Sean Caisse Wins Pole and Contends for Victory in Waterford Busch East Event
In the NASCAR Grand National Division, a new low-cost motor is turning heads after turning some competitive laps on the race track.
“It was absolutely flawless,” said Santerre. “The engine ran really well. It was a little different to drive than the other motor. You couldn’t attack the corners like you can with the other engine, but you can get back on the throttle earlier. The driver had to change his driving style a little bit, to get the same speed. I think we had a good shot at winning. It was definitely competitive.”
NASCAR’s Director of Regional Touring, Richard Buck, is a long-time racing veteran who won five Indianapolis 500 titles as a crew chief. Buck was on-hand at Waterford and says Caisse’s competitive performance was a good indication that they’d hit the right formula with the new spec engine.
A new spec engine has been introduced as a cost-saving option for teams in the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series and Busch East Series. The engine is designed to provide performance and durability at nearly half the cost of the division’s current, custom-built engines.
Andy Santerre Motorsports, a new Busch East Series team owned by four-time champion Andy Santerre and based in Concord, N.C., was the first team to use this new engine in a race, on Aug. 19 at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl. The spec engine had been through pre-season test sessions and dynamometer testing at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., but this marked the first time it would be pushed to its limit under real racing conditions.
In its debut, team members and NASCAR officials reported that the engine was right in line with the rest of the field – a key result that has validated months of research and development.
With the new engine freshly installed just a few days before the race, Santerre’s driver, Sean Caisse, won his fourth Busch Pole of the season and set a new track record in the process. Caisse finished sixth in the race and remains in contention for the series championship.
NASCAR's new spec engine made its Busch East debut under Sean Caisse's hood at Waterford. (Jim Greenwood Photos)
“We hit our target,” said Buck. “Our goal was to get the same horsepower as a championship-caliber ‘built’ motor, in a much more economical package that is affordable for anybody in the Grand National Division.”
Buck stressed that the new spec engine was never intended to provide greater performance, but more importantly, to provide equal performance at a reduced cost.
“The team with the spec engine won the pole [at
Caisse's #44 won the pole and ran strong in the race.
Waterford], which was the norm for that team this year. They didn’t blow everybody out of the water. They never outran anybody down the straightaway. It was very obvious that it was equal to the top-running teams. We hit our target. We didn’t overshoot it with too much horsepower, and we didn’t undershoot it. It was right there where all the top ‘built’ motors were and yet, we hit the economic number there as well. Anybody can buy that economical motor and have the same horsepower as a championship-caliber team.”
Meanwhile, on the West Coast, a few AutoZone West Series teams are also planning to add the cost-saving technology to their arsenal. Bill McAnally Racing, a three-time AutoZone West Series championship team located in Antelope, Calif., recently tested their first spec engine at a track where horsepower is certainly a factor: the two-mile California Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
“We’re really happy with what we saw,” said team owner Bill McAnally. “As a team owner, I wanted to make sure there wasn’t a huge [competitive] advantage to having one of the spec engines. I didn’t see an advantage; I see it being very, very close [to the regular engine]. I think they did a great job making this motor comparable to our existing engine. I’m glad because I’d hate to see it come in and be a big advantage, and put all of our other motors out to lunch. They did an outstanding job.”
McAnally, whose stable of drivers includes 2005 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series national champion and current Richard Childress Racing development driver Peyton Sellers, plans to debut the spec engine in a short track race later in the season.
The spec engine was designed by renowned engine builder Carl Wegner, of Markesan, Wis., and tested extensively during the pre-season. NASCAR Grand National Division teams can purchase the engines – either in a completed ready-to-race package or in an unassembled kit – from North Carolina-based Provident Auto Supply. The spec engine package is optional, not mandatory, for NASCAR Grand National Division teams.
SPEC ENGINE FACTS:
What is it? NASCAR has introduced a spec engine as an option for teams in the NASCAR Grand National Division, which includes the AutoZone West Series and Busch East Series. The engine includes a precisely-specified set of parts and components, designed for performance and durability while reducing costs. The spec engine package costs approximately half the price of most custom-built engines.
Why has NASCAR introduced a spec engine? The spec engine is one part of NASCAR’s overall effort to reduce the cost of racing in the Grand National Division. Teams also have the option of installing a one-piece, molded composite body on their cars, which costs significantly less than a custom-mounted steel body and needs fewer repairs.
Where do the engines come from? The initial engine package was designed by Carl Wegner. Teams can now order complete engines or unassembled engine kits from Provident Auto Supply, a performance parts distributor owned by former NASCAR Vice President Gary Nelson. Unlike a “crate” engine, which comes sealed from the factory, teams may purchase a spec engine kit and assemble it on their own or with their current engine builder.
The new spec motor attracted plenty of attention in the pit area.