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The Sad State of Motorsports - Performance Q & A

Kevin McClelland Jul 1, 2009
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The Sad State Of Motorsports
Just as we all have felt the pinch of the economy, many of the country's race teams and sanctioning bodies are falling on hard times. I don't know one form of motorsports that hasn't been affected by the lack of funding. As of this writing, we are right at the beginning of the '09 season, and by the time you read this we will be several races into the year.

Of course, drag racing is at the forefront of my interest. As of now, many professional teams will not be returning this year. Multicar teams have had to drop back to one car, and the NHRA for the first time in many years may not have full fields! Take, for instance, Warren Johnson and his son Kurt, who lost their funding from General Motors. Warren has vowed not to race on his own dollar. Greg Stanfield is also on the fence unless he finds someone to fund his program.

Now, down to the little guy: The sportsman fields are not even filling up the quota for events. Usually you can't make it into the opening West Coast races unless you have run north of five Divisionals to acquire grade points. The scarce dollars are keeping people from traveling, let alone ponying up the entry fees. Then if you do come to play, NHRA has lost around 30 percent of the contingency-paying manufacturers this year, which directly hits the sportsman racer in the pocket when he or she wins.

Finally, NASCAR will have a very tough time filling 43 car fields. NASCAR has lost Home Depot, Domino's Pizza, Kodak, and Enterprise as official sponsors. Home Depot has stuck with Joe Gibbs racing, but I don't know about the others.

In tough times there is always an opportunity. Race teams are looking for many smaller sponsors to make it to the races. The opportunity for smaller companies to get exposure on a nationally televised level has never been cheaper. This could be a great time for those companies that can take advantage of these opportunities and get their faces out in front of the buying public.

As for us little guys, stick closer to home. Support your local businesses, and race local to keep the money in the community. This fits right into my plan, since I just moved within 5 miles of California Speedway!

No Comparison
Q: Is the strength of the new Dart SHP block worth the price? I currently use a 0.060-over 350 block stroked to 388 cid. The water jackets are half filled with hard block, and I've got ARP head and main studs with iron Motown 220 heads, a mild circle-track-style mechanical roller, 4340 crank and rods, and Wiseco Pro Tru pistons. On top of all this I have an NOS Double Cross plate system controlled by an Edelbrock progressive controller. This engine is in my '62 Chevy II and runs 9.80s at 135-plus with this setup, 4.10:1 gears, and 295/65 M/T Drag radials. However, the guys I race with have larger-bore small-block Chevys and have a definite performance advantage on me. My stock block holds up well with what I do, but the big bore of the SHP block combined with the price is very tempting. Can you compare the strength of the SHP to what I have now in an honest and easy-to-understand way? Cost is very important to a low-buck guy like me. Thanks!
Dale Peterson
Big Lake, MN

A: After building my first legal stock eliminator engine, I don't wish block filling on anyone! The filling itself--and the waiting for the filler to cure properly--can be a pain. And if you don't wait long enough, things will move around when you're machining the piece. Also, it is hard finding a machine shop that understands that they can easily flex the cylinder walls where there is no support, at the top of the cylinder bores. It's very easy to screw up the concentricity and the taper of the bores. This alone would drive me to the new Dart SHP block.

We're sure you've read the benefits of the block on the Dart website. By now you have seen our story on the block in the May issue ("Minimal Assembly Required"). A few benefits really make the block superior to a production casting. First, running nitrous on a standard 350 four-bolt block is asking for the crank to move around. The Dart SHP starts by increasing the main web strength and installs deep-registered ductile iron main caps, which together keep the crank where it's supposed to be and out of the bearings. To keep the crankshaft happy, the oiling system was revised with priority oiling to the mains. This involved removing several 90-degree turns in the main galleys, increasing oil pressure and reducing oil temperature. Next, the Siamese cylinder walls have a minimum thickness of 0.230 inch at a maximum overbore of 4.165 inch. This will keep the rings sealed against the high cylinder pressures of nitrous loads. Also, reliefs were added at the bottom of the cylinder bores for hone over travel. This is very important in keeping the cylinder walls round in the honing process. The deck of the block is increased to a thickness of 0.625 inch with blind-head bolt holes. No more water running up your cylinder head studs! Finally, the water jacket are scalloped around the large bores to increase coolant flow and capacity.

