The 2017 NASCAR season kicks off Saturday, February 18th with ‘The Clash’ at Daytona International Speedway. It has been an exciting and busy off-season. Everyone has been fine tuning their strategies for the 59th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 26th. Doug Yates CEO of Roush Yates Engines and Dave Pericak global director, Ford Performance recently sat down with the media to share their thoughts on the upcoming season.
DAVE PERICAK – WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR NASCAR IN 2017? “To continue the progression that you’ve seen hopefully within Ford Performance over the years and prove that we’re taking NASCAR very seriously. It is a priority for us. It’s gonna be exciting this year to include Stewart-Haas in the lineup of Fords on the track and to level the playing field a bit … go out there and use everything we’ve learned from aerodynamics, our engine technology and some of the other things we’ve done with the teams – some of the tools that we’ve created and our simulator and everything else and bring it all together so that you can see more Fords running up front.”
DOUG YATES – THERE HAVE BEEN SOME FORMAT CHANGES AND SCHEDULING TWEAKS. HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOU FROM AN ENGINE STANDPOINT? “I think we’re gonna have to work through it and see, but whenever there is change there is definitely an opportunity. Those are the things we’re gonna have to work on as well as incorporate here into our durability cycle when we test the engines, but it looks we’re gonna have to have our best power, best restart capability and just really take advantage of the new rules and be ready for that challenge when it comes.”
HOW DOES THE 2017 AERO PACKAGE IMPACT AN ENGINE BUILDER? “Every time they take downforce off the car, they’re off the throttle more. What we pay attention to is really what the engine sees, what the wide-open throttle time is. When we had the high downforce package, we had more wide-open throttle time. When they keep taking downforce off, we have less, so that usually means the RPM spread is greater, which means you have to pay attention to the low RPM performance of the engine. It will be a little bit similar to the start of last year, so we know what to expect and we’ll just work towards tailoring the power curve for that situation.”
DO YOU SEE DURABILITY BEING A MAJOR ISSUE WITH THIS NEW FORMAT? IF SO, WHAT WILL YOU DO? “It’s gonna be all new to us. There’s gonna be harder racing, more competitive racing. That’s the goal of NASCAR and the NASCAR fans to do that. It’s our job to find advantages, so, of course, we’re gonna try to push the engine to the limits like we always do and we’ll have to incorporate some of those changes into our dynamometer testing like we said earlier, and anticipate those planned cautions and how many more restarts will we have and how to we optimize that performance. Really, the question is, and our teams differ on this, is fuel economy gonna matter or not, and will that strategy play in, so a lot of unanswered questions. But the one that is not ever in dispute is we just need to make as much power and push the limits as hard as we can to give our teams what they need to go out and win races.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ENHANCE DURABLIITY OVER WHERE YOU ALREADY ARE? “I feel like we’re in a really good place for durability. I’m actually thinking perhaps it’s the other. You’re gonna have more cautions. You’re gonna have a shorter first half of the race and more caution laps for sure, so we’re kind of thinking a little bit the opposite – how do we push even harder? That’s our job. That’s what we do all the time and more than ever with new teams coming aboard what they need, what their drivers like, and it’s a long season. It won’t take long to figure out what the new format does. We also, something we haven’t talked about yet, we have less practice on Saturdays, so total mileage on the engines is gonna be less for the weekend. That’s something we’re thinking about and talking about and how do we take advantage of that.”
WHAT’S THE BIGGER CONCERN FOR YOU GUYS FROM AN ENGINE STANDPOINT? THE FORMAT CHANGES OR THE LESS AND RULES PACKAGE? “Our job is to do both. I think as far as the aero changes, we just need to make sure our power curve, the torque curve is right and we’re giving the teams what they need, and I think we’ve got a pretty good understanding of that, and I think we’ll work hand-in-hand and get them the right power curves to go win races. The format is probably more concern to me just because it’s unknown. What are we gonna need to be prepared for? What is the race strategy and are we on the right end of that strategy? Bringing that information back here and trying to get ahead of it. You win with advantages and that’s what we’re always looking for, so the pace of the first part of the year is gonna be faster than ever because we need to make sure we’re on top of the rules changes.”
IS THE DAYTONA 500 STILL A RACE UNTO ITSELF? DO YOU PUT MORE EMPHASIS ON THAT ONE? “I’ll just make it really clear. The Daytona 500 is the most important race in the world to me. It goes way back with my family and my dad and my dad now working on that race, and being able to win it early with Davey Allison in 1992 just fueled the fire to try to win as many of them as we can. Obviously, we want to make all of the Ford fans proud of us when we get down there, and the Ford family, so it’s an important race to us and we’re all-in. The only question I think Dave asked me when he was in Daytona for the Rolex was, ‘Are we gonna be good for Daytona?’”
DAVE PERICAK CONTINUED – “From my perspective, all of the races are important. Realizing that you can’t win every one of them, you have to win the big ones, so Daytona is an important one for us, for sure. We just have a special place in our heart for Daytona. We’re very proud of our superspeedway program and I’m looking forward to starting the season there. They’re all important to us, but I think all of us have a bit of a love for Daytona. From a Ford Performance perspective, I wouldn’t mind going back-to-back wins with the GT and NASCAR.”
DOUG YATES – CAN YOU EXPAND ON HOW MUCH WORK WENT INTO BRINGING ON FOUR ADDITIONAL CARS FROM STEWART-HAAS RACING? “First, I want to start by thanking Dave Pericak and Ford Performance for bringing on a championship team such as Stewart-Haas. It’s really an honor to build their engines and we’re looking forward to the challenge. We started as early as we could just working with their engineers and trying to make sure that we were thinking ahead on some of the system things. Obviously, we were still racing against each other last year, so until the season was over we couldn’t really go all-in and understand, so, for us as a company, the hiring process, simple things like adding parking spaces, things that you don’t really think about, but our machine shop, which we have about 40 CNC machines now, have been working six days a week, two 10-hour shifts, so pretty much around the clock there making parts. The shop here, we just have such a dedicated staff of 200 employees at Roush Yates that are really just going all-in to make sure that we’re prepared for the season and that the transition is seamless. But trying to understand their systems, trying to make sure we dot every I and cross every T as far as that is concerned, and coming to some middle ground on how Stewart-Haas was used to operating the engine, and how we are at Ford Performance has been an interesting thing as well. There are things that we did different than they were used to in the past that they liked, and there are things we had to compromise on, so it’s a long season and we’ll continue to work with them to make sure we’re getting everything we can out of the car and the engine, but it has been a lot of work.”
Content courtesy of Ford Performance.