The Frontstretch: No Need to Switch to Fuel Injection by Jeff Meyer -- Thursday August 27, 2009

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No Need to Switch to Fuel Injection

Voices From the Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday August 27, 2009

 

Lately there has been a lot of talk about switching to a fuel injection system versus a carburetor in NASCAR. The question I have is; why? Why do we have to mess with one more ‘tradition’ of this great sport?

Advocates of fuel injection cite numerous reasons such as better fuel mileage, better performance, “everyone else uses it”, carbs are antiques, no street cars use carbs and even the laughable “less lead poisoning for the fans”! Speaking of which, let’s start this column out with a little humor.

President and General Manager of Toyota Racing Development, Lee White, who was once described by Jack Roush as an “ankle biting Chihuahua”, had the following to say about the benefit of fuel injection in NASCAR last Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway…“Sit in the grandstands and watch these cars go into Turns 1 and Turns 3 and watch all the fuel belching out the tailpipe,” he said. “Thats wasted fuel thats going right into the grandstands in terms of lead poison.”

Excuse me, Mr. GM of Toyota Racing Development, perhaps no one told you that NASCAR started using UNLEADED fuel back in 2007? So much for staying on top of things! If that is the case, if I ever get lead poisoning, I’m gonna get me a good lawyer (Jeremy Mayfield’s?) and sue the golden pants off NASCAR for not protecting me from that hazard! At any rate, it is my steadfast assertion that fuel injection is simply not needed in NASCAR.

NASCAR isn’t likely to lure new viewers to the sport by switching to fuel injectors, but instead could alienate even more of its ‘old school’ fans.

NASCAR, from its very beginning, was founded on raw, V8 carbureted power, from the moonshine runners back in the day, up to the classic muscle cars of the 60’s and 70’s that car companies are trying to reproduce today. It is what we race. Just because there is a more efficient technology available does not mean we have to use it. If you want to race fuel injected engines, there are other forms of racing in which to do so.

Each form of racing, be it go-karts, lawn mowers, top fuel dragsters, Indy Cars or NASCAR are unique, by definition, unto itself. Part of that uniqueness in NASCAR is the V8 carbureted engine. Over the last 60 years, NASCAR racing has settled on an engine that must be no larger than 358 cubic in displacement and that is just fine, unless you are Carl Long!

Other problems that arise from opening the Pandora’s Box of fuel injection in NASCAR are many, including the speed that many within the industry want it implemented.

“We think fuel injection is just the right way to go in NASCAR,” Pat Suhy, Chevrolet’s NASCAR field director, said recently. “And it wouldn’t be that difficult. Every other top racing series uses fuel injection. We could put something together in about a week, depending on how simple or complex you wanted to do it and then test it for two months or so, and be ready to go.”

Oh great! Just what we need, NASCAR rushing into something without thinking it all the way through. How many times have we seen THAT work out well in the past? Others, like White of Toyota, actually believe that fuel injection will bring a new audience to the sport.

“Its something that could be implemented along with a few other things that could be discussed that could potentially reduce costs and increase the potential audience for the sport,” said White after being so concerned about the fans getting lead poisoning.

Are you kidding me? Do you seriously think that, if NASCAR suddenly announced a switch to fuel injected engines, that many more fans would flock to the sport? When was the last time you heard someone say that they did not like NASCAR because they use carbureted engines? I can just hear the conversation in the bar now…

“Hey Bob, what’s with the Jimmie Johnson hat? I thought you didn’t like NASCAR?”

“Well, now that they have switched to a fuel injected engine, just like the one in MY Impala, well what can I say? It won me over! Y’all ain’t so redneck anymore!”

Yeah right! If anything, a switch to fuel injection will further alienate the dwindling group of hardcore fans that NASCAR has left.

Engineers from Hendrick Motorsports, who have been reportedly working on a fuel injected project in partnership with NASCAR admit that such a system would increase the cost of an engine by 15 to 20 thousand dollars each and not only that, but as one anonymous engineer joked, “It will be more fuel efficient, but also provide teams with an easier platform to cheat.”

NASCAR can barely police the laws they have on the books now, let alone bringing more electronics into the sport, especially in an area as sensitive as carbs versus fuel injection.

While there is no doubt that fuel injection would be more efficient and yes, it is used on production cars of today and yes, the technology there to do it, there is one more reason, as an astute reader pointed out in the comment section of yesterday’s Mirror Driving. With the likelihood of one or more of the traditional ‘Big 3’ pulling out of NASCAR in the future, it might be easier to lure other ‘foreign’ manufacturers into the sport with a fuel injected package.

