Rule change in works for Vegas

Updated: March 4, 2009, 12:56 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- NASCAR plans to adjust the gear ratios rule for Las Vegas next season to prevent the engine failures that plagued numerous Sprint Cup teams last weekend.

Roush Fenway Racing lost three engines on Sunday, equaling the number of engines it lost all of last season. Doug Yates, who oversees the Roush-Yates engine program, said the situation could have been avoided had there been a more conservative gear ratio that would have reduced rpms that were much higher than expected with the new left-side tires and improved horsepower.

He said weather conditions -- only 15 percent humidity -- also may have contributed to the failures.

"With all that stacked against us, we just weren't ready for what we expected,'' Yates said. "I talked to the NASCAR guys after the race and they said they probably will go back and evaluate the gear ratios. That particular race we were a lot above where we want these engines to be running.''

Yates said several of the Roush and Yates cars reached 9800 rpms on the front stretch. That's about 400 over where he and NASCAR would like it to be.

"We're seeing 300 in the data we collect,'' Cup series director John Darby said. "All things staying the same -- the racetrack and the cars and the new tire -- we'll make a change in gear ratio.''

Yates commended the governing body for such a quick response.

"They don't want us to, especially in these times, spend more money to make engines turn 10,000 rpms,'' he said. "That's not the intention of the gear rule.''

Yates agreed with Lee White, the president of Toyota Racing Development, that the engine failures that Ford experienced in the race were different than what Toyota faced in practice and qualifying. Those problems were fixed by using thicker lubricants and making a small mechanical adjustment.

But he agreed all teams are pushing limits on the engines, and that these problems likely would have occurred had there not been a ban on testing.

"I'm not going to blame not testing or NASCAR,'' he said. "At the end of the day if we run in those type of conditions again it's our job to make the engines stronger and more durable. I didn't anticipate those type of things.

"A lot of days we're running 100 rpm away from something bad happening. That race just put us over the edge.'' Yates said all three Roush engine failures were different. Matt Kenseth had a piston problem in the first five laps, David Ragan lost a valve spring before the 100-lap mark and Carl Edwards lost a rod bearing on the last lap.

"NASCAR gives us a choice of two gears,'' Yates said. "That was our decision not to run the taller of the two gears. We had a choice to do something different there and we didn't. In hindsight, it's clear we should have.''

Yates doesn't expect the high rpm rate to be a factor this week at Atlanta because the tires will fall off faster and keep speeds slower. That doesn't mean he's not a bit anxious.

"We're definitely going to have to get our confidence back,'' Yates said. "We're going to approach this weekend pretty carefully. We just need to make sure we're on top of things with jetting and timing. If we see something out of bounds we need to make sure we make a good choice.

"Our No. 1 job is to make these things reliable. What happened at Vegas has made this a very tough week.''

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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