusions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has won the Daytona 500 once in his career when driver Matt Kenseth captured the event in 2009. Roush spoke about how his organization is planning for this year’s event.

Jack Roush
Jack Roush

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE UPCOMING DAYTONA 500?

“There are several dynamics in motion. First of all, as far as fuel injection is concerned, Doug Yates over in the engine shop and Ford Racing with Andy Slankard have done a really great job anticipating the challenges of fuel injection. We’ve had three or four closed track tests throughout 2011 and the Ford fuel injection worked better than the other folks. It started better. It ran without glitches at part throttle, and it performed admirably without component problems on the race track, so all the Ford support really gave the teams an advantage with fuel injection. I think the other teams will catch up very quickly, but it certainly looked good for us in early testing and in the 2012 January testing at Daytona.”

“Fuel injection is certainly going to have the issues of not knowing how long the components will last, how long you can count on an injector or wiring harness connection, fuel rail service life and, of course, the lift pumps and other things you have to have in the system to be able to give you the 70 psi that you need to operate the fuel injection, as opposed to the 8 or 10 psi that was necessary for the carburetor. We don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I’m confident Doug Yates and the Ford support we get will meet whatever challenges occur as we start to run fuel injection.

“The other thing that’s a dynamic that has made the winter interesting is that NASCAR has determined that the fans don’t want to see these two-car drafts, so they’ve made multiple changes through the tests that have occurred in order to try to minimize the amount of time the guys can spend in two-car drafts, which is an advantage over cars running along by themselves or in the more traditional 10 and 20 and 30-car drafts we’ve seen at Daytona and Talladega. So NASCAR has made a bunch of changes to try and minimize that. I think there will be additional changes that will occur after the Shootout for sure. I expect NASCAR to either open up the front of the car more for cooling or to go to a higher pressure cap, which they’ve limited how much pressure we can operate the cooling system under, but my guess is there will be at least a revision in those two areas or one of those two areas. Regardless, I’m hopeful the competitiveness we had last year at the restricted tracks, where we won both Daytona races, we’ll be able to carry that over in 2012.”

HOW MUCH PRE-PLANNING DO YOU DO WHEN YOU’RE NOT SURE WHAT KIND OF CHANGES NASCAR COULD MAKE AFTER THE SHOOTOUT?

“We’ve anticipated various scenarios and we’ve got constant contact with the people at the Tech Center, which is right across the street from our campus for our Cup and Nationwide cars near the Concord Airport. We have daily contact with them trying to figure out and be as aware as we can of what’s coming down the road. For instance, we’ve got two sets of radiator duct work, the box that manages the airflow to the radiator, anticipating the potential for one area change into the front of the car. We started off with operating our cooling system north of 50 pounds per square inch for the cooling, which adds roughly 50 degrees to the boiling temperature over that of unpressurized cooling system. Now they‘ve got us down to 25 pounds per square inch, so we’ve got the parts, and we’ve got the understanding that the system is compatible. If NASCAR decides to give us another five degrees of boiling temperature, we’ve got the hardware all ready for that. But there’s the potential for an additional rear spoiler change, as well as an opening change for the front end. There’s the potential for a rear fascia skirt change that would limit the air that comes around to the back of the car. Those things that we’ve heard NASCAR talk about, we’ve got spare parts or parts that would reflect the change requirements that are already loaded up in the storage compartments of the truck. We’re ready for a lot of things, including a really good spare Fusion for all of our teams in case they have a problem with an accident that would take a car out of contention. We’ve not only got spare parts for a NASCAR fuel change, we’ve got spare cars that are equal to our primary cars as well.”

Dave Simon, Ford Racing engineer who has worked on the development and design of the new Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) engine that will debut in NASCAR this weekend in Daytona, took time with Ford Racing to talk about that process and what he and other engineers have worked on heading down the homestretch toward the “Great American Race”.

CAN YOU UPDATE US ON WHERE YOU GUYS ARE IN REGARD TO THE EFI FOR DAYTONA?

“Well, since mid-summer when we really first started getting our designs finalized we have been working on a validation of those designs in terms of durability and performance testing. We have been trying to get everything ready to go race at Daytona. We froze our designs a few months back and the last few months have been really about implementation. We have been getting all the parts in house and figuring out how to handle, not just calibrating development engine, but now we have 30-something engines coming to Daytona for Speedweeks and we have to get all of them calibrated across the dyno’s and getting the systems in place to support building that volume of fuel injected engines. At the Daytona test we had the learning process of how we wanted to handle stuff at the race track. How to make calibration updates for all the cars. What do the engineers do and how do you handle communication amongst the teams so that when there are calibration changes everyone knows it and makes the correct ones. We used that test to figure out what the process is going to be during race weekend.”

