OLDSMOBILE RETURNS TO ITS RACING ROOTS IN STOCK CAR COUNTRY IRL Aurora V8 Is the Successor to the Rocket V8 That Dominated NASCAR's Early Days Five decades ago, Oldsmobile...
OLDSMOBILE RETURNS TO ITS RACING ROOTS IN STOCK CAR COUNTRY
IRL Aurora V8 Is the Successor to the Rocket V8 That Dominated NASCAR's Early Days
Five decades ago, Oldsmobile drivers dominated the upstart NASCAR racing series for "Strictly Stock" cars. Oldsmobile introduced its revolutionary Rocket V8 in 1949, and America's first mass-produced, high-compression overhead valve V8 powered pioneer stock car drivers Red Byron, Curtis Turner, and Bob Flock to five wins in the eight races contested in NASCAR's inaugural season.
Now as NASCAR celebrates its 50th anniversary, Oldsmobile is returning to its racing roots. When the Pep Boys Indy Racing League comes to stock car country for back-to-back races at Dover Downs International Speedway (July 19) and Charlotte Motor Speedway (July 25), Oldsmobile engines will be back in the spotlight. This time, however, the power source is Oldsmobile's undefeated IRL Aurora V8.
The roster of Oldsmobile winners in NASCAR includes Lee and Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Terry Labonte, and Harry Gant. Now a new generation of open-wheel racers is making its mark with Oldsmobile power in the Indy Racing League: Tony Stewart, Billy Boat, Scott Sharp, Davey Hamilton, and dozens more. The IRL Aurora V8 is even more successful that the original Rocket V8 -- Oldsmobile engines have won every race, won every pole, and led every lap since the IRL introduced its new-generation Indy cars at the start of the 1997 season.
The IRL Aurora V8s that will race in Dover and Charlotte have little in common with their Rocket V8 ancestors except eight cylinders and a winning record. The cast-iron Rocket motors that roared on dirt bullrings and the sands of Daytona Beach in the early days of stock car racing relied on a single camshaft, pushrods, two overhead valves per cylinder, and a carburetor that delivered high-octane gasoline. In contrast, the IRL Aurora V8 features a lightweight aluminum block, four chain-driven overhead camshafts, 32 titanium valves (four per cylinder), and electronically controlled fuel injection that precisely dispenses methanol fuel.
Fifty years of technology have also made a dramatic difference in performance: In 1949, a production Rocket V8 produced 135 horsepower at 3,600 rpm; today an IRL Aurora V8 produces over 700 horsepower at 10,000 rpm.
One thing hasn't changed, however. Just as the fledgling sport of stock car racing created new heroes on makeshift tracks, today's wheel-to-wheel competition on gleaming speedways still provides opportunities for racers to display their skill -- and for automobile manufacturers to showcase their engineering expertise. The Rocket V8 is gone, but its spirit lives on in Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8.