Len Woods, David Simon - Ford interview 2010-03-02

This Week in Ford Racing March 2, 2010 FR9 HISTORY * Ford Racing's "FR9" engine debuted last November at Talladega Superspeedway in the Amp Energy 500 in the Fusions of Matt Kenseth and David Ragan. Kenseth was in contention to win as he was...

This Week in Ford Racing
March 2, 2010


* Ford Racing's "FR9" engine debuted last November at Talladega Superspeedway in the Amp Energy 500 in the Fusions of Matt Kenseth and David Ragan. Kenseth was in contention to win as he was running second in the closing laps, but a late pit stop for fuel ended those hopes and resulted in a 24th-place finish. Meanwhile, Ragan ended up 17th.

* The only 'unrestricted' race FR9 has competed in came during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway when David Ragan had it in the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion and finished 34th.

* Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Wood Brothers Racing all used the FR9 for Daytona 500 qualifying and the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races last month. However, only Bill Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Elliott Sadler ran FR9 in the Daytona 500. Kenseth finished 8th while Sadler ended up 24th and Elliott 27th.

* Kasey Kahne gave the FR9 its first victory when he won the second Gatorade Duel 150 at Daytona last month.

* Front Row Motorsports and the Latitude 43 team of Boris Said are scheduled to run the previous "452" engine exclusively in 2010.

This weekend will mark the return of the FR9 engine as it goes under the hood of the famed No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion of the Wood Brothers and driver Bill Elliott. The Wood Brothers, which are running a limited schedule in 2010, have committed to run the FR9 in every race they compete. Co-owner Len Wood spoke earlier this week about why the team decided to run it exclusively and the reasoning behind waiting until this season.

LEN WOOD, Co-Owner -- No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion

WHY ARE YOU GOING TO RUN THE FR9 ALL YEAR AND WHAT IS THE PURPOSE BEHIND IT? "It goes back to a conversation with Doug Yates about getting more time on the engine. With us running a limited schedule, in the unlikely event something goes wrong, it doesn't kill us in the points because we're not really worried about points. We talked to him last fall and he came up with a plan because it's not just as simple as changing out the old engine for the new engine in an hour. There are different motor mounts in the car for the FR9 and it requires the cable drive fuel pump, which we had never used before until Daytona. The headers are different and some of the radiator connectors are different, so there was a changeover period we went through to get ready."

IS THERE ANY MAJOR DIFFERENCE WITH THE ENGINE GOING FROM A RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACK LIKE DAYTONA TO AN UNRESTRICTED ONE LIKE ATLANTA? "A restrictor plate track knocks both engines back several hundred horsepower, so that's a non-issue to us as far as whether we had the old engine or the FR9 at Daytona. Like I said, we made the decision to go ahead and go with the FR9 after talking about it last year. There may have been an opportunity to get the new engine in our car last year, but we looked at it and saw there would have been several changes and it would have been quite expensive to go run a race or two. That's why it worked out better for us to just wait until this year. I didn't want to go buy headers or radiators that would become obsolete after one race. I didn't really want to do that, so we decided to wait until this year to run it and we won't look back."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE IN A NO-LOSE SITUATION RUNNING THIS NEW ENGINE? YOU'RE THE FIRST FORD TEAM TO USE IT CONSISTENTLY SO YOU CAN LEARN SOME THINGS, BUT IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG, YOU DON'T GET HURT IN POINTS BECAUSE OF YOUR LIMITED SCHEDULE. "I don't know about being no-lose, but we're getting ready to put one on the dyno, so I'll have a better idea later this week. I'm certainly looking for good horsepower out of it, but the FR9 is going to be the future for us. I don't know what Doug's phase-in period is for the rest of the teams, but there is a development process. They can run them on the endurance dyno all they want, but until you put that thing on the race track under the real deal with tear offs flying around and getting on your grille and heating it up more than you want, or with pit stops where it gets over-revved here or there, it's never the real deal until you're really out there."

SO WHAT IS YOUR MOOD GOING TO BE LIKE THIS WEEKEND HAVING SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE HOOD? "I'm excited about it. We've talked about it for over a year now and the time has come to move to the future. As far as having it blow up, I have no different worry about that than if we were running the other engine. If something happens, it could be due to things I mentioned earlier like a tear off on your grille. That can affect either engine. At Daytona late in the race we got something on our grille and it ran extremely hot and withstood it. Other times you can run the water out of them really quick, or get yourself in trouble, and it's gone before you know it, but I'm not worried about it."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GETTING BACK TO THE TRACK AFTER SKIPPING CALIFORNIA AND LAS VEGAS? "It'll be good to get back to Atlanta and an unrestricted track. We're taking a car that we built last fall for Homestead and qualified in the top 10 (ninth) and then we had a pretty decent run in the race and finished 16th. They've massaged on that car this winter and they're building another one just like that to go to Texas, and I actually think it will run at the Charlotte test March 23 and 24."


