TEST TIME: NEW NASCAR GRAND NATIONAL DIVISION ENGINE IMPRESSES AT LAKELAND TRIAL
LAKELAND, Fla. (Jan. 17, 2006) - One of NASCAR's newest innovations passed its latest test on Tuesday. In an effort to reduce the cost of racing, NASCAR has designed and built a new engine package for the NASCAR Grand National Division, which includes the AutoZone West Series and Busch East Series (formerly the Busch North Series).
The new "spec" engine program - so called because NASCAR will determine the engine's precise specifications to control the cost of components - was developed at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. The new engine package is still in its developmental stage and will be gradually phased into competition during the 2006-07 seasons. The engine package underwent exhaustive testing this week at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fla.
The testing was conducted by NASCAR and GRIZCO Racing, the North Carolina-based team that finished 1-2 in the 2005 Busch North Series point standings with drivers Andy Santerre and Mike Stefanik. Engines were provided by Wisconsin-based Wegner Automotive Research.
GRIZCO drivers Santerre and Brad Leighton participated in the test session in Lakeland, along with 2005 Busch East Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Sean Caisse.
NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series Director Lee Roy was on hand to oversee the test for NASCAR. Roy gave the reduced-cost powerplant rave reviews, but cautioned that more research is needed.
"The 'spec' engine is doing everything that NASCAR was hoping it would do," said Roy. "One thing we're looking at is how much horsepower it creates, what it feels like on the race track and what [lap] times it's running compared to the first test that was done against a regular motor.
"We're pleased with what we've seen so far. I think the drivers are happy with the power that's there and the way the car drives with this type of engine in it," said Roy. "The other thing we're looking at is rpm's. The new motor has been running lower rpm's but putting up the same speeds. Lower rpm's means that engine wear is going to be a lot less."
According to Roy, Tuesday's test session at Lakeland was designed to test the durability of the motor. Caisse and the other drivers put the motor through its paces on longer runs of 50 or more laps at a time, for a total of over 400 laps.
Santerre, a 14-year NASCAR veteran and four-time Busch North Series champion, says the engine package should benefit new Grand National Division teams.
"We need to find cost-effective way to get more people involved in the Grand National Division," said Santerre. "If this all works out, you can buy this complete package for less than half of what we're spending on engines now.
"From what we've seen, this engine holds up well. It runs very competitive lap times," said Santerre. "For anybody new coming into the Grand National Division, they should be able to put this type of engine in their car and know that they're going to be competitive at the race track. If this motor doesn't show any signs of fatigue after this test session, I think that's a great sign for the future of the 'spec' engine."
Once testing is completed and the final engine package is approved for competition, it is expected to reduce the engine costs for Grand National Division teams by nearly 50 percent. In addition to the new engine package, NASCAR is also introducing a new molded composite body, which is also designed to significantly reduce costs in the Grand National Division.