While that is a very good observation and possible motive that we have overlooked, I would say this to ‘foreign’ manufacturers wanting to come to NASCAR…

Look, we run carbureted V8s in this form of racing! It’s what we do. It’s what it’s founded on. Bring your money and bring your carb, let’s run!

We don’t need to change the roots of our form of racing just because it’s fashionable!

Stay off the wall,

Jeff Meyer

Author’s note (if I may have the indulgence of the Editors!) I would like to publicly welcome the arrival of my first Grandchild (and Carl Edwards fan) into the world! Reid Cain Doyle, Aug. 24th, ’09 at 6:05 p.m. eastern. Reid was 8.6 pounds at birth and has already won his Granddad 20 bucks, who guessed 8.7 lbs in the pool! I look forward to many trips to the race track with you Reid! (and if your mother ever asks you… “where did you learn that!?”…don’t rat me out buddy!)

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Fred
08/27/2009 07:08 AM
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If you know a thing or two about carbs and fuel injection, you’ll know that injection is just far superior. Carbs actually have to bubble air into the fuel when at idle. Injectors just send less fuel.

But am I in favor at this switch at this point in time? Hell No! The only thing it will add to a race is that cars will not stall during pit stops and that they will be able to calculate their fuel mileage that much better. Other than that, it just adds costs, at a time when any money spent in “upgrading” the CoT should be used in making it handle better.

And for you carb fans out their. Don’t get me wrong, a carb works great for a narrow RPM band range, and you can design them for which ever RPM band range you wante… gee, lets try 7-9,000 RPM.

Typical NASCAR… changing things that don’t need changing.

Johnboy60
08/27/2009 08:27 AM
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nascrap is now just a shell of its fore self(NASCAR), and needs no more changes just for change. fuel injection has not been allowed for years because, as stated above, it is impossible to control cheating with it!! Leave it alone, get rid of baby brian and nascrap can and will return to NASCAR!!

Douglas
08/27/2009 08:55 AM
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FYI! For many years, in the past, I built in my factory every carburetor used by NA$CRAP!

Absolutely Fuel Injection is better!

But why would they go to fuel injection on a 358CID motor, which is not built production wise, on a rear wheel drive car, on a car that uses ZERO production parts, uses STEEL WHEELS, and so forth!

Hell, the carburetor has sufficed for all these years, why change a single component on a car that totally uses 1950’ technology?

And maybe Lee White watches CSI Miami or such! They still have people supposedly committing suicide by closing the garage doors and leaving the engine running!

HUH? With unleaded fuel, (and catalytic converters for the street) you could let that sucker run for ever and the only result is in the morning you would be ready for breakfast!

Prof pi (Jeff Thompson)
08/27/2009 10:52 AM
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A little chemistry lesson, cars consume oxygen in order to burn fuel, and exhaust carbon dioxide, not a poison, but you can’t live by breathing it either, so yes, you can commit suicide by closing yourself in with your car; it consumes the oxygen, and you’ll stop running before the car does.
On fuel injection, isn’t the idea of NASCAR to race “stock cars” rather than be another spec series.
NASCAR has a serious problem, the average age of a fan is increasing by two years every year, i.e., the young people are leaving and only us old geezers remain. Do the math, in short order all of the current NASCAR fans will die of old age; they absolutely must start attracting new younger fans or the series and the business of NASCAR both dwindle their way out of existence.

M.B. Voelker
08/27/2009 11:25 AM
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Question, if this something that only the auto-geeks* will understand and/or care about or will it have some kind of actual effect on the racing?

*Sorry if this isn’t an appropriate term — I’m using it thinking of how computer geeks know all the ins and outs of their machinery and understand subtle nuances that escape the non-geeks, gaming geeks can explain the advantages and disadvantages of 7 different ways to roll stats for D&D characters, etc. :-)

Kevin in SoCal
08/27/2009 12:19 PM
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M.B., “gearhead” is the acceptable term for a person who loves working on cars and making them faster.
Those of you who dont like fuel injection need to update your calendars, its 2009, not 1959. I say fuel injection in racing cant come fast enough. Its just a matter of taking the existing carburetor manifold, putting 8 injector bungs and a fuel rail onto it, and a four-hole throttle body on top, then some wires and a computer. Say goodbye to cars stalling on pit road and being unable to refire, say goodbye to restrictor plates, because NASCAR can program the limiters in the computer, and say hello to better fuel mileage and a possible reduction in the number of fuel mileage races.
And about traction control, if computer control would limit the number of 10-car crashes on restarts because someone spun their tires, I’m all for it.

mkrcr
08/27/2009 01:45 PM
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Prof pi,
The byproduct of burning any hydrocarbon fuel is carbon monoxide, not carbon dioxide, which kills by blocking the oxygen molecules in the bloodstream, preventing the oxygen from being absorbed. Ever had a headache and nausea after being around a high concentration of vehicles for an extended period of time?
I’ve said it before. As far as fuel injection goes, why not. We now runs cars that are the same except for the decals. Let NA$CAR issue computers, clone JJ, and they’ll have the perfect world.