David Simon, Ford Racing engineer, has been working alongside Doug Yates on creating the FR9 engine that will be rolled out full-time later this year. As the new engine gets set for its first race on an open track in 2010, Simon talks about why the engine has been rolled out in this fashion and the confidence he has in its future performance.

IS IT A CASE WHERE THE SITUATION IS GOOD TO GET THE FR9 OUT THERE WITH A TEAM LIKE THE WOOD BROTHERS, WHICH IS RUNNING A LIMITED SCHEDULE? "Yes. The Wood Brothers have been willing to run the FR9 full-time since last year. They've always been really receptive to it and it's one of those deals where it will help them out in the long run because they get a head start with it, and it helps us out because it gives us an opportunity to run the engine and then get their feedback and some race miles on it."

IS IT ALSO GOOD IN THE SENSE THAT IF THERE'S A PROBLEM, IT'S NOT GOING TO HURT THEM AS FAR AS MAKING THE CHASE BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT RUNNING FULL-TIME? "That's certainly the reality of the situation. It wouldn't knock them out of a championship run if there's a problem with the engine, but, on the other side, we've spent a lot of time working on the durability of the engine and the performance of the engine and we wouldn't give it to anybody unless we felt confident it was a package that was not only going to run well but last the entire race. So there's probably a little bit more risk for those guys because they're really the first ones to use it, but, at the same time, it's gone through all the same durability testing and validation work that the current engine has gone through. We're pretty confident that they're not going to have any issues with it."

THE ONLY NON-RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE FOR THE FR9 TO DATE HAS BEEN AT HOMESTEAD WITH DAVID RAGAN. HOW DID THAT ENGINE LOOK AFTERWARDS? "The Homestead engine looked great. The engines coming back from Daytona earlier this year looked great. Granted, they were plate engines, but we haven't seen anything alarming, so we're pretty confident the package the 21 car is running will be fine. It's a new spec and has some new stuff, but all of it is for increased performance and, as of right now, we haven't seen anything that would be adverse to durability. It should be pretty good."

WHY HAS THE FR9 BEEN ROLLED OUT IN THIS FASHION? SOME SAY IT HAS BEEN SLOW. "There are a couple of reasons for the slow rollout. The first reason is you've got to get your race package complete. You can't go out there with an engine that isn't fully developed, not at this level. So with that in mind, the old "452" engine, compared to the other engines out there, is really competitive. I mean, it's not just hanging on because it's old, it's really competitive so we haven't been under a lot of pressure to roll the new engine out early. With that said, the new engine is at a point where we're very confident in it. The performance is there and it's time to get it out, but up until now we've been able to get our development work done, get the package set, and get everything with the engine right prior to putting it out on the race track. We didn't want to do development on the race track and continuously be changing it while being under the pressure of racing it. The other reason is that once you get the package set, you've got to get the entire pipeline going. The engine shop has a lot of parts they need to make, and we have parts to supply, so if you do that before your race package is set, you run the risk of having to change things and ending up with a lot of scrap parts. We didn't want to be in that situation, so that's why the rollout of this open engine is gonna be a little bit slower."

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT BUILDING UP THE PARTS SUPPLY. HOW MANY FR9 ENGINES NEED TO BE IN THE PIPELINE PER TEAM? "It's a five-engine rotation per team. Basically what happens is an engine gets raced on any given weekend, but the engine for the next weekend is already built. When the engine from the first weekend comes in and gets torn down, it's about a three-week process to get it back through the system and rebuilt. So, if you have a third consecutive weekend, that engine has already been built and goes out the door. Since we race just about every single weekend and you've got about a three-week turnaround time for an engine after it's been raced and is ready to race again, you end up needing four to five engines in rotation just to support one car."

SO, LOOKING AT JUST ROUSH FENWAY AND RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS THAT'S 40 ENGINES THAT HAVE TO BE READY ONCE THE FULL-TIME ROLLOUT STARTS. "That's right and on top of that you've got development engines that stay here at Roush Yates, and test engines that go out with the test cars when the race teams do testing on their own. You've got back-up spare engines. Right now, I think Roush Yates has over 130 engines in inventory right now with the "452" engine. You've got an inventory of plate engines that sit around and get raced four times a year, and then you've got a rotation of open engines. You look at Daytona itself and Roush Yates sent 30 engines just to support Daytona."

WE'VE HEARD AROUND MID-SEASON FOR A FULL ROLLOUT. IS THAT STILL THE PLAN? "The plan is it will run in the 21 car the whole season in the races that they run, and it may trickle into a few other cars but we're not necessarily signing up for that in the first half of the season. In the second half of the season, other than a few selected events where we'll run the old engine, our plan is pretty much to be FR9 across the board."

-source: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Matt Kenseth , Boris Said , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Elliott Sadler , David Ragan
Teams Front Row Motorsports , Richard Petty Motorsports , Roush Fenway Racing