Dave Arce has moments when he sounds like the television pitchman who pops up on Southern California channels urging people to enroll in a trade school and asks “Why are you making it complicated? It’s easy.”
Arce has a similar question. He believes fuel injection will change Saturday night short track racing for the better, and forever, and he’s a little disappointed that there hasn’t been a more positive response to the idea of using it in the Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart.
Arce talked about it in January, at the drivers meeting before the awards banquet. The veteran racer and engine builder from Santee, California, outlined the advantages fuel injection has over a carburetor, how the self-contained unit can reduce the cost of racing and make life easier by automatically tuning the engine, and enthusiasm was not one of the responses.
Arce told his peers he wanted to spend this season testing an injection unit that could make the series a model for others around the country and enthusiasm still was hard to find. But there wasn’t any strong opposition, either, and Arce was delighted when series officials committed to “an on-going program to test and educate our racers on fuel injection.”
That program will reach a new level at Saturday night’s (May 17) Lucas Oil Products 75 presented by BILSTEIN Shocks at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That’s where Arce will make series history by racing with a fuel-injected Chevrolet engine.
He has used it during practice at each of the three races this season and been encouraged by the results because “it frees up some other time. It’s (the injection unit) a self-tuner, so if I go from San Diego to Utah, I can make 10 or 15 laps and it automatically plugs in the numbers so it’s tuned properly and you’re done. You can work on your chassis or spend time with the fans.”
He said despite the successful tests, however, he is “scared, excited, happy and everything else” about what might happen during the fourth of this season’s 10 races.
“We’ve got quite a bit of time on it, but running it for 10 or 15 laps at a time in practice is not the same as going through a full race scenario. I’m not scared in a bad way, it’s just a little un-nerving. I want to have a really good presentation for Comp Cams (the Tennessee company that makes the injection unit).”
Series promoter Greg Scheidecker wants a good presentation, too, but for a different reason. He said the object of the lengthy test is to familiarize everyone with the unit and that after Arce debuts it the plan is to let two or three other drivers use it for one of the race weekends before the season finale in Las Vegas Nov. 22. No one will use it for that race.
“We’ll collect all the data and look at it,” Scheidecker said, “and after the season we’ll make a decision on whether it’s something we want to make available to our race teams or not. If we do it will be an option for them. It will never, ever become mandatory.”
Arce thinks the decision is an easy one. He believes fuel injection is the only viable future for short track racing, especially given the likelihood that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eventually will demand changes in the leaded fuels and other lubricants used in auto racing, which is the last bastion for carburetors. All passenger cars and trucks have used fuel injection for about 30 years.
He cites the need to control costs at all levels of motor sports and said the use of unleaded pump gas coupled with the benefits of fuel injection will trim the Lucas Oil Modified teams costs by at least 20 percent.
Arce said fuel injection won’t give anyone an advantage in horsepower output or speed, either, because all engines used in the series are close in size and “an engine is an air pump. It only brings in so much and it only puts out so much.
“The injection system is just fuel management, so it’s not going to change the horsepower. It’s going to change the efficiency and the control on how it (fuel) is being burned so you don’t burn as much fuel and it burns it properly.
“That’s basically going to give us less maintenance on our engines overall. There won’t be that problem where a guy mistunes his engine and burns a piston. This thing is going to take care of it for you. We’re just trying to make everything more efficient.”
The negative, at least initially, is that the fuel injection unit is going to cost about $2,000. But Arce said even that is relative because most teams already are spending that much or more for carburetors they can change when necessary.
He’d like to make those carburetors as obsolete in short track racing as they are in the family cars everyone drives to the tracks. But there’s at least one key question that needs to be answered before that happens.
“I want to find out if this thing is truly going to work,” Arce said. “They tell me it is, but I need to test it in our environment to see what its capabilities truly are and see the response.
“Carburetors are good. They’re just not efficient and they’re a lot of trouble. But if we can get this thing to work, we’re in. Once we get control of it we’re never going to look back.”
The Lucas Oil Modified Series presented by LoanMart is supported by a potent marketing concept known as “Team Lucas” whose members include General Tire, GEICO, E3 Spark Plugs, Optima Batteries, Ole Smoky Moonshine, iON Cameras, Speedco Truck Lube and Tire, BILSTEIN Shocks, LoanMart and SuperClean.
Additional sponsorship is provided by Lucas Oil Products, Protect the Harvest, MAVTV American Real, Hoosier Tire West, Sunoco Race Fuels, K&N Filters, Aero Racing Wheels, ASI Racewear, Bosch, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Frank’s Radios, Racing Plus and DJ Safety.