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Head Games Over for Stock Cars

August 23, 2000|DARIN ESPER

A long-standing philosophy in stock car racing has been, "It's only cheating if you get caught," and for approximately 10 years, there has been confusion among NASCAR Southwestern Region super late model racers about what is considered cheating when the subject is cylinder heads.

Chris Morgan, competition director of Irwindale Speedway, hopes to end the confusion by issuing new cylinder head specifications effective beginning Saturday.

Super late model class racers will be able to purchase aluminum cylinder heads from Brodix that have been designed specifically to meet Irwindale's technical specifications. Formerly, the racers were allowed to use stock cast iron heads with no modifications.

Morgan was prompted to make the change after disqualifying six drivers for using illegally modified heads.

"Our first three [post-race] tear-downs, we were averaging 60% failure," Morgan said. "I think it's for a variety of factors. Ever since the rules were written at Saugus Speedway about 10 years ago, there has been confusion over the interpretation."

According to Morgan, some drivers were spending $6,000 to $7,000 to have cylinder heads modified, with part of the expense arising from efforts to hide illegal work.

The new heads cost about $800 for the bare castings, and Morgan estimates drivers can expect to spend in the neighborhood of $1,500 to $2,000 on the changeover. Competitors who choose to continue using the stock cast iron heads will receive a 50-pound weight advantage.

According to Morgan, several competitors purchased heads were believed to be in compliance, only to find out during inspections they were illegally modified.

"The suggestion for this came from the drivers," Morgan said. "The disturbing thing is that I had a lot of competitors calling me and saying that no engine builder could assure them that their heads would be legal. I can assure every competitor that they can buy these heads out of the box and be legal."

According to Morgan, the new heads will outperform the so-called "cheater heads." Drivers can expect an increase of approximately 30-40 horsepower from the new heads, which should translate to faster lap times.

"They are a lot more efficient," Morgan said. "It flows enough air to take away the temptation to enhance them illegally."

The manufacturing process used for the new heads is computer controlled to ensure each pair has identical dimensions. Morgan expects the result to be closer competition.

"This assures competitors that not only can they buy something legal and run something legal, but that the guy next to them is running something legal," Morgan said.


Bryan Herta of Valencia will defend his consecutive championships in the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca, Sept. 10, but not in a car owned by Dale Coyne.

"I think people will be surprised," Herta said of the deal, which involves an existing team entering an additional car for Herta rather than having him substitute for an injured driver.

Herta expects the announcement to be made within a week.

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