Mandating another nitro ‘spec’ engine is a mistake!

I was a little surprised to hear that the rumor about a new nitro spec engine for NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car that I first heard last year at Denver was coming true.

At the same time I heard that NHRA’s rationale for this new engine rule reportedly was, first, to slow down the nitro cars because the NHRA and their insurance company are starting to get nervous about the speeds that Top Fuelers and Funny Cars are making on the shortened 1,000-foot tracks and, secondly, to devise an engine that would restrict performance of the fuel cars to the point that NHRA could justify and return to quarter-mile racing.

I am just amazed that NHRA management didn’t learn anything from their prior attempts at mandating a spec engine to control costs and stop the progressing Top Speeds. The first spec engine hasn’t done anything to slow the cars or make engines more affordable.

You even could make a case that the current spec engine rules accomplished the opposite and in the end they were responsible for the rev-limiter as well as NHRA racers forcing the sanctioning body to shorten the racing distance. 

Despite that obvious history, my sources tell me that on the Monday after the St. Louis national event Graham Light and the NHRA Tech Department are going to test a new spec engine they’ve built.  Reportedly Tim Wilkerson will test the new spec engine for the NHRA with his Funny Car. Unconfirmed by the NHRA is that the engine will be a 413 cubic inch engine with a single 44 amp MSD mag. A single 70 gallon fuel pump, 15 over on the blower and 7-1 compression. No word on whether the car will have the rumored 350 rear gear.

I will go out on a limb here and predict the car will be a slow slug. History, Dale Pulde and Steve Plueger indicate that will be the case. The reason I say that is that from at least 1998 to 2005 Pulde and Plueger ran a single mag, single fuel pump, 500-inch engine combination with the mandatory 3:20 rear gear and no restriction on the blower. The car ran a 5.25/290 at the Winternats in ’98 and six years later made its best pass at the 2005 Winters running a 5.005/291.57. I can’t see how a car with a 413-inch engine with less boost and a lower gear is going to be even as quick and fast as that car.

In the last week I have talked with several car owners, engine builders and tuners, and to a man those folks are opposed to the proposed new radical engine specs. All of them had basically the same concern: no matter what the talk is, a brand new engine combination with a single mag, single fuel pump, a 3:50 mandatory rear gear and a significantly smaller engine would cost all the teams a ton of R&D money, not to mention money budgeted for parts.

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