Kevin in SoCal
08/27/2009 03:52 PM
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Carbon monoxide comes from incomplete combustion, in other words when not all the oxygen atoms combine with the carbon atoms. Carbon dioxide forms when the process happens correctly.

Fred
08/27/2009 05:07 PM
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M.B., using fuel injection, the engines would be able to produce optimal horsepower and torque throughout the whole RPM band, so like I said above, no stalling and such.

But this is only true if you add the rest of the EMS (Engine Management System). You would need to add a computer to control all this. Also tack on many other sensors that are needed, without going into extreme detail, sensors that measure the air pressure in a variety of ways. Also O2 sensors that measure the exhaust to see if the fuel is being burnt optimally… basically checking if the Air/Fuel mixture is correct. Now you also need the ability to measure and automatically adjust the timing of the engine in order to take advantage of all of this. (This is really a brief explanation, also, all these features are why you can go 100k miles without a tune-up these days.)

So cost-wise, it is a bit more than just throwing a new manifold on the engine, granted, you could get it to run decently that way, but it wouldn’t be much of a benefit. Then you also need to tweak out the computer to make it run exactly how you want it to in each condition.

So as far as racing goes, there won’t be much of an on-track difference at all. Just a huge cost difference… and an extreme ability to cheat very easily. They actually make inline plug-in modules for most sports cars, so you don’t have to reprogram the stock computer (granted, I reprogram my own without a problem), but I’m just saying that a driver could slip one of these modules inline during a race and remove it before the car is inspected. And as you have probably seen in movies, many “Rice Burners” have their laptops hooked up when they drag race, that isn’t a joke, I do it with my Trans Am. They’ve gotten to the point now that you can have in-dash “programmers” to adjust your engine’s performance while you drive, so you can go from fuel efficient to max power at a push of a button (think IRL or F1, multiple fuel settings). So now that I think about it, the biggest change in the actual racing would be fuel mileage races would be highly accurate. No more wondering if they can make it… and no more “some drivers are better at conserving fuel than others” going on either.

Granted, their hasn’t been a normal car or truck built in over 20 years that uses a carb, but by no means is NASCAR needing to switch to fuel injection. The only reason I’ve heard why it is even being considered is that Honda is pushing for it.

BTW, Kevin in SoCal, good point about the traction control. With the Double-File Restarts, “Shoot Out Style”, (LOL) I wouldn’t be against it any more. I’ve been saying that they really need 2 Mulligans for the pre-Chase and 1 for the Chase because of the new style of restarts stacking up the wrecked cars.

mkrcr
08/27/2009 05:34 PM
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I missed a couple of words in my response to Prof pi. I meant to say the “most deadly” byproduct. Yes, in a perfect combustion cycle, H2O,CO2,N2 are all that are produced. But since perfect combustion cannot be achieved, carbon monoxide is a byproduct and will kill far faster than carbon dioxide displacing the oxygen in an enclosed atmosphere.

D Jones
08/27/2009 05:58 PM
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Congrats to you Grandpa Jeff.
Too bad NASCAR couldn’t harness the energy of Bill SR & Jr spinning in their graves from the way BF runs things. That’s enough power for all three series.

Matt
08/27/2009 07:26 PM
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Lets be honest here, even with fuel injected engines, those stock cars have absolutely nothing in common with your dealership. What they should always have though is, four “small” tires, a carburetor, and most importantly….fenders.

Eric
08/28/2009 08:11 AM
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You might want to check your facts. NASCAR has not always run 358 cubic in displacement engines. Ever heard of the 426 hemi?
Also, I believe the cost of $15k to $20k per engine. Maybe a one time cost. The engine builders now run fuel injection on test engines to test air flow.

Mike
08/28/2009 11:19 AM
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Why not go to FI?. There is nothing STOCK about the NA$CAR designed cars and hasn’t been for 25 years.

NA$CAR needs to get current if they want to continue with the STOCK crap and mandate V-6 engines with OHC and FI.

Jeff Meyer
08/29/2009 02:02 AM
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I wrote…

“Over the last 60 years, NASCAR racing has settled on an engine that must be no larger than 358 cubic in displacement and that is just fine,..”

It does NOT say a 358 was always used! It says…well, read it again!

My facts are just fine.

 

Contact Jeff Meyer

Recent articles from Jeff Meyer:

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