To say that the engine combinations and changes every year are out of control in Late Model Stock Car racing would be an absolute understatement. Unfortunately, there are no signs of this getting better and many signs pointing to the issues getting worse.
Last week Ford Performance released information about the anticipated upgrade that will allow the Ford 347SR engine to compete with the Harrington Enforcer and the “spec” or Chevrolet Upgrade to the built engine. There’s little doubt that the Ford engine needed an upgrade but unfortunately, an upgrade for one turns into a need for an upgrade for another.
Within a week of the Ford Performance upgrade becoming common knowledge (through a release posted on race22.com) teams with the Chevrolet Upgrade began making phone calls to track officials, NASCAR officials and anyone they could get to listen about a potential upgrade to their engine. One item that they specifically want is an intake upgrade.
In a post on Facebook, one team owner asked other teams and drivers if they think that the Chevrolet Upgrade should get back the Victor Jr. intake that was taken away in a rules change last year when the Harrington Enforcer was approved and both engine combinations were added to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series rulebook. Prior to last fall when both engines were added, tracks around the region were allowing them based on their “track” rules and not the NASCAR rulebook.
There are so many reasons why we’ve got to this point. It probably started back in the late 1990s or early 2000s when tracks began adding the GM 604 crate engine to their “track” rulebooks. Since then it’s spun out of control with the Ford 347SR being added by the now-defunct UARA tour and eventually added by many tracks and added to the NASCAR rulebook.
With the Ford 347SR being introduced with an advantage over the Chevrolet built (steelhead), the original Ford built engine and the 604 crate engine, the Ford took over Late Model Stock Car racing with engines being sold to competitors all over the region. Many tracks attempted to reign in the engine but it dominated at many of the region’s tracks. That left Chevrolet diehards in desperate need for a way to get their engines to be more competitive with the Ford.
That led to the development of the Harrington Enforcer by Harrington Race Engines and it also led to the development of what was originally called the “Spec” engine and later deemed the Chevrolet Upgrade. It was essentially an upgrade of the original steelhead Chevrolet built engine to Aluminum heads and other parts to be comparative to the Ford 347SR. Of course just like the Ford, the Chevrolet Upgrade instead of being designed to compete, it was designed to be better. And then the Harrington was superior to them both which has left us where we are now.
Every year the rules change and upgrades are given to different engines. The process of how that happens is also part of the problem. Ford Performance obviously has a clear-cut advantage to getting a part changed by virtue of their involvement with NASCAR at the highest level. I’m not saying they are taking a shortcut, doing anything wrong or anything else but Harrington Race Engines and Blanks Race Engines (the two entities that control the Harrington and Chevrolet Upgrade engine parts distribution) do not have that NASCAR connection or the resources that Ford has.
To say there’s a disconnect from NASCAR to short track racing would be an understatement and I don’t even think I have to explain that one. So in order for the racers who have the Chevrolet Upgrade to get some help, they have to go track to track and lobby for changes. They don’t have the clear path to NASCAR to make an effort to get the engines back on an even playing field or close to it. The Harrington when it finds itself at a disadvantage and based on recent history of rules changes and upgrades for engines, it will, they won’t have that path to an upgrade or to receive help either.
Now, before I go any further I’m not lobbying on behalf of the Chevrolet Upgrade or lobbying against it or the most recent upgrade for Ford. I simply want someone, anyone at this point to step up and take over Late Model Stock Car racing and fix it. We need to stop relying on NASCAR to make rules for something they don’t understand and it seems as if they don’t care about.
We can’t have another Martinsville debacle. I’m not going to go down that path again but that was a mess for the very same reason. The person dictating the rules isn’t involved in Late Model Stock Car racing on a week to week basis and makes decisions in haste based on practice and even qualifying times. The decision making there has tainted Late Model Stock Car racing’s biggest event.
There’s no one leading this thing who is involved every week and whose life is all about Late Model Stock Car racing. In order to fix this, we’re going to have to have leadership here in the Virginia, Carolinas, and Tennessee, not someone who lives the NASCAR life. Let those people focus on fixing the problems that NASCAR has which are far greater than those we have here. I’m not throwing down on NASCAR, they simply have more problems to focus on than Late Model Stock Car racing. Someone needs to step up and take charge here.
It’s time to eliminate engine combinations and get this thing back to where only having one engine type doesn’t put you at a huge disadvantage if you want to race at more than one race track. We can’t withstand anymore NASCAR rule changes and we certainly can’t go back to every track having decisively different rules giving an advantage to a different engine.
Everyone plays a role here. The tracks have to get out of the NASCAR mindset and band together to fix this. The racers have to stop lobbying for rule changes and start lobbying for rules that make this cheaper and easier and better even if in the short term it’s going to hurt you. Having one engine or one engine per manufacturer would make this way better.
We’re losing racers and teams at a record pace. You can blame the economy or a lack of car culture or whatever you want but the fact is that there are racers everywhere with cars sitting in a garage that would love to race again. They don’t know what engine to buy, they don’t know what’s going to change next week and they are either just sitting it out or going racing in a Super or Pro Late Model because the model they have is clear.
Late Model Stock Car racing is broken. This has to be fixed now. It can’t wait any longer.