DETROIT (Sept. 12, 2000) - When NASCAR made the announcement last Saturday that restrictor plates would be used during this week's race at New Hampshire International Speedway, engine shops throughout the Winston Cup Series shifted into high gear.
DETROIT (Sept. 12, 2000) - When NASCAR made the announcement last Saturday that restrictor plates would be used during this week's race at New Hampshire International Speedway, engine shops throughout the Winston Cup Series shifted into high gear. Team members headed to the shop for weekend work shifts and many have not stopped since.
Even the most established engine departments would be challenged to come up with a competitive horsepower formula in time for the 26th race on the 2000 series schedule. Knowing that, one can only imagine the thrash taking place at A.J. Foyt Racing, where the engine program is still evolving during the team's first year of competition. Last weekend marked the first time since engine builder David Evans came on board last spring that the team has used its own engines from start to finish during a race weekend. Now Evans and crew chief Philippe Lopez are scrambling to prepare a solid, restrictor plate engine for the Conseco Pontiac, driven by Rick Mast.
THOUGHTS FROM PHILIPPE LOPEZ,
CREW CHIEF, NO 14 CONSECO PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
...on the impact this week's engine rules have had on the team: "We didn't need this. We didn't need this at all. Our motor program has come a long way, but that's on 'open' stuff. We were relying on Childress (Racing) for the restrictor plate stuff. But when all this came about, Childress really couldn't do anything for us, so we had to switch gears and try to develop a plate motor in five days. We did not have plate anything in this shop as of Friday. We didn't even have a restrictor plate - didn't need one. We had already made our arrangements for the rest of this year and we were starting to talk about next year. That was just so we could get our own motor program stout for 34 races, and then we could worry about those other four later."
...what kind of hours have the team's 12 engine department employees been working since the rule change was announced?: "Since Friday, they have not been home before midnight - and I think there have been a couple of two o'clocks in there - and then they're back here at 7 a.m."
...does a crew chief throw his past notes out from New Hampshire heading to this race?: I don't know if we totally throw them all away, but this will definitely take a different set-up. I'm not so worried about the springs and the shocks as much as I am the big concern of whether you're going to need to underdrive, overdrive, what gear. With all those questions in mind, the only way to answer it is to do it. That's going to take away from our chassis time. Everybody right now has a different theory on whether we're going to shift or not, and like I said, right now they are all theories."
"This is just so different. This is a plate motor, but it's not like Daytona where you just try to get it up to a certain RPM and hold it there for the rest of the lap. We're having to decelerate and accelerate - they're not going to be able to go wide open - so because of that you're asking a plate motor to accelerate, which is something it just won't do. To try to help it, a lot of guys are talking like we might have to shift."
...does Rick Mast have a theory yet as to how he may have to drive the track this week?: "Yeah. Like the other night at Richmond when we lost a cylinder, after about 50 laps he said, 'You know what? This is what it's going to be like at New Hampshire next week.' You're definitely going to have to drive in deeper and the car has got to handle to the point where you can pick it (the throttle) up sooner just because you've got no motor. There won't be any straightaway speed. The cars are going to look exactly the way we did at Richmond when we were down some cylinders. Rick could dive it down in there and get right back on the gas. That's exactly what it's going to be like. You're going to have to try to get everything out of the corners. It's going to be who can get to the gas quicker."
...what kind of challenge is this for his engine department?: "We've given David (Evans) and them until midnight Wednesday night and then we've got to have a motor. And they are throwing everything at it, but with only five days lead time it's tough. This is a strange beast. You can't use your Daytona stuff. It's a whole different type of motor, so the only thing you can do right now is a bunch of trial and error. The intake is about the only thing we've been able to get the motors to respond to. We've already been through the cams and headers, and couldn't really find really a whole lot there. "We've hit a number (horsepower), and we're there. We can't get better, and at this point we can't get worse. In the last 24 hours, I think we've picked up two horsepower and they have probably worked 20 of those 24 hours."
...what are his expectations for this weekend?: "Right now I'm going to have to wait for the first 10 minutes of practice to see where we're at because I just don't have a clue. We just don't know what to do. That's not a very good feeling because we had such high hopes. We were really looking forward to Loudon. Last time we qualified well and finished 12th, and we knew where we were going to be better. This kind of spoiled it for us. But don't get me wrong. We're still going to go and do the best we can. David and them are going to keep working on this all the way through Saturday night and ship me up a motor Sunday morning, if they find anything. They're not going to rest until the race is over with."