Lower horsepower could result in higher failure rates this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
Many NASCAR drivers have shifted from fourth to third gear to carry speeds through turns 1 and 2 on the flat 1-mile oval in recent seasons, but the subtraction of 125 horsepower from Sprint Cup engines this season might change that dynamic.
Richard Childress Racing director of research and development Richard “Slugger” Labbe said shifting at Phoenix was sustainable at 9,800 to 10,000 revolutions per minute under the previous engine configuration. But it might put undue stress on the engines in the 9,200-9,300 RPM range under the 2015 version.
“I think you’ll see people trying to shift, and it could come into play where they might over-rev the engines and have a lot of engine issues,” Labbe said in a Thursday morning interview during “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM Satellite Radio’s NASCAR channel. “That’s going to happen to probably more than one person because shifting at Phoenix is a rather big deal going through (turns) 1 and 2. I just don’t know with the new engine package if it can hold it. That’s going to be the big thing going into Phoenix is can drivers shift every lap and will the machine handle it?”
Kevin Harvick will be aiming for his fourth straight victory and fifth in the past six races at Phoenix in the Camping World.com 500. Harvick, who won Sunday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, has six consecutive top-two finishes dating to last season, the longest streak since Jeff Gordon in 1996.