Trouble with Toyota? Honda looking?

UPDATE #3 The rumors of an earlier than expected entry by Toyota into the Nextel Cup Series appear to be unfounded. There had been speculation that Toyota already had built and tested cars, but no one seems to have seen the car. Most insiders say Toyota, which competes in the Craftsman Truck Series, won't move up before 2007. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06/06/05 The latest engine proposal on NASCAR's desk is from car owner/ engine man Robert Yates, who has proposed to NASCAR president Mike Helton cutting 75 horsepower from the present 800-horsepower engines by going to a shorter-stroke engine.

When NASCAR first proposed its engine of the future in December, the goal was to put all the manufacturers back in a box by adding a number of technical specifications and to cut engine size from 358 cubic inches to 325 cubic inches, to chop about 100 horsepower.

NASCAR has had four major meetings with Ford, General Motors, Dodge and Toyota officials since December about the planned new engine, and the plans appeared to be moving slowly but smoothly ahead. Honda, though, has not been involved in any of the talks.

Now, however, NASCAR has abruptly changed tack, after listening to car owners' complaints about the expense of both the engine change and a major future body change at the same time.

"The engine of the future was NASCAR's idea," GM engine specialist Jim Covey said. "When Toyota came in (four years ago), NASCAR felt it had things under control … but a few things got by them. So NASCAR said 'We've got to have this box for when Toyota might come to Cup.

"NASCAR first wanted it for 2007. Then they pushed it back to 2008 when Ford said it didn't think it could finish the project before then. But now with the car of the future coming too, some of the car owners it appears want it pushed back further.

"But will the engine of the future now be 2009 or 2010, and can we live with what we've got through 2010? "When you ask NASCAR about the engine of the future right now, they say they don't know. Winston Salem Journal

06/06/05 NASCAR's controversial engine of the future suddenly appears all but dead, according to engine builders and car owners, after the latest round of meetings between NASCAR executives and a few Nextel Cup team owners. However, that would lock in the current Toyota and Dodge engine designs as still technically superior to the present Ford and Chevrolet engines. And it would leave Honda – widely expected to make a run into NASCAR racing – with a clean sheet of paper to design its own new NASCAR V-8, which rivals worry would be even better than any engine in the sport right now. NASCAR's engine of the future was to have debuted at California in February 2007. Now it has been pushed back to 2009 or 2010. Add to that, word that NASCAR is apparently working with Honda on an engine development operation for the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville [NC], and it's easy to see why the NASCAR garage here has been in such turmoil the past 48 hours. On the engine front, Ford's Jack Roush says that Toyota has the best engine design in the sport at the moment and Dodge has the second-best. GM officials agree, which is one reason that GM has been promoting NASCAR's proposed new engine. Ford's Roush, however, says that such a new engine would be very expensive, though he has reluctantly hired engine designers for the project. Winston Salem Journal 06/05/05 There are questions being raised about Toyota's commitment to a Busch series effort next season, and indications of a possible rift between NASCAR and the Japanese car maker about engine issues related to NASCAR's proposed engine of the future. NASCAR's meetings with the sport's four car makers about specifications for the engine of the future, tentatively designed to roll out in 2007, have been taking place since December. The Toyota engine, according to its rivals, has a technical edge in several respects, and the engine of the future project was in part designed to put all four car makers back on equal technical footing. The NASCAR-Toyota debate comes as word breaks that NASCAR and Honda are reported to be in talks for an engine program of some sort, still undefined, but apparently tied in with NASCAR's technical institute in Mooresville. Winston Salem Journal [Editor's Note: Honda and Toyota are quickly going to find out that they can't push their weight around in NASCAR like they do in the IRL and F1 and like they did in CART and IMSA before that. NASCAR's goal with its next generation engine is for it to be pretty much a spec engine just like the car bodies, so no one has an unfair advantage. Perhaps this will be enough for Toyota and Honda to rethink NASCAR, roll out their 2.65 L CART turbo engines, detune them to 1,200 mile units like Cosworth did, get Ilmor involved again (see Penske buying part of Ilmor rumor), get the IRL and Champ Car back together, and return the sport of IndyCar racing to what it once was when they all competed together in CART and ratings were much closer to NASCAR. Hopefully this time though, the new IndyCar series will be better managed than CART. If you think about the Honda and Toyota image, NASCAR is really not a good fit, but it's hard to turn their backs on its popularity.]

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