Steering feel: In all probability 90% of oval track racers don’t know how to acquire it

By Archie Bosman–  Kennesaw, GA: Using the correct flow valve: Electric steering in mass-produced road cars is now widespread. It is a little like ethanol in our fuel: you’ll be hard pressed to find an enthusiast who favors it yet we are stuck with it. But actually we aren’t. Hydraulic power steering systems that provide superior feel are still readily available to the racer. However, it is not widely known that steering pumps can be tuned for more feel or alternatively for more assistance. Optimizing feel to the racer’s steering is a bewildering task for most of us. But KRC Power Steering accomplished it by introducing a range of replaceable flow control valves for their hydraulic steering pumps. The flow control valves, nine in number, perform a function similar to that of jets in a carburetor. In varying their flow from 4 to 12 liters per minute, approximately one to three gallons, the largest orifice provides maximum steering assistance while the smallest provides maximum steering feel. Though the standard KRC pump flows 8 liters per minute, by using flow control valves with larger orifices, those marked B, C, D, or E, the flow rate can be increased to 12 liters per minute (3.17gals) in one-liter increments. The higher letter indicates greater hydraulic assistance, although less feel. In contrast, flow valves marked with numbers 4, 5, 6, and 7 provide less assistance; the lower the number, the greater the feel but the less assistance. Momentary loss of power or “pump catch” So how do you achieve optimum steering feel? According to KRC’s Ken Roper you reduce the size of flow... read more

Oil Leaks, Tuning Issues, and Proper Crankcase Ventilation

By Gordon Young: Is improper control of blow-by gases in your crankcase causing problems in your engine?  If any of these questions below sound familiar, then read on. “Why does my engine leak oil?  I took care when fitting the gaskets and seals.” “Why do my valve covers persistently display oil around the breathers?” “Why does my car smell oily?” “Why can’t I perfect my idle tuning?” Imagine a small tailpipe constantly pumping combustion byproducts into your engine’s crankcase.  In effect, this is what is happening when your engine is running.  Blow-by gases entering the crankcase by leaking past the pistons and rings during the combustion process need proper evacuation.  If left unchecked, they cause numerous side effects, inducing engine problems that may seem unrelated. Side effect #1:  Crankcase pressure (“My engine leaks oil”) The job of the Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) system is to remove blow-by gasses from the crankcase by vacuum and recirculate them via the intake manifold to be burned in the engine.  If the engine is producing blow-by gases faster than the PCV system can dispose of them, an increasing surplus becomes trapped in the crankcase, causing excess pressure and, inevitably,  oil leaks.  Even the most carefully sealed gaskets leak when confronted by rising internal crankcase pressure. A properly functioning PCV system will expel the gases from the crankcase faster than the engine produces them.  In addition, the low-level vacuum draws in fresh air to the crankcase from the crankcase breather. In 99% of normal driving conditions, this is how a properly functioning PCV system works. Obviously, the gasket’s job is made easier when the crankcase... read more

Clarifying piston balancing with a few words from Kaase

By Titus Bloom: “It’s hard for me to be persuaded on the merits of piston balancing,” said a leading oval track engine builder recently. “While operating, the piston is being thrust up against one side of the cylinder wall,” he continued, “wedged in one direction on the even bank and in the opposite direction on the uneven bank. Besides, there’s the action of the connecting rods, their weights, their lengths and where they’re connected to the piston. Then, you might consider combustion forces, and piston domes being assaulted by wedging forces—to say nothing of the degree of tumult in the crankcase. I think you’re splitting hairs,” he argued convincingly. “Fine piston balance is neither here nor there.” But from a piston maker’s approach, there are two types of balancing. First, the conventional balance is used to reduce the prospect of significant piston weight variation in large-bore engines. The objective is to maintain bearing loads within the design range, that is, main bearing loads, as they are the focus of engine crank balancing and also of vibration levels. In addition, crank pin and piston pin loads must also be held within their respective design loads. So, in truth, these efforts are more focused on durability than performance. This is why some engine builders see little value in it. However, certain engines will be more sensitive to piston weight variation than others, so it can be important for engines where bearing capacity or vibration levels are reaching their upper limits. The second type of piston balancing is embraced by those engineers ardently seeking any slight advantage and involves manipulating the mass distribution of... read more

