Continued from part 1 HOW MUCH DID TOYOTA COMING IN AND BE ABLE TO START WITH AN ALL-NEW ENGINE HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR PROCESS? Mark Kent: That was one of the factors. Our engine is a 10-year-old engine. Everyone else we're racing against today...
Continued from part 1
HOW MUCH DID TOYOTA COMING IN AND BE ABLE TO START WITH AN ALL-NEW ENGINE HAVE TO DO WITH YOUR PROCESS?
Mark Kent: That was one of the factors. Our engine is a 10-year-old engine. Everyone else we're racing against today has had the opportunity to develop new components or all-new purpose-built race engines. When NASCAR gave us the opportunity to come with a all-new engine for the first time in 10 years we seized the opportunity to move forward.
DIDN'T YOU WANT TO WAIT A LITTLE AND SEE WHAT TOYOTA WAS BRINGING BEFORE FINALIZING YOUR DESIGN?
Mark Kent: We have a little bit of experience with what Toyota was running in their Craftsman Truck Program. But once NASCAR published their "box" of parameters I like to think that we have the smartest engineers and with that list of parameters our team went to work and optimized in that box. It goes back to a golf analogy I always use. Tiger Woods doesn't win golf tournaments by worrying about what the other guy shoots. Tiger Woods wins by making his game the best it can be.
DOES THIS ENGINE PRODUCE MORE POWER THAN THE OLD ONE AND, IF SO, HOW MUCH?
Mark Kent: Our objective was to have an engine that had competitive power. The old engine that teams have been rubbing on for 10 years the learning curve is pretty flat. We believe that there wasn't much left to be had in the SB2. We believe there is much more potential in the new engine. Whether we've seen it or not - I really can't comment on that.
CAN YOU GIVE SOME MORE INFORMATION ON OTHER CHANGES?
Mark Kent: If you look at the block of the old engine, it has slab sides, it's heavy and it's heavy. It wasn't optimized. That's because back in 1955 we didn't have the tools to (optimize). In the last 50 years, the engineering tools have evolved so much that we can now optimize the new engine . The water cooling passages are now optimized to get the coolant where it needs to be. The cylinder head has ports that reflect what we now do in our production engines that we think are going to be a performance benefit. So it's a whole bunch of little things that when put together make a great engine.
IS THERE A DATE BY WHICH EVERY TEAM HAS TO RUN THIS ENGINE?
Mark Kent: Per the rules, by next year everyone has to run it. I think this weekend will tell us a lot. If it runs well and it's reliable I think you're going to see teams even more aggressively try to get to the new engine. The teams to date have been extremely aggressive already to be here today when they've only had hardware for a few months.
We worked hand-in-hand with the teams to develop these parts. We had monthly meetings, we had representatives from all the Chevy teams sitting around the table with our guys. So it was basically developed with the group - so when the teams got the hardware they basically knew what they were going to get. And they had plans in place on what they needed to develop to make sure the engine was reliable . once they got the hardware they been able to develop aggressively and what you're seeing is that they feel the engine is reliable and has competitive power.
WILL IT RUN IN BUSCH AND TRUCK?
Mark Kent: It will be in Busch and Truck - I believe the current engine is grandfathered for two years. And then we'll roll this one out there too. There's a tremendous inventory of SB2 engines out there, so it didn't make a lot of sense to go out and make those obsolete immediately.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF TOYOTA'S START SO FAR?
Mark Kent: I think there are people who underestimate how hard it is to come into Nextel Cup and be competitive. This is a very tough, competitive environment. Personally, I'm not surprised on where they are and I don't see it as disappointing. You have to work hard to get to where we are. We've been in NASCAR since its inception, we've taken many years to build the best teams and it takes time to do that. So Toyota is at the beginning of the learning curve. They're a formidable opponent, whether it's on the racetrack or in the showroom and they'll be there. But we take great pleasure in slowing them down.
COULD THE SEASON HAVE GONE ANY BETTER THAN IT HAS FOR CHEVROLET?
Mark Kent: Well we lost California .! It's been a great year but racing moves. Look at Jack Roush. Two years ago Jack Roush was at the top of his game and we were all chasing him. Here we are two years later and everyone's chasing us. We hope we can defend that but the reality is that this is a cyclical business.