Like we said, after dealing with block fillers and machine shops, we think the Dart SHP block is money well spent. If you keep the internal components where they are supposed to be, it will be the last block you need to buy for your Nova. Give Dart a call and order PN 31161211 for the large 4.125 inch semifinished bores ready to finish-hone. The rest of the machining is ready for assembly. Dart has really helped out the mid-performance racing engines with these blocks.Source:

Load 'Er Up
Q: I have a couple questions about a nagging problem I'm having with my daily driver project, rough cruise range operation, and fouled plugs on any long road trip. I have a GM H.O. 350 crate engine I put in an '84 C10 and have completely rebuilt/replaced just about everything in it. The engine has 330hp iron Vortec heads with the dual-lift cam, and I have replaced everything that came with the turnkey package. I have an Edelbrock 600-cfm competition carburetor and a Mallory HEI distributor with a high-output cap coil, and I run NGKs out of the box at a 0.060-inch gap. I've run on the dyno at least three times, and the best I came up with is 300 rwhp. What is the advantage of a dual-lift cam? Why isn't it used anymore? And did GM screw up when mating it to the Vortec heads? Oh, yes, the exhaust is a dual 21/2-inch with Spin Tech mufflers and high-flow cats. The thing flies at WOT and has a slight cam idle and plenty of acceleration out of the hole (2,200 stall), but I was hoping for a long-range cruiser. Should I just give up and repower it? It has a TH350 and a 10-bolt.
Richard Herbrand
Via email

A: First of all, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater! You have a very strong-running package, since you've seen 300 hp at the rear tires. The GM Performance Parts H.O. 350 Vortec engine is rated at 330 hp at the crank. With standard losses through the drivetrain (18 percent) you should expect around 270 hp at the rear tires with your package. Let's go over your questions.

Dual-pattern camshafts have been around for many years and are still in use today from the aftermarket to OEM stock camshafts. The main reason for increasing the duration on the exhaust side of a camshaft profile is to make up for the imbalance in flow between the inlet and exhaust ports of a given cylinder head. When you have a cylinder head with strong exhaust port flow potential, you can back off on the amount of duration differential. GM is right on target with the camshaft selection in the 330hp crate engine. It has very decent idle quality and gives you strong top-end performance for the component package of the engine.

Throwing in the towel on this engine isn't the right thing to do. All you may need is a jet change. From your description of the running conditions and the fact that it loads up the plugs in a cruise mode, it sounds quite rich. The Edelbrock carburetor should give you very good performance on that engine with acceptable fuel economy. Either someone has modified this carb or you have a problem with float level or power valve operation. You stated that you're running an Edelbrock 600-cfm competition carburetor. Edelbrock offers the Performer and Thunder series. The AVS Thunder is the series of high-performance calibrated models; however, it doesn't include a 600-cfm size, only 650- or 800-cfm. Contact the Edelbrock tech line with the specific number off the carb for calibration information. They can give you the specific jet size and power-valve rod and spring information to match your carb. This should give you a baseline to calibrate from. These carburetors, when properly tuned, will give you trouble-free performance and good fuel economy.

Light My Fire
Q: I have a '97 Chevy 4x4 extended cab truck with a Vortec 350. The engine is all stock except for Edelbrock shorty headers and after-cat exhaust from Flowmaster. It also has a Powerdyne supercharger kit that makes about 6 psi of boost. My problem is that at WOT, near 5,000 rpm, the engine develops a miss. Is there a simple fix for this? The truck still has its stock in-tank fuel pump and the inline pump from the supercharger kit, and the spark ignition is stock. Hope you can help.
Dana Oulundsen
Via email

A: Cylinder pressure is a wonderful thing. It boosts the power by forcing the piston down the cylinder with authority! As cylinder pressure rises, it takes more and more spark energy to bridge the gap of the spark plug. The stock ignition is borderline for engines with mild bolt-on upgrades, but when you up the cylinder pressure with 6 psi of boost, it's tough to light your fire. This is probably where you're going to find your problem.

