Imagine what it would be like to attend a National Basketball Association game and the basketball still had laces on it. Or, think about going to a National Football League game and the players still wore leather helmets and rather than kicking field goals, the players used the old drop-kick.
In today's modern age of sports that sounds far-fetched; but just take a look under the hood of a NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series stock car.
Sitting on top of the engine is an object that can't be found on today's modern passenger car engines: a carburetor.
Carburetors haven't been used on passenger cars in 30 years. Today's cars use a fuel-injection system that allows the engine to produce more horsepower with less fuel. In turn, less gasoline is dumped through the engine and expelled out the exhaust system, creating a cleaner burn with less pollution.
While much of today's NASCAR looks high-tech, the engine is essentially the same 1955 short-block V-8 that is fast approaching its 50th birthday. Nearly every other major form of racing uses fuel-injection engines. Could NASCAR be next?
A Case For ChangeTeam owner and master engine builder Robert Yates would like NASCAR to be the next sanctioning body to put the carburetor in a museum, along with manual chokes, running boards, and jumper seats.
"If I had to close down my engine shop and lay off all of my guys, they wouldn't be able to get a job at a car dealership because they've been working on antique engines," says Yates, who owns the cars driven by Dale Jarrett and Elliott Sadler. "I'm not saying NASCAR needs to do it next year or the year after, but it's time we take an open mind to this situation for a lot of reasons."
While some believe NASCAR has resisted fuel-injected engines because it would be harder to control and police, others argue that the technology may be even easier to keep speeds in check.
"We have modern technology all through the engine, but not with the air/flow process," Yates says. "The manufacturer of our vehicles supports this sport. It's how we got here. I've been working on the four-valve engines for the Grand American series and I'm beginning to finally see what is under the engine of my passenger car. A fuel-injected engine will put on just as good a show as we've been seeing and I think it's healthy that we allow the manufacturers to move into modular-designed engines."
Yates believes fuel injection, over time, would be more cost-effective than the current carburetor.
"We need to start thinking about it," Yates says. "I think the manufacturers will look at it. NASCAR has never designed nor built the first engine. NASCAR is the promoter; the manufacturers are the ones that supply it. Bring the product, get it right, spend some time with the teams, and then the manufacturers can say, 'In 2010, this is what we are going to race and this is what we are going to support.'
"Let's modernize this sport. I would be the first one to lose a job because I don't know how to use a computer. But I want to see my son and grandsons move into the future a little bit. It will not screw the cars up one bit and you might have more cars running at the finish."
Inevitable?Today's NASCAR Winston Cup engine produces over 800 horsepower. By comparison, the high-speed, fuel-injected Indy Racing League engines used in the IndyCar Series produce 675 horsepower. The reason the cars in the IRL run so much faster is they weigh half as much as a stock car, have wings for downforce, and huge tire contact patches.
But the point is the technology can crank out horsepower, which would still put on a competitive and more cost-effective show for Winston Cup and Busch.