Doug Yates has made some very large strides since he took over the reins of Roush/Yates Engines from his legendary father Robert. The first leap was the development of the FR9 engine, Ford’s first ever purpose-built race engine. It has proven to be a mighty bullet in the NASCAR wars. (Now if we could only get one to “fall off the truck,” so we could put it in a “stealth” Mustang…)
There was no rest for the winners at the Yates shop in Mooresville, N.C. as development began on the fuel injection engine. “This was a big job,” Yates says. “It’s the biggest change in engine technology in NASCAR in 63 years. It was even bigger than building the FR9 engines because the technology was so new. Getting the fueling right and getting the sensors right was a big challenge.” Now, with half a season in the record books Yates says, “I would give this engine an A.”
Although NASCAR had a few limited tests and the team logged thousands of hours in the dyno rooms, nothing compares to the “trial by fire” of a real race, both literally and figuratively, done at this year’s Noah’s Ark, err Daytona 500. Doug Yates and everyone in the shop were standing proud when Matt Kenseth’s Valvoline NextGen Ford flashed across the finish line at the checkers.
Since then, Yates has spent a lot of time with the engineers at Freescale/McLaren Electronic Systems (go to www.freescale.com, and read “The Power inside NASCAR Fuel Injection”). The company has a long and successful history in other forms of motorsports, most notably in Formula 1.
Ironically, the tail is wagging the dog as many Formula 1 engineers are blown away by the Roush/Yates NASCAR engines, which routinely buzz to 9500 RPM for hours without a “big kablamo” sending pistons into a low earth orbit. NASCAR had to put in a rear end gear rule to limit revs. Yates’ said Jack Roush asked him to build engines that would run to 10,500 RPM and survive. Yates saluted and did just that. That’s when NASCAR stepped in and spoiled all the fun.
Now 10,500 may not be a big number in the Formula 1 world of 17-18,000 RPM, but Yates explained that those engines have a very small piston and a very short stroke. What amazed the F1 techies was that RoushYates engines have large 4-inch pistons and a 3-inch or longer stroke. The piston speeds are several magnitudes higher in NASCAR. So, take that you little buzz bomb boffins. We rock in the U.S.A.!
Yates also gives a lot of credit to Valvoline. There were boatloads of skeptics in the shop when word came down they were using NextGen, a recycled oil blend. “These guys here said, ‘you must be crazy because this is a race engine and this won’t work,’” Yates reported. The critics have since gone silent, as engine reliability has not missed a beat this year.
So there you have it. If there was ever a doubt about switching to NextGen, take it from the man himself: “Working with their (Valvoline) engineers and technicians, we have a better product than we had been racing. It is amazing what technology is out there refining oils.” Need we say more?