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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



Affordable Power Plant Allows Long Islander To Go Racing

A few years back NASCAR and Wegner Motorsports set out to develop an engine that would provide an economical alternative for teams that wanted to compete at the touring series level. While NASCAR K&N Pro Series teams have powered their cars almost exclusively with the engines in recent seasons, Johnny Bush has become the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver to run it full-time in 2010. In fact, it is because of the SPEC that Bush even makes it to the track this year.

Bush, from Huntington Station on New York’s Long Island, has been in the game a long time. The 55-year-old was racing long before he made his Whelen Modified Tour debut with seven races in 1991 and followed that with what turned out to be a career-high 18 starts in 1992. After running part-time in three of the next four seasons, Bush made just one start in 1997 and then walked away from Tour racing for more than a decade.

“For financial reasons, there was no way I could [continue to] run,” Bush said. “I just couldn’t compete anymore, so we had to put it away for a while.”

Bush finally got the itch to rejoin the Whelen Modified Tour a year ago. He competed in 10 of the season’s 14 races and finished 21st in the final standings.

“We had started back running some events around New England, and the team was getting a little stronger, so we decided to come back,” Bush said. “The tracks that the Tour goes to are really nice. We enjoy going to places like Loudon and Martinsville, and when they started talking about going to Bristol, then that kind of put us over the top.”

Despite his fondness for competing on the Tour, Bush headed into this past offseason unsure of what 2010 would hold for his racing career.

“It became apparent that to be competitive, you really need to have the same stuff that they have,” said Bush, “and I couldn’t afford to get those kind of parts for my engine builder. Instead, I took a chance to see if the SPEC engine would work.”

The SPEC engine was developed in a cooperative effort between NASCAR and engine builder Carl Wegner of Wegner Motorsports as an economical alternative for race teams. The engine is assembled using “spec”ific components that produce a robust engine package. The recipe for the SPEC engine uses components from many of the best automotive aftermarket companies – names that are recognizable from the contingency sponsor decals on the race cars like Edelbrock, JE Pistons, Comp Cams, Holley and CV Products.

“The SPEC engine program is unique,” said Chad Little, series director for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. “Teams can order a complete kit and assemble the engine themselves, or choose an engine builder to assemble it. The intent of the program is to provide more teams an opportunity to compete.”

The SPEC engine was first introduced as an option for teams in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series in 2007, and with immediate success, it was widely accepted by both East and West teams. Of the 26 combined races that year, 22 were won by cars with SPEC motors. K&N Pro Series East and West Champions Joey Logano and Mike David both utilized the engine. In 2009, both K&N Pro Series champions ran the SPEC engine and every race was won with one under the hood.

While the teams of the K&N Pro Series East and West employ SPEC motors almost exclusively, NASCAR has no plans to make it mandatory for any of the series in which it is available. It became eligible for use in the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours in 2008 and is also now an option in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1.

The SPEC engine was first utilized in the Whelen Modified Tour by L.W. Miller at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June, 2008. It has also been used on a couple of occasions in a Modified owned by Richmond Corwin Jr., a team car to Glenn Tyler’s No. 8. Bush is the first to use it exclusively, however.

“It runs great,” Bush said of the motor. “It runs cool, it gives us zero problems. So far it’s fine.”

The SPEC engine is just one of the initiatives that NASCAR has implemented in an effort to help keep team costs down throughout the NASCAR Developmental Series – from tire rules to limiting the number of crew members over-the-wall during pit stops. It’s an ongoing process as the sanctioning body continues to pursue ways to make the sport more cost-effective.

The “built” engine remains the engine of choice for Modified teams, but the SPEC can provide significant savings for teams that want to get into the sport, teams that only plan to make a handful of starts, or teams like that of Bush that are looking for affordable ways to run a full-time race schedule. In Bush’s case, without the option of the SPEC, he readily admits that he would not be racing this year, or would have a very limited schedule.

The SPEC motor is under 2/3 what a new built motor costs, while a used SPEC motor is half of what a used built motor would cost. In addition, annual maintenance costs are also significantly lower for the SPEC motor by a 4:1 ratio.

A “weekend warrior” when it comes to his racing career, Bush’s day job is as owner and operator of J.B. Stone Setters on Long Island, a company that installs stone in buildings and is involved in paving and landscaping. His small budget race team is more of a hobby than a business, and the SPEC has allowed Bush to stay with his hobby.

“We’ve only run one race with it so far, and I’m working with NASCAR to come up with the right formula,” Bush said. “Right now it’s still a work-in-progress. NASCAR is committed to make this work, so anything I can do to help is better for the sport in general.”

That type of unselfish attitude has come to define Bush. Even though the SPEC motor is something that has allowed Bush to continue his lifelong hobby, he’s also looking to help out others and advance the sport in the process.

“If whatever we do this year helps some of the other teams that want to get into the Tour, or can’t afford it – if whatever we accomplish helps them – then that would be a successful season for me,” Bush said.

  Source: Jason Cunningham / NASCAR
Posted: April 28, 2010

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