Joe Hornick: The man who mastered consultancy in racing

By Bertie S. Brown: At the lower rear corner of the rear wing of 2017 Funny Car National Champion, Robert Hight, a decal displays three letters: JHE, an abbreviation of Joe Hornick Enterprises. Hight won this year’s national championship at Pomona, Calif., and JHE, based in Mooresville, North Carolina, assisted them with technical know-how throughout the year. Since the beginning of this century, Hornick has been the hidden hand in a long series of racing successes. His business model is entirely his own: he offers his company’s complete services to just one racer in each category. Their complete service is an interesting proposition. JHE uses a test pool that serves to advance research and development in race engines with similar characteristics. Let’s say they have four customers running blown alcohol engines in four different racing categories—a blown alcohol pulling tractor, Pro Mod, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car. In the test pool program, each engine runs different components or systems and, in so doing, each race team shares a quarter of the R&D costs and receives the cumulative results from all four. Additionally, they have a base of consulting customers like John Force Racing or Earnhardt Childress Racing. They also have a race engine-builder base. “If an engine builder is an existing valve spring customer,” says Hornick, “I’ll help them with any engine problem at no cost. That’s part of the service we provide as a spring supplier, because we have no consulting customers that compete against our valve spring customers.” “When first starting out and working long hours,” recalls Ernie Elliott, renowned NASCAR race engine tuner,... read more

Adding Boost? Compression, cams, and installation headaches.

By Fergus Ogilvy: The two most common uncertainties about the prospects of supercharging are fitment and engine tune. Will the supercharger fit under the hood and will it operate with all its accessories: alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioning compressor? The second relates to tuning in general and the preferred compression ratio and camshaft specification in particular. For the most part, a supercharger that doesn’t fit under the hood is undesirable in most quarters. So, woe betides the manufacturer that requires a hood hole to accommodate it, for he will most likely perish in obscurity. Owners desperately seeking attention may relish the thought of a monstrous supercharger towering above, but for the average Muscle car owner, hardly. With regard to the configuration of alternators, steering pumps and compressors, the approach taken by most manufacturers is determined by first identifying the vehicle. These are briefly explored below under the headings Chevrolet or Chrysler or Ford. Select the one that is relevant. Installations Chevrolet: Considering TorqStorm Superchargers, their units for small-block Chevrolets are available in right- or left-hand options, whatever works best. Better still, to avoid unknown complications, they provide a supercharger option that includes all accessories. Similar options are available for Chevrolet big-blocks. Of the most sought-after kits, it is the LS model that raises most questions. These engines (4.8L, 5.3L, and 6.0L) are favored because of their notable power output and value for money; truck engines are inexpensive. But the supercharger maker must be notified that the engine is, in fact, from a truck as their dimensions differ. TorqStorm’s LS truck supercharger kit is designed to operate with... read more

Vintage class winner: EMC attracts unexpected 600,000 views

By Alfie Bilk: Jon Kaase has won this year’s Amsoil Engine Masters Challenge Vintage class with a 473ci 1958 MEL (Mercury-Edsel-Lincoln) engine. Exploring the classic turf in distinctive fashion, it was not the first time Kaase had arrived with an unorthodox relic endowed with bewildering technology. Held annually in early October at the University of Northwestern Ohio, his entry produced 770hp with torque never less than 630lb-ft during the entire scored rpm range of 3,700-6,200rpm. The engine’s peak torque was recorded at 715lb-ft. Earning a check in the sum of $13,700, it was Kaase’s seventh victory at the prestigious affair, which coincided a few days before his sixty-fifth birthday. This year’s Vintage rules specified factory cast iron cylinder heads and prohibited welding or the application of epoxy to the ports. Also, it was stipulated that the engine block must retain its original bore spacing and original block deck angle. A further constraint for Kaase was the fact that he had to return the MEL block to its owner, Royce Brechler, in a functioning condition. The origins that preceded the workings of a bright mind MEL engines had wedge-shaped combustion chambers formed between a flat cylinder head surface and an angle-milled block deck angle that was ten degrees off square with the bore axis. The piston crown determined the compression ratio and combustion chamber shape—a concept similar to Chevrolet’s 409, a design also introduced originally in 1958. Yet to each cylinder head deck, Kaase added four slugs of round bronze bar stock by counter-boring the heads to accept them. Measuring 4.600in diameter and 1.250in tall and protruding downwards, each set... read more

How camshaft grinds go awry:

