Daytona 500: Doug Yates on rule changes

Doug Yates Discusses Daytona Rules Change

For the second time in a week, NASCAR has made a change to the cars during Speedweeks. On Saturday, the sanctioning body requested teams disconnect air hoses to the radiator and air cooler. On Sunday, Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's Vice President of Competition, said that teams will be required to have a maximum size of 2.5 inches tall by 20 inches wide on the front grille opening and install a pressure-relief valve on the water system that will be set at 33 psi before they return to Daytona on Wednesday.

Doug Yates, head engine builder for Roush Yates Engines, spoke with Ford Racing about what the change means for his operation and how he wouldn't be surprised if more changes were on the way.

HOW MUCH WORK IS INVOLVED WITH THESE CHANGES TO GET READY FOR THIS WEEK? "The Daytona 500 is an historic event, it's our Super Bowl, and with a new track and new noses on the cars, I think everybody did their best to try to set the rules so when we got there we would have a good, competitive race. Obviously, as we ran practice and the Bud Shootout those speeds are too high, which is a big concern. Second, NASCAR doesn't like the way the guys can push other cars for many laps. So, I think the first objective with these rules changes is it looks like NASCAR is trying to break the cars up and they're trying to limit how hot we can run these engines. As a result, they're gonna limit the front-end opening and put a pressure release valve at 33 psi, which is gonna bring down the operating limits of the engine. What we've done this morning, probably like other shops, is we've gone to work on the dynamometer and understanding the system and we're working to optimize what we can, so when we go back we can have a safe, reliable race. The engines are turning more RPM than we had planned and what we feel comfortable with, and they're also gonna run hotter, so with this rule change it's gonna bring down how hot we can run them and it is concerning."

HOW BIG OF A DEAL IS THIS FOR YOU AND YOUR GROUP? "It is a very big deal. We've worked for a long time, especially on the water systems, to be able to run the temperatures that we do today. What's concerning about this is it's mainly a driver-driven decision. If the driver is pushing somebody, he has to pay attention not only to what's in front of him, but also to his water temperature gauge. He has to know when to get air to the nose, so whenever you put that much emphasis on the driver watching the gauges, you open yourself up to some potential failures just because it's not easy to do. As an engine builder, this is a big change for a big race, so we're gonna do a lot of homework today and tomorrow and, hopefully, be prepared when we go back there on Wednesday and Thursday. If we need to do some more research before the 500, then we will."

ROBIN SAID THEY CAN STILL GO TO THE PLATE AND MAKE A CHANGE, IF NECESSARY. SO IS THIS A WEEK WHERE YOU PLAN FOR ALL POSSIBILITIES? "Absolutely. I wouldn't be surprised from the speeds that I've seen that we could have a plate change, so we are preparing as if that might come. The guys are working on that right now, and the one thing we can do today is work on the car as far as better jetting and the tune-up because the components are already built and at the track, so we can work on the things around them and try to make the best decisions, or have our notebook full of data so if we need to make a decision based on a plate change, we will."

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU SAW THE RPM's BEING TURNED AND THE KIND OF RACING THAT WENT ON IN THE SHOOTOUT? "First, I was a bit surprised that there weren't more failures, but it is a short race. We'll obviously get those parts back and do our post-race analysis like we normally do and are likely to see more distress in those parts, but it's concerning. For years, NASCAR has wanted to have more gear in the car so the guys have more throttle response, but the engines are really over where normal operating range would be for a plate engine. We're turning almost as much RPM at Daytona as we turn at Michigan with an engine that's designed to turn 1,000 RPM less. It's a little bit of an odd situation, but everybody is in the same boat, and I feel like our guys and our team have done a good job reacting. I was quite pleased with qualifying yesterday. Obviously, we would like to be on the front row, but the Wood Brothers did a really good job with their effort and, for the most part, most of our cars were in the top 20, so I think we've made some good strides from Talladega to now."

ROBIN ALSO SAID THAT EVERYONE HAS DONE A GOOD JOB - FROM THE TRACK TO THE TEAMS AND NASCAR. IS IT A CASE NOW OF JUST CONTINUING TO TWEAK THINGS UNTIL THE RIGHT PACKAGE IS FOUND? "That's exactly right. Robin Pemberton and John Darby do a great job and it's challenging because as competitors we're looking to build as much speed in the car. Whatever situation we're given, it's our job to try to take those rules and win races with it. No matter how much data you have, when everybody got back down there for the race with their best cars and their best efforts, it was faster than we were at the test. The track is beautiful. I think a little bit of the feedback I heard from the fans is that they were really excited about the racing. It came down to the finish line for the win, so it's different. As a guy that's been around this sport for a long time, it was unconventional to what I've ever seen, but it was actually pretty interesting how two cars could hook up and chase down another two-car combination and pass them. At the end, there were three groups of two racing for the win, so it's different, but it was actually quite interesting."

-source: ford racing

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Series NASCAR Cup