DETROIT, Mich., Feb. 27, 2001 - The challenges that face NASCAR Winston Cup teams, including the Pontiac team behind driver Stacy Compton, are numerous and substantial. The newest of those challenges is the "one-engine" rule, which debuted last ...
DETROIT, Mich., Feb. 27, 2001 - The challenges that face NASCAR Winston Cup teams, including the Pontiac team behind driver Stacy Compton, are numerous and substantial. The newest of those challenges is the "one-engine" rule, which debuted last weekend and requires teams to use the same engine for practice, qualifying and the race itself.
Teams are now tasked with searching for the fine line between peak performance and reliability. Compton, who was one of four drivers to suffer an engine failure in last Sunday's race at North Carolina Speedway, and GM Racing's Jim Covey both acknowledge the learning curve for a team's engine department will be steep.
Thoughts From Stacy Compton, No. 14 Conseco Pontiac Grand Prix:
DO YOU LIKE RACING AT LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY? "I love Vegas. On my list, it's probably one of my top five tracks, as far as places that I like. They could build a few more places like that and I think they would do well. "I'm pretty excited. We're taking a really good car out there, so I think the Conseco Pontiac should be OK. They (the team) ran real good out there last year and I ran real good out there last year, so I think the combination should work to our advantage."
YOU HAD A LOT OF EXPERIENCE AT LAS VEGAS IN THE TRUCK SERIES BEFORE YOU RAN THERE IN WINSTON CUP...DOES THAT HELP YOU A LOT? "I think it does. At a place like Rockingham, we have drivers in the series that have been there 30 or 40 times; I have been there four or five times - that sure makes a difference. But at a place like Las Vegas, I feel like I've raced there almost as much as anybody has. When I moved to Winston Cup and we went to Las Vegas, I was comfortable and ran good. Having more seat-time there is a huge benefit, as it would be anywhere. I think we're a lot closer to 'level playing ground' when we go to places like that."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ONE-ENGINE RULE? "I think it's going to be a little bit tough for us because you've got the 'powerhouse' teams that have spent a lot of money and developed motors that are probably a little further along than where we are. David Evans (team's engine builder) has done a great job on the 'open' motors, as far as figuring out what we need to do. We haven't had a chance to race a lot of races on these motors yet to find out how they're going to be, but overall, I still think they're going to be good."
DOES THE ONE-ENGINE RULE CREATE A LARGER GAP BETWEEN THE "HAVE" AND THE "HAVE NOT" TEAMS IN THE SERIES? "I think it probably does. You still have the 'powerhouse' teams that are going to spend the money on research and development that some of the other teams can't do. You're still going to have those guys producing horsepower that will probably be comparable to what they qualified with last year, but now they're working on one motor, instead of two. I think this rule could separate the teams even more, but it was a decision that they (NASCAR) needed to make. And it's a good decision. I think their thought process is going to be a big benefit to the sport when it's all said-and-done."
Thoughts from Jim Covey, Engine Development Manager, GM Racing:
TALK ABOUT THE EFFECT OF THE ONE-ENGINE RULE ON RELIABILITY "Reliability is the biggest factor. Before this new rule, the teams had a pretty good idea of what would last 500 miles. They knew how light of a component they could run and how radical of a component they could run and still last 500 miles. But now, they've got to qualify with it, practice with it, and race with it. That could add up to 700 miles.
"But it's not the continuous operation of running a race from start to finish that will be the problem. One of the biggest concerns to the engine builders will be all the starting and stopping during the race weekend. During practice, the guys will come in and shut the car down and then start it up again to go back out. Preparing for qualifying, they go out and run two laps and come back in. When you're running, everything is a little bit easier. When you shut down, you lose your oil fill and you have a chance of a failure with some of the parts.
"Reliability becomes the number one concern. Before, qualifying engines gave them the opportunity to push the limit. They used qualifying engines as development engines. Now, they won't have that luxury."
WILL THIS AFFECT PERFORMANCE LEVELS IN EITHER QUALIFYING OR THE RACE? "It will probably have a negative affect on both. It'll probably be more severe on qualifying because they're going to have to be more conservative. They will slow down. In qualifying, they usually run a lot of gear ratio to try to make the cars accelerate more, but that's a negative on the reliability side - especially in the long term. So, they'll have to slow down but it'll only be about a half a second at most tracks. In racing, they might not have to back down too much."
HOW MUCH WILL THIS CHANGE THE AMOUNT OF LAPS THAT A TEAM RUNS IN PRACTICE? "I think that for the first few races, the guys will run 50 laps in practice and that's it. In the past, it wasn't unusual to see guys run 100 laps or more in practice. Now, they probably won't run as many laps until they get comfortable."
OVERALL, IS THIS RULE A POSITIVE OR A NEGATIVE FOR THE SERIES? "You're never going to satisfy everybody. I understand that NASCAR is trying to reduce costs and things like that. Just like any rule, it presents new challenges. But it's not as cut and dried as trying to save the teams some money.
"From an engine inventory cost standpoint, I think it will be beneficial. You don't have to lug several engines to the racetrack and you don't need the same amount of manpower for assembling engines.
"But now you no longer have an opportunity to try new things. I can see a lot of stagnating on the development side. Initially, I think it's going to hurt the lower-dollar teams because they don't have the resources to do tests on the dynamometer or the test tracks, or to lease engines to develop them."
WILL THIS RULE BENEFIT ANY ONE MANUFACTURER MORE THAN ANOTHER? "I don't think there's any benefit for one over the other. At GM, one of the biggest concerns is the interface between the camshaft and the lifter. Because of the limit on our bearing journal diameter for camshafts, which is inherent in the block design, we're at a deficit to the Ford and a huge deficit to the Dodge. The new block that we submitted at the end of last year has the capacity for a larger cam bearing - the same size as the Dodge. And that, we feel, would give us better durability for the starting and stopping problems. But having to run one engine for longer periods and having a minimum component weight will affect all the manufacturers.
"We've already voiced our concerns to NASCAR. We are concerned about reliability as far as being at a deficit in the camshaft and bearing diameter. That was one of the big things about the new block we submitted. But at this time, NASCAR doesn't feel it's a real issue."