NASCAR CEO Brian France: ‘Significant’ changes coming to Sprint Cup engine size, horsepower

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Taking a cue from Formula One, which reduced its engine size and accompanying horsepower for this season, NASCAR is likely headed in the same direction for either 2015 or 2016.

NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France told Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday that engine modifications are on the horizon, and that will likely include a decrease in horsepower.

NASCAR motors currently churn out about 850 horsepower.

“We’re going to make that happen, and that’s part of the overall rules packages that we design that hopefully control costs, hopefully make the racing better,” France said. “The engine is an integral part of that.

“We also have to be in step as much as possible with the car manufacturers and where they’re going with technology and different things. It all has to come together, and that’s the next significant part of the rules package. … The engine will get a significant change. I’m not going to say (for) ’15, but we are certainly sizing that up. It’s very important for us to get that right.”

Such a change mirrors what F1 did this year, and adds to NASCAR adopting the F1-style so-called “knockout” qualifying that was put into place this season.

According to NASCAR.com, France and other top officials have already begun discussions with all three manufacturers in the Sprint Cup Series, much like talks that were held prior to the implementation of the Gen 6 car last season.

“The approach that we took on the development of the Gen‑6, we’re using a very collaborative approach between the manufacturers and NASCAR from the sanctioning body’s perspective on really discussing what are the options, what are the ideas, and in the end depending on where that ends up, it will impact how much work happens at the manufacturer versus the teams,” said Jim Campbell, U.S. vice president for Chevrolet performance vehicles and motorsports. “The key is we keep the racing exciting, and then we make every resource we apply to the engines and the engine builds go as far possible. That’s really the key.”

If and when the proposed engine changes do come about, it would be the first significant alteration in several years.

NASCAR has spent the last seven years focused more so on vehicle design and aerodynamic modifications, starting first with the introduction of the so-called Car of Tomorrow in 2007, and then the Gen 6 last season.

There were further aerodynamic changes implemented this season to continue refinements and improvement of the Gen 6.

That’s why it’s not a surprise there have been six different winners in the first six Sprint Cup races this season, with Chevrolet winning three, Ford two and Toyota one.

“I’ll tell you, here in the first six races, it’s been some of the most fantastic and spectacular racing that we have seen,” said Jamie Allison, director of Ford Racing.

France indicated that the methodical development of the chassis and aerodynamic tweaks have gotten closer to what NASCAR originally envisioned.

And while more tweaks to the chassis may still occur, it’s time to focus on the powerplant to further make the racing as close as possible.

“We’ve made some gains,” France said. “Part of it is making the car easier to drive, better to drive. That’s part of it. But we’re not, candidly, where we’re going to be in a year or two.

“We know exactly what we’re trying to do with the rules package. We think the (Chase) format is something we can build on for the next 10 or 15 years, or longer.

“We don’t want to change things just because we feel like it. It’s always difficult …. So I love the general direction we’re at. We’re past the majority of the changes, and now we can build on where we’re at.”

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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