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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March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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