WAS THERE EVER DISCUSSION ABOUT GOING TO FUEL INJECTION FOR THE NEW ENGINE?
Jim Covey: There was discussion about going to fuel injection in the future but with NASCAR having all the manufacturers involved there was a lot of discussion about why we would do that. From a sanctioning body, as far as if you want a level playing field, you want something that is easily policeable or can be inspected in tech. The carburetor seems like a simple solution. You could probably make a fuel-injection system perform better than a carburetor but the thing is, if Chevrolet does that. all it's going to do is elevate everybody's game probably equally but end up costing quite a bit more.
IS THE INSPECTION PROCESS REALLY THAT BIG OF A CONCERN?
Jim Covey: If you look at history - Formula One is the pinnacle of technology - they eventually got away from using traction control and various electronic things. Because when you put electronic fuel injection in, it's very easy to write the algorithms to do traction control. It took a lot of control out of the drivers' hands. Now all of a sudden you are controlling things electronically. I think NASCAR's objective is to put it in the hands of the driver and make the driver the controlling factor.
WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE FUEL INJECTION?
Jim Covey: Well, once again it goes back to, in all race series, you're optimizing within constraints. So whether it's fuel injection or carbureted we're going to do the best job we can.
ARE YOU AMAZED AT WHERE GM RACING ENGINEERS WERE ABLE TO PEAK WITH AN ESSENTIALLY 50-YEAR-OLD SMALL BLOCK DESIGN?
Jim Covey: That's the thing that's probably the most humbling. After everything we've done and all the CFDs (computational fluid dynamics tests) and such, the original small-block is phenomenal. For us to massage on that is one thing but just to come up with that concept is just amazing. I don't think anybody can downplay it. It's probably one of the greatest engineering feats ever.
WHAT SORT OF THINGS WILL YOU BE WATCHING FOR AS THIS ENGINE COMPETES?
Jim Covey: The unique thing about a lot of this is that each team does their own original valvetrains. They do their own camshaft design and things. But with the raised camshaft it gives us an opportunity for a stiffer valvetrain. Chevrolet had the lowest-placed camshafts, (so) we probably had the least efficient valvetrain out there. With this it will improve that. But with the racers you will always push things to the edge with this. They're going to take what they have today and it might work even better than the R07 but they're going to still prefer that next percent to push the limit.
DO YOU GIVE THE TEAMS A RECOMMENDATION ON HOW FAR THEY CAN PUSH THE ENGINES?
Jim Covey: Well, I think we can give them recommendations but they will still develop things. it's all a trade-off. You can always make something that's going to run over 100,000 miles like the production engine. But it won't have the same horsepower to win a race. It's that balance. You've got to realize that if you're competitive, how much do you want to push it. But racing is awfully humbling. You could win last weekend and you had the best engine, the best car, the best driver. You come here to Texas and all of a sudden you're not even competitive. That's where the evolution comes from.
ON GOING FROM A PRODUCTION-BASED TO A PURPOSE-BUILT RACE ENGINE:
Jim Covey: NASCAR came up with this parameter box. If you recall, (the original engines) had to be derived from a production engine so that's why we were kind of stuck in a time-warp with the '55 Chevy as that was the production engine. When Toyota came in they never had pushrod engines so they said okay, we'll take the best parameters from a Dodge, best parameter from a Ford, best parameter from a Chevy and combine all those together. NASCAR, John Darby, realized that that's kind of unfair. We've gotten to the point where it's no longer taking a stock car out of a showroom and modifying it, putting on a low-restriction air cleaner or whatever. So that's when they came up with this parameter. Based on that the only equitable thing is that it's in the box. It's like a common-template car. If you fit a common template then there's no way you can say that 'well, Dodge was given an advantage or Chevrolet's got an advantage. It's a common template and it's fair to everybody. I assume that Ford and Dodge will come with a new engine here very shortly too.
WHAT DID YOU MAKE OF THE PRACTICE YESTERDAY WITH THE TOP THREE BEING CHEVY DRIVERS WITH THE NEW ENGINES?
Jim Covey: I'd like to say it was the engines but it comes down to (the fact that) Chevrolet fortunately has the best teams and the best drivers. You saw that with the new race car - they came with a new car and rose to the top. We feel very fortunate that you could take some of our teams and put them in other manufacturers' cars and they'd still be winning races.
