Dale Jr. Underpowered?

2009 Daytona 500 120 

Is Dale, Jr. underpowered?  Remember when he and Michael Waltrip were the dominators at the restrictor plate races?  Well there were good reasons why that was happening.   According to an article in racintoday.com,  by Jonathan Ingram, he chronicles the early days of DEI and their engine builders ability to utilize “the gray areas” of the intake manifold below the NASCAR issued restictor plate.

Ingram’s story begins at the height of the DEI dominance in 2004.  He was  instructed by the late Randy Horton, engine builder for Hendrick Motorsports who lost his life in the Martinsville crash of a Hendrick airplane, to look inside the manifold of a Childress manifold located in the Childress hauler.

“This is what the teams is doing,” Dorton pointed out.  Looking inside you could see a small rectangular island on the floor of the manifold.  It was designed to meet the block that NASCAR officials inserted into the manifold.  The block rule was in place for two reasons.  First the block confirmed  the area under the restrictror area was cler and second, the area at the bottom was flat, at least as far as NASCAR’s block test was concerned.

Dorton was revealing that Childress had found that “ever ellusive gray area” in rules concerning the restrictor plate area!  He was not suggesting that it was illegal, quite the contrary, he was copying that idea, because the little raised island in the manifold area helped create a better airflow underneath the restrictor plate, thus creating more horsepower!

Now to connect the dots, Richie Gilmore’s name needs to be added.  Richie Gilmore, who worked very closely with Dorton at Hendrick Motorsports, was hired  by Dale Earnhardt, Sr. to build his motors.   Gilmore’s job at Hendrick was, you guessed it, the carburator specialist, and Gilmore was acknowledged  thoughout NASCAR as a master at his craft.

Dale, Sr. being a great friend and employee of Richard Childress, was most probably privy to the RCR “find“!  The same year Earnhardt, Sr. won his one and only Daytona 500, he hired Richie Gilmore to build engines at DEI.  Once Gilmore came over to DEI one could assume that he could use the knowledge that learned from Randy Dorton at Hendrick Motorsports above the restrictor plate and combine it with the knowledge he gained from Earnhardt,Sr.  and Childress Racing below the restrictor plate in the manifold floor.

By the ttime 2001 came around, Gilmore’s expertise above and below the restrictor had paid off tremendously for DEI.  The #15 car driven by Waltrip and the #8 car driven by Dale, Jr. were in a class all by themselves.  Because of a damaged air dam after contact in the pits with Kenny Schrader, Dale, Sr. was struggling to keep himself in third place and looking like he was protecting his two drivers, who were leading the race on that fatal day.  But if the truth be known, The Intimadator, wasn’t just protecting his drivers, it was all the car could give him that day!

When Dale, Jr returned to Daytona in July 2011, he was the class of the entire field.  He could and did, effortlessly drive by anyone and everyone in the field!  The #8 had the horsepower edge that night and for the next three years!  Richie Gilmore’s expertise was paying huge dividends for DEI.    

For the plate races over the next three seasons, DEI had the field covered.  Waltrip and Earnhardt,Jr. won the next 6 out of 7 races at Talladega.  Dale,Jr. would have won the seventh race had it not been for a late race caution flag.  Jeff Gordon was leading and was having a handful fighting off Dale, Jr. for the win.    During that run of horsepower, the tally was Dale,Jr. 5, Waltrip1, and Jeff Gordon 1!

Considering that the DEI effort was a joint effort by Richard Childress, Andy Petree, and Dale Earnhardt,Sr. to share wind tunnel testing time through an agreement known a RAD.  The agreement worked remarkably well!  It wasn’t aerodynamic information alone that lead to DEI’s dominance, IT WAS HORSEPOWER!!!


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