First of all, check for adequate fuel delivery. If the engine is going lean at high engine speeds, it won't last long before you'll find piston remains on the spark plugs. What you'll need to do is install a temporary high-pressure fuel pressure gauge. The CPI fuel injection on your L-31 fuel injection should have 58 psi of pressure, and at WOT at peak rpm, the pressure should fall more than 2 or 3 psi. The CPI system uses a vacuum-biased regulator, which will lower the fuel pressure to approximately 52 psi at idle. Now, you should have installed a new fuel filter when you installed the blower. The factory fuel filters on the GM trucks are way too small and plug up all the time. This kills the fuel pump in the tank. If you still find that you're losing pressure, check the in-tank pump and its filter sock. Work through the fuel system until you have steady fuel pressure during full-power tests.

After you have verified your fuel pressure, check your air/fuel ratio. With aftermarket supercharger systems, you must increase the fuel flow with either calibration changes or other enrichment. The only safe way to know that you have sufficient fuel is to install a wideband O2 sensor. Innovate Motorsports has very affordable O2 sensor kits that are much cheaper than a new engine. Innovate's DB Gauge Kit comes complete with the O2 sensor, harness, and dash gauge. This will take the guesswork out of your tuning.

Finally, you could pull your spark plugs and tighten the plug gap down to 0.030 inch to test if the ignition is the problem. This should give you 300-500 more rpm before the engine drops into misfire. We'd step the ignition system up with MSD's finest components for your truck: an MSD 6A (PN 6200), a HEI remote coil (PN 8231), and--for plug-n-play installation--an adapter harness (PN 8877). The 6A will give you the multiple spark at low engine speeds and deliver peak secondary voltage of 45,000 when combined with the coil. This will keep your fire lit as long as you keep your foot in the throttle.

When you have upgraded your ignition system, you should swap out the spark plugs with some a couple heat ranges cooler than stock. The factory plug is much too hot for the increased pressures with the blower. We'd throw in a set of NGK V-power TR5s. Gap them at 0.045 inch. Yes, you will get better life out of a set of iridium or platinum plugs, but the NGKs are affordable, quality plugs that will give you 30,000 miles of great service. Good luck.Sources:,,

Q: I have a 10.2-inch-tall-deck, four-bolt-main, standard-bore Chevy big-block. I would like to use a 427 Chevy crank that I have in this block and a set of 6.700-inch-long rods. Would these rods work? Also, what particular piston would work, staying in the 10.5- to 11.5:1 compression ratio range? I'm looking for 600-700 hp out of this combo. The engine is going into a back-half '69 Camaro, and I'm looking for low 11s to mid 10s. Is this doable? Wilbert CushshonVia email

A: Just about anything is doable, but sometimes you have to ask why you're doing it. Is it just because you have some parts lying around? Using a tall-deck engine in your Camaro poses several problems, with header fitment being at the top. There are very few off-the-shelf headers available for the tall-deck. Since GM Performance Parts released its 572 tall-decks, there are a few headers on the market, but they can be rather pricey. You must really want to use these parts.

Let's get into the internals of the rotating assembly. If you already have these 6.700-inch rods, you'll need a custom piston built with a specific compression height to accommodate this length. The production rods are 6.135 inches long. With the 427 stroke of 3.76 inches, and the 6.700-inch length rod, you will need a compression height on your piston of 1.620 inches. This will give you a zero deck clearance if the block has never been cut. Production compression heights put the piston down in the cylinder approximately 0.020 inch. If you can use the 1.620-inch height, it could save you a few dollars on decking the block. If you're not sure of the deck height of your engine, measure it, or order pistons with a deck height of 1.600 inches and cut the deck to achieve zero deck.

To be in the 10.5:1 compression range, you'll need a piston with a 40cc dome. This will give you 10.84:1 compressions with zero deck clearance with a 118cc combustion chamber head. You could go with a smaller combustion chamber either by milling or by running a more-closed chamber. The only problem with running a closed combustion chamber with standard valve angles is that you limit airflow.

Achieving your 600-700hp bogey with only 427 cid is going to be tough. It will be a race-only package. Why not use the tall-deck to your advantage? You can easily put a 4.250-inch stroker package into the engine and have a 496! It will be a whole lot easier to reach your power and e.t. goals with the extra displacement. The choice is yours.

