Author: Morgan, Larry
Date published: February 17, 2012
We really started preparing for this season last year. We had a couple of different engines that we wanted to work on, and we basically thrashed on them all winter.
We absolutely did not touch my race motor, and I think we had three other engines that we did not touch. We worked on one quite a bit, and that's the one we ran in the car that Buddy Perkinson drove in testing in Bradenton, Fla., and went 6.49. We spent a lot of time on that thing.
We built a new engine the week before Pomona, and it turned out pretty well. We're pretty happy with what we did over the winter. Now, it's adapting everything to the track; that's going to be the big thing. Everybody has the same problem. It's not just me, it's every team out there and in almost every class. You get something new, and you've got to make that fit the track.
Buddy didn't run in Pomona. He's working on some deals, and he's not sure when he's going to race. I figure by Gainesville he'll have had enough of watching.
I've got four engines with me, so I should be OK for two races. That's sort of standard procedure, a primary and a backup engine for each race. That's how I like to have it, but it doesn't always happen that way.
Now, we've got two engines back at the shop that we're working on while the truck is heading to Phoenix. If one turns out real well, we'll send that out to the racetrack, but for the most part, what we've got is what we're going to start out with, and I'm real happy with those engines. The one that Buddy ran a 6.49 with is a spare, and it could be the best engine I've got.
When I was in Florida, I didn't make all that good of a run. I thought there was a couple of hundredths left in every run I made down there. That would've put us at 6.47, and that would've been pretty fast at that time, but everything was so good down there - the air, the track, everything. When you go to Bradenton to test, those guys are fabulous with the track. My golf cart would've run in the sixes down there. That's how good it is. They do an incredible job.
That's how you want it when you're trying to test an engine. There, and Martin, Mich., do a fabulous job; they stay on the track all day. A lot of guys will rent you a track, drag the track a couple of times, and that's it. Well, the guys who are testing are trying to find things in the car and the engine, and if the track's not the same, all you're doing is chasing the track, and that's not a good thing. You won't know if you made any gains or not. That's what makes the beginning of the season a crapshoot. It's not a problem, it's just the way it is. It's pretty much always been that way.
Richie Stevens drove Allen Johnson's car in Bradenton, and they unloaded early in the morning and went 6.48. We unloaded - not touched from last year - and went 6.51, which is probably where I should've been for the first pass. The air got a lot worse, he ran a .508, and I came right behind him and ran a .500 in the car I'm racing now. I had not touched that car. All we did was unload it, make sure all the water was out of it, and took it to a show in Indianapolis, where it sat in the lobby of the convention center for three days. That's the only time it ever left the shop. The motor was never out of it until I got done testing in Bradenton.
People think I picked up. Well, I didn't. We did bolt on some things that picked the car up, but then we loaded up that car and started working on the car that Buddy ran. It all turned out good. Our job is to make more power and gains, and that's what we're trying to do. The only thing different with testing is that it's much costlier. It's so ridiculously expensive to test because of the valvetrain parts. It's insane, but that's part of what we do. In order to pick the power up, you have to turn the engines harder, and it costs a lot more money. When you turn these things more than 10,000 rpm, it eats parts up.
We're trying to control the valvetrain so it's not so expensive to run, but so far we haven't found anything to fix that - except come up with more money. A few years ago, I spent $100,000 on valve springs during the season. I'm embarrassed to say that, but that's what it took. If you're a good team with an R&D program and don't do a lot of testing, you'll probably spend $40,000 minimum on valve springs. That's just how it is. If you go into a Pro Stock trailer, the most parts you'll find are valvetrain parts because that's the most sensitive area. You're turning a lot of rpm, you're raising the cam, and it just costs a lot of money.
Not many guys out there are racing Fords, so I don't get the luxury of having extra guys out there leasing engines. If I did, I can tell you this much: I don't know if I would do better; I'd just spend more money. That could be the good part of not having a lot of money to throw at it. I can work better at what I've got and focus on one thing. That's what I'm looking for this year, to focus on my own program. I'm going to concentrate on doing what I can do best, and that's race the car. ND
Larry Morgan is the driver of the Lucas Oil Ford Mustang Pro Stocker.