Racing Relations: Do NASCAR Teams Benefit From The Products They Endorse?
During a recent trip to Richard Childress Racing in North Carolina, we learned of some new technology, how the job gets done, and the actual benefits included in the big dollar endorsements. Many people wonder if teams actually use the products in which they endorse week in and week out. Now some answers are simple. You can be sure Clint Bowyer (car #07) does not hit a bottle of Jack Daniels before strapping in for a 500-miler. And it's doubtful that the car will fire with a tank full of JD.
In October of 2006, Shell Oil Company announced its return to NASCAR with a multi-year sponsorship of Richard Childress Racing (RCR). Shell and Pennzoil brands are prominently displayed on the #29 car driven by Kevin Harvick during the '07 NASCAR Nextel Cup series. Shell will also be the associate sponsor of the remaining RCR teams, including Jeff Burton (car #31) and Clint Bowyer (car #07).
Shell lubricant brands include Pennzoil, Quaker State and Rotella T. All of these brands have been active in NASCAR for many decades with teams such as DEI, Roush Racing and Hendrick Motorsports.
During a recent visit to RCR, we had a brief discussion with Mark D. Ferner, Principal Technologist and Team Leader of Shell Global Solutions, and Rick Mann, Chief Engine Builder at RCR.
According to Mark, "All of the research and development at Shell takes place in its Houston, Texas, facility. Special synthetic formulations are blended specifically for RCR according to feedback from the team on areas of concern. Main components within the blend include wear and friction modifiers. Formulations can be changed and ready within one week. RCR currently uses a synthetic blend containing 75-80 percent base stock."
We asked Mark about adaptive molecules and he replied, "Adaptive molecules are viscosity index improvers, which help prevent viscosity breakdown," he said. "It's the spaghetti theory: Regular oil is like strands of spaghetti, as they go through tight areas they keep shredding apart into smaller pieces (viscosity breakdown), while adaptive molecules are like Koosh balls with many tentacles. As the Koosh balls enter tight areas they will lose some tentacles, but reattach once out in the open."
According to Mann, "RCR is very happy with its partnership with Shell. Two main things that are checked in an engine are component wear and particles caught within the oil filter. RCR uses 0w-30-weight oil without a restrictor plate, and 0w-20-weight during restrictor plate racing. A fresh filter and oil are always used before a Sunday race. The R07 engine contains six gallons of oil within the dry-sump system (two more quarts than the SB2). During break-in procedures, RCR uses Rotella T 10w-30-weight oil for its high zinc content. RCR also employs the use of Shell assembly lubes and cleaners in the shop area."
At this time, oil employed on a race weekend is not tested in a lab, although it may be in the future. Since engine wear is not an issue, there is no need for it at this time. Main components checked are weld of piston rings, wrist pin wear and valvespring retainer wear. Combining the new R07's durability and Pennzoil's formulations, engine issues have been kept to a minimum. While RCR receives special formulations from Pennzoil for racing purposes, it is not all that different from the oil available to the general public.