SO YOU HAVE ALMOST HAD TO CREATE A NEW PLAYBOOK SO TO SPEAK ON HOW YOU WILL DO THINGS?

“Yes, it is a new playbook back at the shop. We have a lot of new incoming parts and we have the inspection of those parts and are dealing with the build process. The guys who used to throw the carburetor on the engines at the end are now building intake manifold modules with injectors and rails and harnesses. The engine builders have to have a process to do that correctly and even when the engines come in after a race to get torn down, now you have fuel injectors that have to be inspected, so the tear-down guys have a new playbook as well. You have the entire infrastructure you have to put in the shop with all the difference processes. At the track, the guys that have to deal with all the stuff at the track have to make appropriate changes for the new components. There is a lot to deal with but the guys are doing a good job getting it all done.”

WHAT WERE YOU HOPING TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE DAYTONA TEST LAST MONTH?

“Well, a few things actually. I think from a system design standpoint we are pretty confident. Confident in the sense that we think the designs are where they need to be. From a performance and running standpoint we aren’t worried about the fuel injection system itself. What we tried to learn was the race track part of it. How we will do the calibration changes and how we will handle having all these cars that need to be supported with the base calibration changes. We did some trial runs with that and have been working to get the team engineers to provide us the feedback we need so the calibration can happen. We wanted to come away from that test with a list of things that worked and didn’t work in terms of handling fuel injection at the race track and we accomplished that.”

A QUESTION THAT SEEMS TO POP UP A LOT IS WHETHER OR NOT THE AVERAGE RACE FAN WILL BE ABLE TO TELL A DIFFERENCE ON THE TRACK NOW THAT THE ENGINES HAVE EFI.

“I think with the cars actually running on the track that there is nothing visual about it. You aren’t going to know it is a fuel injected engine just by watching the cars run. I think for the fans, the knowledge of knowing the engines are fuel injected, running more efficiently and are more modern in terms of the technology will mean different things to different people. I think it is good for the sport to make the engines more modern and leverage the technology that is in our production cars and apply it to the race engines. It gives us a better opportunity to transfer technology back and forth. We had gotten fairly isolated from production engines. There were no production carburetor engines left, so what we were learning on the race engines didn’t always apply to our production engines. If you take the fuel injection and other systems, it gives you the opportunity to transfer information back and forth. Some of the stuff we learn we might be able to transfer back to production and vice versa. It is good for the sport and manufacturers and hopefully the fans enjoy that we are making things more modern even if they can’t see it going around the race track.”

WHAT HAS THE FEEDBACK BEEN FROM THE DRIVERS?

“Feedback has been positive from those guys. I think for those guys, the closer we make them in terms of how they perform to what they are used to, the better we will be initially. There are some differences. They do drive a little bit different but the drivers have gotten used to it and their feedback has been positive. They can adapt to whatever changes in drivability in the car. Overall they have been really happy with the way the cars have been driving.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DIFFERENCES IN THE WAY THE CAR IS DRIVING?

“With fuel injection you have the ability to do things like on deceleration shut your fuel off, which is what production cars to do save fuel, we now have the ability to do that but it changes the dynamics of the car. It changes the feel of the car when that happens. When they are coming into a corner and the fuel shuts off they feel that. It is a matter of getting that tuned in and so on. That is one of those things that they notice right off that is different than a carburetor, but when you explain it to them that it is saving fuel and so on, then they came around to it and sort of embraced it. One test session that we went to they were noting exactly that and by the end of it they were all good with adapting to that and driving around that. I think once we give them a couple of races with it then it will all feel normal.”

WHAT HAS BEEN THE MAIN FOCUS IN THE WEEKS HEADING INTO THE DAYTONA 500?

“It has just been to continue refining the calibration from a performance standpoint, and this is strictly speaking fuel injection because there is always power to be made, but from the EFI standpoint the main focus has been refining calibration. We want to make sure the engines are running exactly how we want them too and also we wanted to get the race weekend process smooth so that we aren’t running around trying to deal with procedural issues and we are able to do what we need to do on the cars, get them on the track, get them tuned right and be done with it.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags daytona, efi, ford, roush, simon