Drivers Don't Want to Lose Horsepower


Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick both say they are not fans of reducing horsepower for next year. (Photo: Getty Images)


RICHMOND, Va. - Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are leery about possible engine changes NASCAR plans to make for next season.

Steve O’Donnell, executive vice president of racing operations, told the Des Moines Register Thursday that NASCAR informed teams this past week of the direction they’re heading with the engine changes for next year. The paper reported that NASCAR hoped to announce the changes before the May 17 Sprint All-Star race. NASCAR stated Friday that no date for an announcement has been made. NASCAR also stated that series officials are expected to meet with teams and manufacturers in mid-May.

Competitors in the garage at Richmond International Raceway said they anticipated NASCAR making changes to the roller camshaft and changing the gear ratio, which would reduce RPMs, for next season. Other ideas that have been discussed are changes to the throttle body and finding ways to reduce air into the engine without using a restrictor plate.

Those in garage believe that such changes are a step toward the engines being made to run more than one race to help car owners save money. Some also believe this is a step toward a new engine, although that would be several years from happening they agree.

Changes now, though, will cost teams money and that’s a concern, Harvick said.

“When you start messing with the engines, the costs go up really, really, really fast, and I believe our garage is very vulnerable at this particular point from a cost standpoint,’’ he said. “I believe NASCAR in general has to keep the cost in mind.

“I understand there’s a safety concern, but when you slow the cars down, the center of the corner speed is going to go up.’’                  

That could happen because with less horsepower, drivers can stay on the throttle longer in the corners and run faster than when they had more horsepower and have to let off the gas.

“Then you are going to create another problem for Goodyear because the cars are already really fast, so you are going to have a cost problem and you are going to have a tire problem,’’ Harvick said. “Good luck with that from a changing the rules stand point.’’

Harvick added with a laugh: “Obviously I’m a big fan of it.”

Johnson said Harvick is not alone.

“Every driver, team I’ve spoken to isn’t up for a horsepower reduction,’’ Johnson said. “We all feel that having power creates better racing. We’re all trying hard as drivers, members of this sport, to say what’s best for the racing. If it’s a reduction in power that makes more competitive racing, I think we’re all more than willing to get on board and to go down that road, but it’s not a guarantee in my opinion.

“An example is Michigan a couple of weeks ago there was a tire test there and they took the power out of the (Trevor Bayne’s car) and his center-of-the-corner speed almost went up 10 miles an hour faster than what an unrestricted engine was running at. I’m not sure that 8 miles an hour through the center of the corner is going to allow us to run comfortably side by side. 

“Now we’ve just picked up a lot of speed through the center of the corner, are the tires going to hold up? Is the suspension going to hold up? I sympathize with NASCAR because there isn’t an easy way to go about things. No rule change is cheap anymore.’’

So, if the drivers are not for it and NASCAR moves forward, are the drivers truly being heard?

“We are listened to, but again, the goal that NASCAR has is to do what is best for the sport and not necessarily what is best for the individual group. 

“The drivers wanting to keep the power or add more power we are one small group, one small piece of the puzzle. Owners have a say on extending engine life and trying to go to multiple races on an engine. I think the end result is sponsorship dollars, viewership, the inbound cash flow for our sport and our industry is the ultimate concern for NASCAR and for our sport to be healthy.’’


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