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New Ford Engine Takes To Track

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 30 2009
Matt Kenseth's Ford will have the new engine under the hood at Talladega this weekend. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Matt Kenseth's Ford will have the new engine under the hood at Talladega this weekend. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Matt Kenseth will be taking one for the team this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway and from the sound of it, he is mildly happy to do so. Very mildly.

Kenseth will be one of two Roush Fenway Racing Sprint Cup drivers who will have the Ford FR9 engine under his hood. The engine is brand new and Talladega will be the site of its coming-out party.

Pretty cool, Kenseth said, but pretty nerve-wracking.

“I’m looking forward to running it,” the veteran driver and 2003 Cup champion from Wisconsin said. “But whenever you’re one of the first guys to run something new to come out there’s always that risk of not finishing or something happening to it, but yet it’s something we need to get in the cars if we’re planning on implementing it for next year.  We need to run it this year, so if there are any problems, we can get them worked out during the off-season.”

The reason that Kenseth and teammate David Ragan will use the engine this weekend is precisely because of the risk factor. Neither are in the Chase so if something does go wrong, it will not affect the seating chart at the end-of-year awards banquet in Las Vegas.

So, that’s why Kenseth and Ragan will be running it. But why at Talladega, one of only two tracks where restrictor plates are required?

Because, said Doug Yates, the man behind the design, Talladega is a plate track.

“The engine really looks great in both open and plate format, but for the start of the (2010) season we’re looking at starting at Daytona racing the FR9, or at least qualifying with the FR9, and for that reason we felt like Talladega was an important date for us, so that drove some of the decisions,” Yates said.

Also, Yates said, “I think Talladega is a great test for it because you’re basically wide-open the entire race, so it’s a lot of rpm’s. These engines at Talladega in restricted format turn 9,000 rpm, which is amazing.  When NASCAR brought the COT on and they put more gear in the car so the drivers would have better throttle response, as an engine builder it was really concerning and we had a lot of work to do to take an engine that used to turn 7,000 rpm and make it turn 9,000 rpm. So this is a very demanding track and it’ll be a good test for the engine this weekend.”

The new engine is not about more horsepower, Brian Wolfe, director of Ford Motorsports North America said. It’s about improved cooling.

While not as sexy as horsepower, cooling is vital to speed in race cars.

“The reason that becomes very critical is it starts to affect other systems on the vehicle, and as you have a more efficient heat transfer from the combustion system, you can run the water temp a bit higher, which allows you to put a little bit more tape on the front grille, which allows your downforce and your aerodynamics to be a bit better on the race track,” Wolfe said.

Yates said the new engine will be in a limited number of cars when the 2010 stars and worked into full usage as the season progresses.

Kenseth, while worried about reliability this weekend, will be very interested in how the FR9 performs.

“They said the new plate engine is running better than our old plate stuff, so I wanted to run it at Talladega for sure,” Kenseth said.  “The open stuff, I know, they’re still working on a little bit. I don’t know if we’re gonna get a chance to run that or not, but I know the restrictor-plate stuff they’ve been real happy and excited about running, so I’m looking forward to trying that.”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, October 30 2009
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