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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Voices from the Heartland: No Need to Switch to Fuel Injection

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, 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 ’60s and ’70s 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 $15-20,000 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, who guessed 8.7 pounds in the pool! I look forward to many trips to the racetrack 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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