The chances of adding horsepower to race engines to improve the current Cup Series short-track package would involve what a NASCAR official called a "longer runway." NASCAR senior vice president of competition Elton Sawyer responded on Tuesday to drivers' complaints of limited passing chances on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, saying adding more horsepower is a long and complicated process.
"It takes a little bit of a runway to get everybody on the same page and to do that in the most efficient and economical way, " Sawyer told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday morning. "If there are other options besides the engine, it would be much easier for NASCAR to pull that lever. I'm not saying it isn't a good idea down the road, but it takes a lot more runway to get there."
"When you look at the architecture of the engine today, when you add more horsepower, will components and parts that engine is built with be able to hold up with 200 or 300 more horsepower? We work closely with the engine builders. Could there be another lever to pull with the tires or aerodynamics? The engine is a much larger topic, and it needs a much deeper dive to get that right. It's not that easy to just add 200 horsepower and be able to show up at the next oval to race."
?? "We're not sitting here saying that we won't make additional moves if we need to. We're going to always try to make our racing better."#NASCAR SVP Elton Sawyer said the sanctioning body will look at "other levers to pull" to improve the current short track package. pic.twitter.com/1UgSiPYQPk
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) April 18, 2023
After Sunday's race, Denny Hamlin had one of the biggest issues with how difficult the passing was.
"We're in a box with these engines, and NASCAR's leadership wants us to stick with these engines, they keep lowering horsepower, which makes us have to shift," Hamlin told NBC Sports. "So I don't know if we're ever going to fix this until we put more horsepower on the cars or build a tire that somehow falls off. We have to try something different because we can't keep having follow-the-leader racing. Man, you really want to see passes for the lead and we're just not really seeing that right now."
That wasn't the only burning question from Martinsville, as Sawyer indicated that John Hunter Nemechek's fiery burnout following his win in Saturday's Xfinity Series race likely won't lead to any changes to the post-race protocol. Nemechek's burnout spread flames underneath his car and onto the track and extensively damaged the car.
"We want to see our drivers celebrate, we want to see them excited," Sawyer said. "Burnouts have become something in the last four to five years that have been quite popular. ... Every situation is a little bit different. We'll look at that to see if there's anything we need to do going forward."
All in all, Martinsville presented plenty of issues that could arise into a bigger problem down the road.
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