Rockingham: Jim Covey, Jeff Gordon interview

Team Monte Carlo is Ready for The Rock DETROIT, Mich., Feb. 21, 2002 - When the Subway 400 gets underway at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. this weekend, it will be the first time for drivers and teams to experience NASCAR's new ...

Team Monte Carlo is Ready for The Rock

DETROIT, Mich., Feb. 21, 2002 - When the Subway 400 gets underway at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, N.C. this weekend, it will be the first time for drivers and teams to experience NASCAR's new one-engine rule for the Winston Cup Series.

Team Monte Carlo is ready to meet that challenge and also to log its 20th victory at the popular 1.017-mile track known as The Rock. Like a rock, Chevrolet has posted more wins there than any other manufacturer in NASCAR's Modern Era (1972 - present). Chevrolet has 19 wins, Ford and Pontiac each have 12, and Dodge has 5 wins.

With defending champion Steve Park on the mend, Team Monte Carlo looks to last year's pole-sitter, Jeff Gordon, as a strong candidate for victory. Gordon, four-time Winston Cup champion and driver of the No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet Monte Carlo, has scored four career wins at Rockingham (1995, '97, and both events in '98).

The Chevrolet and Pontiac teams rely on Jim Covey, GM Racing's Engine Development Manager, as a key player in their success with the one-engine rule.

Thoughts on the one-engine rule from Jeff Gordon and Jim Covey:

Do you view the one-engine rule as a cost savings for the teams?

Jeff Gordon: "I don't. It might save some dollars in the long run. It's going to cost a lot of money up front because there are a lot of parts and pieces that have already been bought and placed in inventory that the teams are going to basically eat now. Is it going to change the competition as to which teams are at the top? Is it going to help the guys in the back move to the top? Is it going to move the guys at the top further down? No. I don't think it's going to change at all. It takes money to have a strong engine that can run all weekend long. The team that does a better job of research and development is the team that's going to come out on top."

On the mandated weight requirements for select components

Jim Covey: "NASCAR is implementing minimum weight requirements on select components, and that limits the opportunity to use exotic lightweight materials. And yet, if a team thinks it needs to run the heavier components for durability purposes, they can. The real challenge of this one-engine rule is finding the threshold."

How will the new rule affect engine reliability?

Jim Covey: "Reliability is the biggest factor. Before this new rule, the teams had a pretty good idea of what components 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 of concern to the engine builders. It will be the all the starting and stopping during the race weekend. Before, qualifying engines gave them the opportunity to push the limit and they used them as development engines. Now, they won't have that luxury."

How will it affect performance?

Jim Covey: "We will probably see more of a change in performance levels during qualifying because they're going to have to be more conservative. 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. In racing, they might not have to back down too much."

What can GM Racing do to help with the reliability and performance issues?

Jim Covey: "GM Racing has a program to conduct failure analysis on various engine components that failed in the race. If a team fails a part, we conduct a metallurgical analysis to determine the reason for the failure and work with the team or the component supplier to prevent similar failures. The reason for the failure and the solution to the problem is communicated to all of the Chevrolet and Pontiac teams to help them avoid a similar failure. We've been doing this for over 10 years and it's been very beneficial.That's where our teams really work together well.

"But GM Racing doesn't direct any of the engine builders as to what components will give them the most reliability. Before this new rule, they knew what components would last for one race. Now, they have to re-think that and ask if that same package will last for qualifying, practice, and the race. They'll have to make modifications to some of the parts to increase their durability. So that's up to the individual teams. But it always goes back to the engine reports and the failure analysis and the team interaction. The engineering folks at GM Racing can provide them with all sorts of history and data that contributes to their success."

-tmc-

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About this article
Series Automotive , NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Steve Park