By admin | May 23, 2010
By Richard Allen
Pretty much every Ford team was running the much anticipated FR9 engine in the Sprint All Star Challenge in Charlotte this past weekend. The results showed the engine apparently helped very little.
Matt Kenseth in 8th place was the highest finishing of the four Ford Fusion drivers in the race. Even that finish exaggerates just how poorly he and the other Fords ran. The #17 car was able to gain a number of spots late after crashes and other attrition removed several competitors.
Greg Biffle, who placed 2nd in the qualifying race run just prior to the main event, finished one spot behind Kenseth. Kasey Kahne was 15th after crashing when Kyle Busch blew a tire and made contact with the #9 car. And finally, Carl Edwards crashed and ended up last after being voted into the feature race by the fans.
At no point did any of these drivers look like a serious contender to win.
These results can be interpreted in a couple of ways. First, it could be that the new engine is no better than its predecessor. If so, a lot of time, effort and money have been wasted for no real gain. This would be a very disappointing realization for Ford teams and fans if it is indeed the case.
The other way to look at it is that the engine may well be an improvement over the previous power plant but the teams may simply need some time to get used to it. Word has it that the weight properties of the new engine are different from the old piece and will thus cause teams to adjust set ups to take full advantage of what they now have.
Matt Kenseth is among several drivers I listen to during races on the NASCAR.com TrackPass feature. I did not hear him complain about a lack of power during the All Star event. His worries concerned the fact that his car was so tight it was virtually impossible to handle. If the balance is off then the engine could well be doing its job. It may just take drivers, crew chiefs and engineers a while to get cars to handle better.
The second of those possibilities is far better for Ford teams. Those involved will be able to adapt if the engine is indeed providing more horsepower.
For Ford teams, the new FR9 engine did not have a glorious night as teams prepare to put the new piece into full time use. Time will tell whether there will be any significant improvement for the only manufacturer to not have a win so far this year.
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Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.
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