Do not stray beyond the confines of the hard rim – By Titus Bloom:   Two months ago, I confronted an industry friend, Jack McInnis, about Erson, asking about their progress. He told me they always seem busy.  How so I wondered. They don’t rely much on publicizing their efforts. It’s managed by Russ Yoder, he told me. A former race engine builder, Yoder facilitated a useful custom cam grinding service that rapidly blossomed. This, incidentally, is in addition to their shelf-stock performance cams enterprise. But nothing blossoms rapidly without a competitive edge. What spurred development and growth in their custom cam sector; how was this accomplished? Raw, un-ground camshafts have a case-hardened rim on each lobe that penetrates this working surface by 0.200in to 0.250in. When finish-ground, the case-hardened surfaces must achieve a minimum depth of 0.100in. If less, the lobe will be impaired and likely fail. But the camshaft grinder has around 0.150in to work with, so where’s the problem? Even if the cam was originally designed with, say, a 106-degree lobe separation angle (LSA) but then altered to 105 degrees wouldn’t it still retain sufficient case hardening around its perimeter? To determine valve timing, camshaft lobes—intake or exhaust or both–can be advanced or retarded, which is frequently the case as race engineers seek an advantage. Consequently, whatever the lobe placement, they have to be accommodated within the real estate available—that is, within the case-hardened rim. If trouble strikes how is it noticeable and how soon? It’s noticeable after a few runs. The first tangible evidence is excessive valve lash. Commonly, a lobe ramp will yield to... read more

What is core shift and why is it detrimental?

How a clever concept remedied misalignment in competition engine blocks – By Archie Bosman: No other engine deficiency would have irritated racers, particularly professional drag racers of the last century, like core shift. A bitter source of anguish, they would describe it in a way not easily forgotten. “We used mostly Hemi blocks,” commented “Mongoose” McEwen. “Often we would test fifteen-to-twenty blocks before finding one with consistent cylinder wall thickness. Keith Black had a method of measuring them, which typically demonstrated core-shift variations from around 0.090in or 0.100in to 0.040in. Consequently, if we raced those engines, the severity of the internal pressures usually split the cylinder walls.” As you can guess, the impediment of core shift didn’t debilitate just the racing Hemi; Funny Car racer “Wild Wilfred” Boutilier’s reject ratio with big-block Chevrolets was similar. So there they were pencil and pad in hand, slavishly enumerating cylinder wall thicknesses, one engine block at a time. The term core shift relates to the deviation of a foundry core during the casting process. That is to say, the core moves from its original position, perhaps as a result of inaccuracies in the machining process or the setting of the mold, and leads to alignment problems when the mold is closed. Mold temperatures or pressure differentials on opposing mold walls also cause deflections of the cores. Whatever the cause, the result is evidenced by undesirable variations in wall thickness, which affects the final shape and, thus, the mechanical performance of the part. The Remedy: The problem has now been resolved by substituting multiple conventional foundry segmented cores with a one-piece major core.... read more

To intercool or not to intercool?

But first an amusing, brief story involving a big-block Chevrolet, an intercooler, and freon. By Sam Logan “I’m no authority on intercoolers,” admits performance carburetor specialist Dale Cubic of CFM, “but I do recall a memorable moment five years ago that involved one. Nothing too scientific,” he adds; nonetheless, it seemed an anecdote worth telling. The noted carburetor specialist had visited an engine builder’s shop with a carburetor for a 1600hp 565ci supercharged big-block Chevrolet. The engine was already installed on the dyno and suspended above it an intercooler. Unsurprisingly, with the intercooler connected, the engine improved by 50–80hp. But then the engine builder unexpectedly produced a can of freon, purchased from a local parts store, and reached up and sprayed some of its contents over and around the intercooler. He then hastened to the dyno room and made a pull. “It gained a further 40hp! Spraying freon on that intercooler was like feeding it with nitrous oxide,” remembers Cubic. But the mischief didn’t end there, to further mark the occasion it blew the plumbing off the supercharger! The engine was powered by a small Dominator and a Stage II ProCharger and the freon had condensed the charge sufficiently to pack in more air than anticipated. Intercool or not to intercool? Racers, by instinct, explore every avenue that might lead them to more power. They know that the introduction of compressed air to the cylinders generates heat and excessive heat provokes early detonation. The common solution for expelling excessive heat is to install an intercooler. And similarly with designers of modern turbochargers, who believe that no serious person would... read more