Dale Jr.: Horsepower drop “coming whether you like it or not”

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NASCAR CEO Brian France has revealed that engine modifications – including a reduction in horsepower – could be coming to the Sprint Cup Series sometime within the next two seasons.

Naturally, that’s led to questions about what impacts those modifications would have on NASCAR’s racing product, which in recent years has been superb in some places (road courses, short ovals) and sometimes suspect in others (intermediate-sized ovals).

Sprint Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes that such changes won’t make the racing less competitive as he feels that “the racing is competitive, any way you slice it.”

However, he’s hopeful that a particular path will be taken by the sanctioning body.

“When you can go to a smaller engine, you preserve some throttle response,” Earnhardt said today at Texas Motor Speedway. “You preserve some reaction in the gas pedal and give the driver a few more tools to be able to use out on the race track when he is driving his race car.

“When you take and put a [restrictor] plate on those cars, you take tons of throttle response out of the car and setting up a pass, particularly on a track that is worn out like this, is a little more challenging with a plate rather than an open engine that is smaller.”

As far as the possible HP drop goes, Earnhardt likened the situation to the recent Sprint Cup return of the No. 3, which his late father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., drove to six of his seven overall Sprint Cup titles.

Richard Childress’ revival of the famous number for rookie driver Austin Dillon was met with loud resistance in some quarters of the NASCAR fan base – but as the season has wore on, the controversy has ebbed for the most part.

Earnhardt believes such would be the case as well with the HP drop if it comes to pass.

“I think the reduction in power is coming whether you like it or not,” he said. “I chose as an individual to get on the side of being productive in that discussion instead of saying ‘We don’t need to do it’ and trying to fight it – let’s try to make sure when it does happen, we do it the right way and give ourselves something to grow into and something to engineers and something that is productive for many years to come.

“…You can have both sides arguing against and for, for however long you want, but it’s going to happen so we might as well start thinking about how we want it to happen and trying to have those discussions on making sure we make the best choice we can make for the sport.”

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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