In a sport that relies so heavily on technology, it’s hard to imagine something staying around for a decade.
But the Chevrolet R07 engine block is celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. And the automobile manufacturer clearly hit a home run when it introduced it in the spring 2007 race at Texas. It has accounted for 154 NASCAR Cup Series wins and nine of the last 10 manufacturers’ championships.
“I’m not surprised it’s been around for 10 years,” said Jimmie Johnson, seven-time champion and driver of the No. 48 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports.
“I saw all of the actions that took place behind the scenes and it’s nice to know we all got it right.”
The R07 succeeded the SB2 as the GM small-block V-8 for racing, and some of the original 25 blocks are still being used in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and truck series.
That’s impressive given the ever-changing nature of the sport. Nobody expected it to last this long.
“We have far outlived what we thought our expectancy would be of the engine,” said Jeff Andrews, director of engine operations at Hendrick Motorsports.
As proud as the Chevrolet and GM engineers have been of the R07 success, they have been working on the next iteration for the last few years.
NASCAR has strict regulations on when manufacturers may submit updated engine blocks and a tedious approval process, so the next version hasn’t been approved yet.
But it’s a matter of time.
“It’s time to be updated,” said Andy Randolph, a technical director for ECR Engines, a high-performance research, development and engine production company at the Richard Childress Racing campus.
He said the engine architecture remains the same.
“Where the gains come in are in material selections, surface finishes, tolerances, codings, the cooling system. … You just learn more and more over the years, so you just keep polishing the old architecture,” he said.
This doesn’t just affect NASCAR cars, either. What Chevy learns from its racing division correlates to everyday cars.
NASCAR is all about finding the most power as possible for the cars, which is found in things such as reduced friction and getting rid of crevices in the engine to burn all the fuel and reduce hydrocarbon emissions.
“Not only does it give a car more power, but those are also the things that make a car have better fuel economy and lower emissions,” Randolph said. “So there is more of a tradeoff than what a casual fan might realize between what we do and what is important to manufacturers and people driving on the road everyday.
“It’s not just all about speed.”
But there’s no question the R07 has produced plenty of speed for its drivers in the past decade. It’s likely not going to last another decade, although it may be able to.
After all, just look at the number of wins and championships it has produced on NASCAR’s highest level.
“If NASCAR were to hold the line with the same benchmark dimensions, I feel fairly confident it could remain competitive,” said Pat Suhy, Chevrolet Racing’s lead engineer for NASCAR racing.
“I don’t think we’re far off, if we’re off at all, from what’s optimum. If we ran it for another 10 years, we’d be OK.”
O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
12:30 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/Channel 4