NASCAR mulls fuel shift

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

Could it be that NASCAR is finally willing to dive into the deep end of the motor racing gene pool by developing a new engine design in time for the 2010 season?

Indeed, more and more reports are surfacing to indicate the bosses down in Daytona Beach, Fla., will soon give the go-ahead for manufacturers to present a fuel injected V8 engine for at least one of the top-three touring series by next season.

It would be a giant step toward getting more "stock" in the stock car racing business. Right now, NASCAR is all but alone among auto racing sanctioning bodies who still demand that only carburator engines be used in its cars.

Never mind that the most recent time any of the major auto makers were building these engines for their showroom cars, Richard Nixon still was finalizing plans for the Watergate burglary.

NASCAR tech boss John Darby first hinted at such a plan several weeks ago.

Now, just about everyone in the garage area is talking about it as a done deal.

Unlike many in the racing commentary business, this corner has always marvelled at the engineering and mechanical brilliance that goes into producing more than 800 horsepower out of a small block, push rod engine, running on buy-at-the-pump gasoline.

But the time has long past when such an engine serves any purpose. NASCAR has long feared that by introducing electronic fuel injectors it will be giving carte blanche to the engine builders to cheat more than they already do.

That fear, it appears, has been replaced by the assertion that if NASCAR wants to keep its perch at the top of the auto-racing ladder, it had better move forward with this new engine.

Noted NASCAR observer Mike Mulhern (mikemulhern.net) said that plans are so advanced that the Camping World Truck Series could have fuel injected engines mandated in time for next February's Speed Weeks at Daytona.

He quotes Chevrolet's NASCAR rep Pat Suhy as being fully behind such a move.

"We think fuel injection is just the right way to go in NASCAR," Suhy said. "And it wouldn't be that difficult. Every other top racing series uses fuel injection. We could put something together in about a week depending on how simple or complex you wanted to do it and then test it for two months or so, and be ready to go."

The sooner the better.

Tight racing

There is one heck of a dog fight brewing over in the IndyCar series where -- with just four races remaining in the 2009 season -- five high-profile drivers are within spitting distance of each other for the championship.

Scott Dixon, driving for Penske Racing, is on top, just three points in front of Ganassi Racing's Ryan Briscoe.

The 2007 champion Dario Franchitti lurks in third just 20 points behind in his Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara.

IndyCar officials note that it's the closest one through three race in almost 10 seasons.

"I figured it was going to go down to the wire from the first race," Franchitti, who returned to the IndyCar Series this season to team with Dixon at Ganassi, said. "You have to expect that. I didn't know whether I'd be part of that fight."

Also in the mix are Helio Castroneves in fourth and Danica Patrick -- having her best IndyCar season -- in fifth.

Toyota bets on today

Japanese auto giant Toyota made it clear this week it wants top results now -- not next year -- in return for the billions it has invested in Formula One racing.

So much so that rumours abound that if such results are not forthcoming Toyota might pull out of F-1 like its arch-rival Honda.

Toyota's F-1 boss, John Howett, says his team is doing everything it can to push the manufacturer's objectives forward.

That means no significant work is being done on a 2010 race car.

"We still have targets to reach this season so we have not even considered switching all development to the 2010 car," Howett said. "We are still working hard to extract more performance from the TF109."

Finish lines

Canada's Ron Fellows will have plenty of competition as he gets set to defend his NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA 200 crown at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal on Aug. 30. Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Marcos Ambrose and Robby Gordon, among others, have all been entered in the event. And count on a full complement of Quebec drivers to seek a home town win as well with Patrick Carpentier leading a NASCAR grid that will include Andrew Ranger, Jacques Villeneuve and possibly Alex Tagliani.


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