Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Current lack of power prompts tryout
By David Newton
CONCORD, N.C. -- Richard Petty Motorsports plans to switch to the new Dodge engine in time for the May 31 race at Dover, vice president of race operations Robbie Loomis said Tuesday.
Loomis said only one of the organization's four drivers likely will use the R6P8 that the other Dodge organization, Penske Racing, has used all season. A decision on which driver will use it will be made in the upcoming weeks.
Kasey Kahne could get the nod if the organization believes the engine will help get him back into the top 12 to qualify for the Chase. RPM's marquee driver is 17th in points after Saturday night's 29th-place finish at Richmond.
If not Kahne, then A.J. Allmendinger (28th), Elliott Sadler (29th) or Reed Sorenson (22nd) will get the engine.
"We talked about using it for the All-Star race or maybe the [Coca-Cola 600]," Loomis said of the upcoming races at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "It's just risk versus reward. We were not comfortable bringing it out in the 600."
Loomis said RPM is about a month behind the planned schedule to introduce the engine. He said the process was slowed when the organization committed to Allmendinger beyond the first five races, noting that engineers who might have spent time on the R6P8 had to build engines for an additional car.
Loomis said success that Penske Racing has had with the engine -- Kurt Busch is second in points with a victory, and Sam Hornish Jr. is coming off two top 10s in the past three races -- did not speed up the process.
But he said the lack of horsepower with the old engine has been obvious, particularly at Talladega Superspeedway, where RPM's top driver qualified 35th.
Last weekend at Richmond, where horsepower is less of a factor than at Talladega, no RPM car finished better than 20th, while two of the Penske Racing cars finished in the top 13.
Penske began using the new engine on a part-time basis toward the end of last season and has been using it in all three of its cars this season without one failure. Petty officials said before the season they were taking a more conservative approach in part to save money with so many of the old engines already built.
"In these tough times we've got to look at it and make certain going in the direction of the R6P8 is going to be both a performance advantage and be fiscally responsible," Mark McArdle, RPM's vice president for competition, said before the season. "We've got an inventory in excess of 110 R5P7s. To build all new R6P8s is certainly a capital investment."
Loomis reminded that the merger between Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports into RPM didn't occur until January, and that the transition also slowed development of the new engine.
"Anytime you come up with something new, the challenges are when to introduce it," he said. "We've gained enough confidence and seen hopefully the horsepower advantage over where we're at to say, 'OK, now we're there.' "
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.