COULD THIS NEW ENGINE BE ADAPTED TO ETHANOL FUEL OR AT LEAST AN ETHANOL-GASOLINE BLEND?
Jim Covey: You would design an engine differently for ethanol than you would for gasoline. The thing is just as they've gone through with the unleaded fuel, they've got to learn compatibility issues between valves and valve seats. With ethanol, with that high of an alcohol content you've got to worry about some of the compatibility of some of the rubbers, fuel lines and things like that. I think it can be done.
WHY DO YOU SEE DARK SMOKE FROM EXHAUST PIPES NOW?
Jim Covey: With the unleaded fuel you have to run a little bit richer mixture to get the durability out of it and to get the performance out of it. That's where you see the black smoke - it's just running a little bit richer.
Jim Covey: It's just a higher fuel concentration with the air.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON CHANGING THE TOYOTA ENGINE INTAKES?
Jim Covey: Well, I really can't comment on that because I don't know what NASCAR may have done. In the Busch Series, you have to remember we're still racing the old engine (against) the Toyota Truck engine. But the Truck engine is still pushing the envelope of the existing box. It's hard to say. I've got confidence in NASCAR. They're going to do whatever it takes. With them coming up with this parameter box they obviously understand how to make sure performance is equalized. Now our responsibility is, if the R07 engine isn't the best engine out there we have nobody else to look at (other) than ourselves.
IF IT IS THE BEST ENGINE THEN WILL THEY MAKE YOU CHANGE IT?
Jim Covey: No, I think that if you look at the common template thing, NASCAR said that they would make everyone have similar-shaped cars so no one would have an aerodynamic advantage. Last year Chevrolet went out and won 23 of 36 races and NASCAR didn't come back and say 'well, we've got to take something away from them. They've got what they wanted. They've put it in the hands of the teams and their drivers.
WHY DOES CHEVY HAVE THE MOST SUCCESS?
Jim Covey: I think it comes to better execution by the teams. That's one of the strengths. And at Chevrolet, we've had a good history of working closely with our teams. We have what we call our key partners: Hendrick Motorsports, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. We meet with them once a month on the engine side, once a month on the chassis side. The R07 is a result of that. For 10 years we've been meeting with our engine guys once a month and that's how the R07 was designed. We have basically a design review every month. We take their ideas and we implement them. I've been involved with this for 19 years and going to shops for 19 years listening to things like 'why don't you move the camshaft'. Well, we finally got an opportunity to do that.
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON NASCAR'S ENGINE PARAMETER 'BOX'?
Jim Covey: For example, one of the parameters is how big the diameter of the cylinder can be. NASCAR had that for a long time and they've limited that. General things like if you had a clean sheet of paper and it was unlimited, you'd want to take advantage of. Like engine size and displacement. If they didn't tell you that the biggest you can be was 358 cubic inches, you'd build a 500 cubic-inch Pro Stock engine. But NASCAR says this is as big as it can be. Just some of the other parameters are deck height, and bore spacing, which is the distance center-to-center of the cylinders. In order to get water to pass between the bores you end up spreading them further out, which allows you to make the casting to pass the water around the bores.
It was a trade off of trying to optimize these parameters. If you were given a limit of valve angle, which is one, would you want valve angle A or valve angle B to get the best performance. You'd change the valve angle or maybe another parameter. That's where the experience of the teams and working with the teams comes in. They're all very educated as far as how this affects that.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO CENTRALIZE DEVELOPMENT BY YOUR TEAMS?
Jim Covey: We've had what we call our key partner group for 10 years where we get the guys to come in. And if there's a common issue . a few years back there was a camshaft issue. We sat down as a group and worked together to resolve that issue. So that's where GM, I believe, has the advantage. Now you still have guys at Hendrick developing their own package vs. RCR. In some respects there's been a lot of debate what the right way to do it is. With our team, right now we're confident that we're doing the right team because our teams are winning. If you centralize all of your development like Roush or Yates, you get one solution. You hope that's the right solution. (At Chevrolet) we have internal competition between the teams. I feel that Chevrolet's job, like with the R07, is to take some of the labor-intensive things out of it so that they're (the teams) not putting in piston squirters or things like that. They're working on power and performance issues.
-credit: gm racing