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Dodge Getting Boost From The R6

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, June 26 2009
Kasey Kahne at Dover, where his team used the new Dodge engine for the first time. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Kasey Kahne at Dover, where his team used the new Dodge engine for the first time. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Except for those gaga-about-Fiat kinds of people out there, the news about Chrysler has been pretty much a steady stream of sewage. Cutbacks, bailouts, dealer closings, layoffs, bankruptcy are all words which have been attached to the Chrysler name in recent months and not as potential names for the company’s new hybrid sub-compact.

But there has been a very thin beam of light poking out of the the racing side of Chrysler. It is the hope surrounding the latest generation of Dodge’s Sprint Cup engine, the R6.

That new engine seems to be capable of putting the teams using Dodge back in Victory Lane. In fact, it already has.

The R6 was introduced last autumn for the race at Kansas Speedway. It was dropped into the Dodge of Penske Racing’s Kurt Busch there.

This year, it has been used in all three Penske cars – those of Busch, Sam Hornish Jr. and David Stremme – at all tracks except restrictor plate tracks.

And it has appeared to show its worth as all three of those drivers have driven up front in races at times this year. In addition, Busch drove it to its first victory at Atlanta in the spring.

After that victory, Busch was asked about the role the new engine played. He was asked if the R6, in fact, was in some way responsible for the victory.

“Absolutely,” Busch said. “I think that’s what the new R6 engine from Dodge has provided for us. The biggest thing has been durability that we focused on.  Also to gain more power low end and top end. You can definitely see the low-end torque on restarts.  When you go to do the restarts through the gear, tracks where you’re full throttle, not flipping the tires, you really get to put your power down.”

Team owner Roger Penske said, “Obviously the Dodge R6 engine had been terrific.”

With the R6 sitting just a firewall away from him, Busch has climbed to the fourth position in the points race.

He is fulfilling the prophecy his crew chief, Pat Tryson, made earlier in the season when Tryson said of the R6, “I think it is really good.  So far, any problems that we have had with it have been very minor and could have happened to the old motor.  As good as it is right now, it’s only going to get better for us. It has a lot of potential and we’re being pretty conservative with it right now because we want to finish races and not have problems.  As good as our stuff was last year, it’s only going to get better.  I think by midseason, we’ll really see some benefits from it.”

The cars of Richard Petty Motorsports first used the R6 at Dover this spring.

Good move, Busch said.

“Well, I’ve always felt that more is better, and the fact that they’re getting it in their cars is great news, just so that we can advance the whole Dodge program in general,” Busch said. “Does it affect us?  No, not really, but it’s good news to know that they’re moving forward with that engine because of the fact that who knows what direction…Richard Petty Motorsports is heading because their contract is up at the end of the year.  So it’s nice to know that they’re pushing forward with their Dodge product.

While the new engine was not in the car for last Sunday’s race at Infineon Raceway because that was a road race, Kasey Kahne of RPM has talked about the R6 a lot this week and in positive terms.

“I think that (the success) has to do with a lot of things,” Kahne, who won at Infineon, said. “The engine itself is definitely better at low RPMs.  I feel like it shoots (the car) off the corner a little bit better.  We didn’t have that engine at Sonoma; we had the old engine in the car.  We’ve only run the new engine a couple of times. The engine helps.”

The R6 will be back in the RPM cars this weekend for the race at New Hampshire.

How long RPM will use the new Dodge engine, or any other Dodge engine, has been the object of media speculation this week. One internet site claimed that RPM will switch to another engine brand in July.

Petty’s team has waved off the report.

Asked about that his week, Petty said, “I can’t say because I don’t know. I do know that we are looking at all options that is we have got. We’ve been with Dodge all these years, and you know, we don’t really know where they are at.  We are talking to Dodge.  We are talking to anybody that wants to talk. 

“Right now we are in the process of trying to come up with what we think is going to be best for Richard Petty Motorsports, not only in the near future but in the future way on out there.  So I really can’t speculate on that, or can’t say anything about it because it would be purely speculation.”

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

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, June 26 2009
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