Winning is an Attitude

Winning is an Attitude - according to Felix Sabates

When I worked in NASCAR there was a sign in the engine room (over my shoulder in the photo above). Written by the owner Felix Sabates.

Winning is an Attitude:
  1. Put God first.
  2. Make time each day for reflections, your family, your teammates & long-range thinking.
  3. Don’t over-promise.
  4. Do the little things right – they may become the most important things.
  5. Give others credit. Don’t get big shot/itis.
  6. Always do quality work.
  7. Make everyone proud of the place where you work. Pride is contagious.
  8. Surround yourself with good people and then listen to them.
  9. Encourage creativity.
  10. Encourage teamwork.
  11. Work hard. It is the additional effort that you put into a project that makes the big difference in the end.
  12. When you’re green you’re growing, when you’re ripe you’re dead.


In Search of The Best Combination

In Search of The Best Combination
By Don Terrill (c)

If the winner of the engine masters challenge gave you his exact parts list, could you go out and buy the same parts and match his horsepower? Not likely.

What if he wrote a book telling you exactly how to do it? Nope, you'd more than likely still come up short.

Why? Because identical is not always identical.

I took up the game of golf a few years back and, like any good racer, became immediately obsessed with optimizing my equipment. Specifically the driver. I was amazed how little effort golfers put into tweaking their equipment. The most interesting discovery during testing was finding a 7 yard difference between two identical driver heads.

I've seen the same thing with carburetors and torque converters. Identical is not always identical.

As for finding the best combination...

You can:
  • Get advice from others - Don't reinvent the wheel. Instead, stand on the shoulders of others. Man, I love clich├ęs.
  • Use simulation software - Wisdom is getting the big things right. This is where simulation software shines.
  • Do your own testing - The above methods will get you close, but if you want to get to the top, you'll have to do your own testing.

Tips for Finding the Best Combination:
  • Always be testing - Track testing, dyno testing, heck, even bench testing.
  • Never sell an effective component that is not easily duplicated, like a carburetor or torque converter.
  • Don't modify a known working component, buy another.
  • Not everything makes sense or can be explained. Trust the results.
  • It's not possible to test everything, there are just too many variables. Focus on the important stuff first, like airflow.
  • Intangible variables - Some variables we don't see or even know about. Ask yourself, what am I missing?
  • Some variables don't seem to matter - Any change can make a difference. Don't rule anything out.
  • Some variables don't seem picky - For example, you do a freshen-up on the valve job and lose power.

There may be thousands of ways to make (x) amount of horsepower, but there is only one combination that will make the most and testing is the only way to get there.


Want to send off a snarky email about how wrong I am? Click Here

Flashback: Popular Posts from 2008

Flashback: Popular Posts from 2008
Selected for the number of views

Advanced Engine Tech:

3,4,5 angle valve job, what to blend and what not to blend

Engine Tech:

Valve Spring Truth?
Chamber and Piston
Burnt pistons....what happened?


Solid Fuel Combustion

Solid Fuel Combustion
By Don Terrill (c)

You can find inspiration in the damnedest places.

Years back the wife and I spent the summer going to different types of racing -- from Human Powered Vehicle (HPV) racing to the Soap Box Derby. At every event I saw something that could be applied to auto racing. For example at the Soap Box Derby it was all about frictional/aerodynamic drag and how they drove the course. Even though the lanes are straight, they weren't perfectly flat and the racers figured out how to take advantage. Do auto racers look at these things? Yes, but at nowhere near the focus of Soap Box racers.

Sometimes inspiration can even be found outside of racing. Last fall we installed a wood stove in our house. Given I was a wood stove newbie, you'd guess that I looked at the stove directions or asked for advice. Nope, I just jumped right in, figuring it was a simple task -- Just throw in some newspaper, kindling, firewood and light a match.

At first I thought I only needed to worry about the amount of fuel (wood) and inlet air. Well, I quickly learned the key to a great fire is building heat in the firebox -- getting the cast iron hot. At this point combustion becomes very easy and efficient. Too much inlet air during warmup has a real cooling effect. Yes, of course air and fuel are important, but everything becomes easier when the "combustion chamber" is hot.

How to apply this to racing engines:
  • Good Warmup - A thermostat and the ability to add load to the engine will quicken this process.  
  • Block Filler (Grout) - Only applicable for short term racing like drag racing. Most people think this helps performance because it stabilizes the cylinder walls, Nope, it's because it creates the condition where you can have a hotter lower engine and cooler upper engine at the same time.
  • Less Combustion Chamber Surface Area - A flat top piston and a small combustion chamber will have less heat transfer than a large dome and large combustion chamber.
  • Hot oil - So the oil doesn't overly cool the bottom of the piston and cylinder wall.
Of course there's a downside to building all this heat, and that is the probability of adding heat to the air/fuel mixture.

How to keep the inlet air cool:
  • Hood Scoop or Cowl - If you're looking for max power, never pull hot under hood air unless forced by rules.
  • Block Exhaust System Heat - We don't want heat from the headers radiating to the intake manifold. Consider header coatings and wraps or maybe just a simple sheet metal baffle to block/deflect the heat.
  • Heat Resistant/Dispersing Intake Manifold - An aluminum manifold with an air gap design is best.  Also consider an oil splash pan under the Intake.
  • Ice Down the Intake Manifold - Since it only creates a short term benefit, it's perfect for qualifying laps or drag racing.
Other Ideas:
  • Strategically placed temperature sensors - Just knowing the temp of the coolant at the front of the manifold is not enough if you're going to push the limits of this concept.
  • More Intake Manifold surface area - The easiest way would be to grind/mill grooves on the outside of the Intake, but you could also add fins. Think air cooled engines.
The main point I want you to take away from this article is the advantages of creating a wider gap between upper and lower engine temps.

As you go through your day, look around, there are lessons everywhere.

Want to learn from some of the smartest in the racing industry? Become a member of


Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed...

Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed...
By Don Terrill (c)

I've talked in the past about changing our thinking from making incremental improvements to quantum leaps.

What area will give us the biggest payoff for a quantum leap?

HP = Torque * RPM / 5252

This simple formula shows us where we need to look for more Horsepower. We need to (a) increase both Torque and RPM or to (b) increase either of them without decreasing the other.

So you say to yourself, "Okay, I'll just change gears and spin the motor higher." One problem: After the Peak Torque RPM it's all down hill for Torque. Then how do we move the Peak Torque RPM up and/or keep Torque from falling off as much after the peak?

Here's my definition of Peak Torque RPM: it's the highest RPM where the engine can feed itself effectively.

So it's clear, we need an intake system that can feed the engine a larger air/fuel mix and an exhaust system able to clear the increased output of combusted gas.

Now, you hear warnings all the time about making intake/exhaust ports too big, but if the goal is to move the operating RPM range of the engine up, this is exactly what the engine needs -- bigger ports with more flow.

If you're serious about making real increases in horsepower, your number one priority has to ALWAYS be moving the RPM range up.

Of course, with this extra RPM you're going to have to find components able to handle the increased load or you're going to have to accept higher failure rates.

Now I ask you, will this be another year where you make a small incremental improvement or will you make the leap?

Extra points for those who know the movie that made the phrase "ludicrous speed" famous.

Want to send off a nasty email about how wrong I am? Well, first read this and then write your own article.