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DEARBORN -- One of the topics discussed last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the potential addition of fuel-injected engines in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Ford Racing spoke with Roush Yates engine builder Doug Yates about the issue and what challenges the sport faces in making this eventual transition.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON FUEL INJECTION EVENTUALLY COMING TO NASCAR?
A. First, I think it’s something we need to do. I think NASCAR needs to move beyond the carburetor and get into a little bit more advanced engine technology. We’ve been working on it for awhile at the request of NASCAR, but there are still more questions than answers today. It’s something that we need to be smart about. We need to make sure that when it does roll out that everybody understands it and it’s fair for everyone. There are cost implications to it as well, so we need to manage that, especially in these difficult times that we’re going through. But for me as an engine guy it’s exciting. It’s something new and I think for a person that has young sons that may get into the business, it would be a shame if they’re working on carburetors 20 years from now. So I think it’s exciting, but, hopefully, NASCAR takes their time and understands that in the grand scheme of things six months doesn’t really mean a whole lot. The biggest thing is that the ball is in NASCAR’s court. They have to select a manufacturer supplier for the system and then from there we need to get together as engine builders and engine suppliers and do our diligence and make sure we roll it out properly.”
Q. HOW MUCH CONVERSION WORK IS INVOLVED, ESPECIALLY WITH A NEW ENGINE?
A. I think the time is right. It does add another dimension in that it would be nice if we had the FR9 out for a season before we had the challenge of tackling this one, especially since it may take a new intake manifold to go along with this change. I think the biggest thing is if NASCAR can just go slow and make sure we do all of our homework, then we’ll see what the future brings.”
Q. WILL THIS CHANGE MAKE THE ENGINES MORE SIMILAR OR IS THE BOX BIG NOUGH FOR ALL MANUFACTURERS TO STILL BE DIFFERENT?
A. That is the challenge because although we do have a tight box as far as the engine dimensions to work within, the port layouts are still different between the manufacturers. That’s the main difference and I think that’s the main concern among engine builders is my geometry is different from yours, so if you have fuel injection are you gonna have an advantage? That’s really the challenge and I think that’s why NASCAR is going slow to make a decision on where the injectors are placed and how to have parity with fuel injection. As with anything else, whenever there’s a rule change, there’s an opportunity for someone to get an advantage and I think fuel injection is no different than anything else.
Q. WHAT WOULD BE THE BIGGEST BENEFIT OF GOING TO FUEL INJECTION?
A. I think, first of all, the perception. It’s hard to go to our management at Ford and tell them that we’re really contributing to today’s technology with our carburetor, so I think that’s a good plus for us because we can get back to the manufacturers and tell them that we’re working with something relevant. I think that part of it is really good. Obviously, we can do different things. We can cut fuel or throttle, so when we go to Bristol and drive into the corners, we’re not putting out as much bad air for the fans in the stands. So there are some definite green advantages to fuel injection. It’s gonna be here and we’ve just got to make sure that we manage it correctly, and that’s us working hand-in-hand with NASCAR and the supplier. So it’s a three-way relationship the way I see it. Number one, pick the right manufacturer. I know Ron Dennis was at Indianapolis and that showed a big commitment from him being there, and there are also some other good choices, so I think if you get that right, then you work with the teams to make sure that no one is disadvantaged and then move forward.
Q. IS THERE ONE THING THAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR THE SWITCH?
A. I think the first thing is that there’s no change that is easy. As easy as it may seem, there are always challenges in everything we do. Everytime somebody comes out with a new engine, there’s a learning curve. When we come out with fuel injection there will be a learning curve. We want to put on a good race for the fans. I think that’s really important. That’s why people buy tickets and turn on the TV, but it’s our job as competitors to want to get an advantage and win a race. Like I said, anytime there’s a rule change there’s a chance to get ahead and, hopefully, we’ll be smart and do our homework and when this rolls out, we’ll be ahead of the curve.