SPARTA, Ky. (Dec. 1, 2000) The NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division will use higher compression engines in 2001 and powerplants from the Roush Engines shop proved earlier this week they could be on the leading edge of the series' switch to greater power.
Defending NASCAR Busch Series champion Jeff Green and 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Greg Biffle both got their first taste of "big horsepower" in an NBS car at a test session at Kentucky Speedway. Unofficially they ended the single-day test last Tuesday with best laps of nearly 180 mph.
Green tested the first Ford Taurus produced by the ppc Racing shop as his team, which also fields cars for second-place point man Jason Keller, debuted its switch to the blue oval brand. Roush Engines provided Chevrolet powerplants in 2000 when the team used Monte Carlos as its weapon of choice.
Biffle, who will drive No. 60 Grainger Fords in 2001, Tuesday tested one of Jeff Burton's No. 9 NorthernLight.com Fords at Kentucky because his Roush Racing crew had not yet completed any of his cars for next season.
The purpose of the session was no less than two-fold. It gave teams the opportunity to feel out the moderately banked 1.5-mile trioval in anticipation of the first NBS race there on June 16. More importantly the nine drivers had the opportunity to test engines using a newly mandated 12:1 compression ratio, testing performance and endurance while giving the drivers a feel for more horsepower.
"The new ratio is producing about 130 more horsepower than before," said Joe Tryson, engine specialist with Roush Racing. "The drivers are going to be looking at horsepower averaging in the 690 range compared to an average of 560 in the past."
Biffle was pleased with how the day went for the Grainger team and although he wasn't in one of next season's cars, he felt confident everything they learned would easily transfer over to any car.
"The new motors are super fast and they've got massive amounts of horsepower," Biffle said. "I've driven some Busch cars before and you can definitely tell a difference with the new ratio that we'll be running next season.
"The Craftsman Trucks had a substantial amount of horsepower, so I believe the transition for me into the Busch Series is going to be easier now, because many of the teams and drivers are used to running the old way. Most of the teams may have to adjust their set-ups that have worked in the past to accommodate the engine change, so I think the playing field is going to be pretty level."
"We're very pleased with our results from the test session," Biffle's crew chief Randy Goss said. "It was satisfying to everyone for us to go out for our first test and run well. I know Greg really wants to perform well next year to prove he is a great driver for any series.
"Posting good speeds at the test certainly gave him and everyone on the team a great confidence booster. We're starting to get all of the personnel in place for next season and the guys are well on their way to having cars completed and ready for Daytona. I'm excited about this new deal and I know everyone on this team is eager to get the 2001 season underway."
In addition to Biffle, Green and Keller, Cicci-Welliver Racing teammates David Green and Tim Fedewa, Marty Houston and Blaise Alexander in the Team SABCO cars they drove in 2000, Randy LaJoie and Joe Nemechek also tested. -nascar.com-