New body style, new engines make Craven's win more amazing. DETROIT, Mich., March 19, 2003 - While there's no question Ricky Craven's win over Kurt Busch Sunday was impressive for all the obvious reasons, his victory takes on even more ...
New body style, new engines make Craven's win more amazing.
DETROIT, Mich., March 19, 2003 - While there's no question Ricky Craven's win over Kurt Busch Sunday was impressive for all the obvious reasons, his victory takes on even more significance when one considers a couple of more subtle facts.
Most will remember the two one-thousandths of a second that separated first from second and the "Hollywood style" finish, complete with tire smoke, bent sheet metal and close to 7,000 pounds of machinery grinding back and forth for the final 250 yards. However, for Craven to even be in that position on lap 293, his PPI Motorsports team and GM Racing engineers had to successfully collaborate on a technical transformation that put the driver behind the wheel of a new Pontiac Grand Prix powered by an in-house engine program that didn't exist six months earlier.
Led by crew chief Scott Miller and engine department head Dave Bullock, PPI has posted a win and two top five finishes in five starts this season with their new Grand Prix, while producing the same numbers with their own engines in four tries without a failure. PPI utilizes Richard Childress Racing engines at restrictor plate events.
Thoughts from Doug Duchardt, NASCAR Group Manager, GM Racing:
"Obviously, we're very pleased with the performance of PPI this quickly. We knew changing cars would be a pretty big task, let alone adapting to new bodies and new engines. For them to really pick up where they left off and run better than they did last year is a credit to them, and hopefully, we've been able to help them a little bit with a few more tools that they didn't have access to previously.
"For them to be sitting fifth in points after five races is great. I'm proud of them and I'm proud of our group of engineers that work with them."
Thoughts from Jim Covey, Engine Development Manager, GM Racing:
CAN YOU PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE WHAT PPI MOTORSPORTS HAS ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR THIS SEASON WITH A NEW IN-HOUSE GM ENGINE PROGRAM? "When you walk through Hendrick Motorsports - through their engine department - you see hundreds of people, all this dyno equipment, numerous dyno cells, valve-train rigs, engineers and all this stuff. Then, you go over to PPI's engine shop, which is at the back of the old Bahari shop. They've just got this little section quarantined off because another team has the front of the shop. I think they've got six or seven guys. But, they've been able to win a Winston Cup race and that shows you the quality of the program they've got over there.
"One thing that is really impressive to me is that GM has got some pretty good components that a small team like this can put together to make competitive power. Ondrej Tomek (GM Racing engineer) has really taken a lot of responsibility for our blocks. We've tried to get our cylinder blocks much more race-ready, so that when they hit the door for the teams they are machined closer to a race specification than they have been in the past. That has saved the teams some time. We also recommended that, instead of them (PPI) trying to develop their own cylinder head ports and their own racing cylinder heads, that they go out there to an outside source and just buy an off-the-shelf part, and they've done that. Without having to put a lot of 'R and D' in it and reinvent the wheel, they were able to buy components that were already out there and put stuff together very quickly. But, I don't think they even had an engine running until about the time of Daytona.
"It's amazing when you really think about the fact that, in four months, they've developed competitive power and I'm pretty proud of that. That speaks highly of our engine package. That's something we sold NASCAR on when we were trying to get the SB2 approved. We believed that this engine package would make guys competitive without having to spend millions of dollars to do it.
"The other selling point that we've always had has been reliability. These guys obviously know how to make reliable power and that is the other thing that has impressed me about what PPI has done. They've run four 'open' races now without an engine failure. That, in itself, is incredible."
Thoughts from Ray Smith, Busch and Pontiac Winston Cup program manager, GM Racing:
DID YOU EXPECT TO SEE THE TIDE PONTIAC IN VICTORY LANE THIS QUICKLY? "I really didn't. They've exceeded my expectations, especially when they were bringing the engine program in-house. I'm tickled to death. I'm ecstatic.
"There is a lot of pride in this win. I worked for two years, with the help of Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) and with James Ince's guys (MBV Motorsports), getting the Pontiac approved with NASCAR.
"All along, we knew the car was going to be good, but...wow. You know me - I don't say 'wow' very often, but I'm pretty pumped up."
Thoughts from Cal Wells III, Team Owner, PPI Motorsports:
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE ACCOMPLISHED, NOW THAT YOU'VE HAD A COUPLE OF DAYS TO LET IT SINK IN? "I'm very proud of the guys, of course, at the race shop and at the engine shop. There is still a lot of work to do. We're still just learning the GM system, we're still just learning the GM engine, we're still just learning the Pontiac body style and we're a small team, so we don't have a chance to run nearly as much testing as some of the other teams do, so we're really just starting to figure it out. The race on Sunday was fortunate in that it's a place Ricky drives very, very well. I think a lot of our success there is due specifically to our race car driver and what a great job he did, and I think a lot of it was due to what a great job Scott Miller did to make sure the car would go well in the long run.
"As you look at where we are right now, we really believe there are a number of areas of improvement that need to happen for us to be a regular contender. That's what we're focused on with GM's help."
DID YOU EXPECT TO WIN THIS QUICKLY WITH A COMPLETELY NEW PROGRAM? "No, actually I didn't. I felt that we would be competitive, but I figured the thing would really come into its own in the fall of this year and we'd be extremely strong in 2004. I still feel that way. I think we're on schedule, but we've actually run a little better than I anticipated we would."