Alky S-10
Q: I have an '86 S-10 with a 355ci small-block, RPM heads, roller rockers, a Torker II intake, 10.25:1 compression, a Comp 305H camshaft, a 750 Holley carburetor, a TH350 trans, and a 71/2-inch 10-bolt with 4.56:1 gears. The truck has run a best of 11.70 in the quarter-mile. I broke the gears and have 3.42s to replace them. How bad will this hurt me? The truck weights 2,800 pounds with 28x10.5 slicks. And what will be the best way to run alcohol? Thanks for your help.
Leonard Landry
Via email

A: Wow, we can't believe you've made it into the 11s without blowing up the 71/2-inch ring-gear rearend a long time ago! You could swap in the 3.42s, but it will definitely kill your performance with that camshaft and those tall rear tires. We'd recommend looking for either a late-model 2WD 8.5-inch S-10 rearend (quite rare), or a junkyard 8.8-inch rearend from a '79-and-up Fox-body Mustang. We know, we know, but they are cheap and plentiful in the wrecking yard, and the parts are easily available. All you would need to do is weld on new spring perches to mount it up. The width is within 1 inch of the stock S-10 rear, and you'd need to swap out your rear wheels. Then you would have a rearend that is inexpensive and will hold up to the power you're putting down.

Next, converting your truck to alcohol will take a complete upgrade of your fuel system. You need at least double the capacity from your fuel delivery system. A performance air/fuel ratio for gasoline is around 12:1. When you run on alcohol, the proper air/fuel ratio for peak performance is around 6:1. As you can see, you need twice as much fuel. Next, if you wish to go forward with the conversion, we'd recommend Quick Fuel Technology's complete alcohol carburetors and conversion kits, which include new boosters, metering blocks, alcohol-safe floats, and seals. Don't try just jetting up your current Holley carb. The passages in the metering blocks and the boosters won't move enough fuel and you'll burn up your little small-block. We don't know that you would gain enough performance to warrant the conversion. Running much higher compression could help. The only benefit you may see is reduced engine heat and increased consistency when the weather changes at the dragstrip.Source:

Way Over Bore
Q: I bought an engine rebuild kit from Powerhouse for a small-block 350 with 0.030-over pistons. Can a 305 block be bored to my pistons?
Allan McAra
Chilliwack, B.C., Canada

A: The stock bore on a 305 is 3.736 inches. Bringing it out to a standard bore for a 350 would require a 4.00-inch bore, which would remove more than 1/4 inch from the cylinder walls. Production 305 blocks will not accept that much overbore. The good news is that Gen I 350 blocks are very plentiful. Check with the machine shop where you were going to have your engine bored, and I'm sure there's a core 350 lying around or the mechanics will know were you can buy one reasonably. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Old School Meets New
Q: I'm an old-timer who's been playing with cars since the '50s. I'm currently running a 406ci small-block Chevy, Canfield 195cc heads, and a Lunati camshaft that specs out at 235 degrees duration at 0.050-inch tappet lift and 0.507-inch max lift. The compression comes in at 10.5:1, and it's topped off with a Weiand Team G single-plane and an 800-cfm Edelbrock carb. My old Corvette (around 2,900 pounds) runs great with this combination and the Richmond five-speed (street use only). I bought the Team G because it did an excellent job in a manifold comparison test by a major auto magazine many, many years ago. With the continuing improvements in manifold design, I suspect I'm leaving something on the table by not switching over to a current high-performance dual-plane. Is it enough to make the switch? Thanks.
Larry Delazzer
Via email

A: The decision to break into your little potent small-block would be determined by the way you drive the car. Yes, the Team G manifold is a very good piece, but some of the newer dual-planes will come close to rivaling the high-rpm power output of the single-plane. The biggest gain you'll see from the dual-plane would be in the 2,500-4,500 rpm range. With your 406 this could be as much as 30 lb-ft of torque over the single-plane. This is something you would really feel in the drivability. Then you have to ask yourself how much time you spend over 5,000 rpm. If the answer is little, then we'd definitely recommend a dual-plane design. Either the Weiand Stealth Air Strike PN 8501 or the Edelbrock RPM Air Gap PN 7501 would be a great manifold for your engine. From the testing we've done, you'd lose very little top-end horsepower (5-10) over the single-plane. Again, it goes back to the amount of time you spend in theses rpm ranges. If it was ours, it would be a dual-plane. Good luck, and keep playing with your Vette. It keeps us young!Sources:,

Technical questions for Kevin McClelland can be sent to him at



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