“Our motor budget is about half of what it was,” Venturini said. “Before the Ilmor deal, it was $250,000 so I save about $125,000 a year per car from where I used to be.
“But since we don’t have the inventory of motors we once had when we leased them, we needed to add an extra person per team for the added labor of having to swap motors all the time… Bottom line, for me, we save about $70,000, but I also assume more risk.”
The point of a spec motor is to lower the price of an engine lease for mid-tier teams and increase the number of events they can be used before needing a rebuild. However, spec engines will not receive the support of the three manufacturers, because each OEM wants their teams utilizing built motors instead.
Toyota Racing Development president and general manager David Wilson is a proponent of cost containment but doesn’t believe spec motors are the best solution.
“Toyota is not in favor of spec engines at any level within NASCAR’s national series,” Wilson said. “But we respect NASCAR’s concerns about the health and sustainability of the Camping World Truck Series and the decisions they believe they need to make.”
NASCAR is having to explore all options because competitive teams are starting to shut down in droves. Red Horse Racing shuttered its two-truck operation back in May citing the economic challenges of racing in the series.
Brad Keselowski issued similar concerns on Thursday when he announced that his two-truck team would shut down at the end of the season. He has said over the past two years that his Ford supported squad had been losing $1 million per season.
So would Keselowski have called it quits if his team was breaking even?
“I don’t know — probably not,” he said. “There were a lot of decisions that went into it. There wasn’t really one reason, but certainly at some point every business needs to have some profitability, but I never went into it expecting to make money, so I can’t really blame that.”
All told, the engines are currently the largest expense teams have.
Those without manufacturer support whom still try to compete for wins spend around $25,000-$30,000 per race to lease an engine capable of getting them near the front. Wednesday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway paid $27,529 to win. Second place paid $22,293.
Do the math.
As a result, smaller teams are the ones most in favor of a competitive spec option. NEMCO Motorsports has won five races the past three seasons with John Hunter Nemechek, but team owner Joe Nemechek says the rewards of contending simply do not offset the costs to participate.
“This whole thing started because if a team can’t afford to have the best motor out there to go up and compete at the front, they need to be able to have something that’s not 50 or 70 horsepower off,” Nemechek said. “And a lot of times, when you buy cheap or you buy used engines, the stuff is so far off it’s hard to compete.”
“It’s the same thing in the Xfinity Series, man. If you don’t have a top notch motor deal you’re never going to run good. So NASCAR needs to give the smaller teams an option to have something that’s close to what everybody else has. Maybe, it’s not as good, but getting everybody closer for a fraction of the cost was how this whole thing started.
I think it’d make the series healthier.”
Tommy Joe Martins didn’t mince words when talking about what the spec program could mean for his family owned team.
“I think this is the best move the series has ever made,” Martins said. “I think it should happen in the Xfinity Series too.”
Meanwhile, the opposition group is composed of the elite teams with manufacturer supported programs. Kyle Busch won the Truck Series race on Wednesday night and his engine was on full display as he went from worst to first during the third stage following a pit road speeding penalty.
Sure, the 2015 champion is one of the most talented drivers in the recent history of NASCAR, but Kyle Busch Motorsports receives significant firepower from Toyota. Busch made clear after his win that he would only field his three trucks as long as his built engines were legal.
“When KBM met with NASCAR, (crew chief) Rudy (Fugle) had a list of questions about how this would be policed,” Busch said. “He wanted to know how this was going to work, and what was going to happen. It was about 58 sheets long. He did a really thorough job in trying to figure every way around it.
“So with that said, my stance is that we, Kyle Busch Motorsports, will help with whatever we can to do to lower costs in the Truck Series. But we’re going to do it with the support of our partners at Toyota. So if Toyota isn’t going to support a spec engine, we’re going to run a standard engine until that isn’t allowed and then we’re going to lose our factory support. Our costs to race will go up because we will lose our engine support. Overall, this is a business and we’re trying to survive and do what we can. Hopefully, it will do what it’s supposed to do, but if it can’t, it’s a hashtag epic fail.”
Two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton drives for Toyota-supported ThorSport Racing and would also be affected in a similar fashion as Busch.
“NASCAR has basically just told us what direction they were going with this,” Crafton said. “At the end of the day, this sport was built on manufacturers. I don’t think it’s a good idea to piss the manufacturers off and them come back and say, ‘we don’t need to do this with a Brand X motor.’
“So again, at the end of the day, this was built on manufacturer support and that’s why we’re here.”
But here is a place with teams folding across the garage. Something has to be done to preserve the Truck Series and it appears that NASCAR has landed on its boldest solution yet: