ECR Powerhouse Engine shop at Earnhardt-Childress Racing hits its stride
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
If there’s any group that has emerged as a leader two races into the 2010 Sprint Cup season, it’s the engine builders at Earnhardt-Childress Racing.
That engine shop is the product of a merger of the old engine crew at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and the engine shop at Richard Childress Racing. They dominated at Daytona, winning the Budweiser Shootout with Kevin Harvick, the DRIVE4COPD Nationwide Series race with Tony Stewart and the Daytona 500 with Jamie McMurray, who drives for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, which itself is a result of a merger between Teresa Earnhardt and Chip Ganassi.
At Auto Club Speedway, the ECR engine folks showed they’re just as good with engines that run without restrictor plates.
McMurray won the pole, and Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick appeared to have the fastest cars even as Jimmie Johnson took the win thanks in large part to perfect timing on a late-race pit stop.
Heading to the third Sprint Cup race of the season, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, drivers using ECR engines hold four of the top five positions in the points standings, as Harvick leads with Clint Bowyer second, McMurray fourth and Burton fifth.
But the powerful engines aren’t really anything new, according to Harvick and Burton.
“We probably have, I would argue, what would be the best engine package in the garage for the last couple of years – last year and a half I would say,” Harvick told reporters at Auto Club Speedway. “We don’t talk about motors anymore. Motors are the best thing that we have going for us.
“They’re real reliable, they make a lot of power, and they’re constantly pushing forward, and that’s one of the things that we’ve struggled with in the past is getting to a point and not continuing forward, and the engine department doesn’t do that. They push forward every week.
“In our competition meetings we honestly don’t even talk about engines anymore because they’re just such a non-factor for us. They just keep clicking along and do a really good job.”
Burton echoed those comments, saying one of the disappointing aspects of having no Richard Childress Racing drivers in the Chase last year was that some great horsepower went to waste.
“They were some of the best engines that I’ve ever been a part of in my racing career – great power, great reliability,” he said. “They really got things figured out, but the cars weren’t very good so we couldn’t take advantage of it.”
But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t times when the drivers wondered whether a joint engine venture was the best move from a competitive standpoint.
“Anytime there’s a merger like that or when you first talked about Earnhardt and Childress joining together to do the engine thing, everybody got really nervous because it’s something different,” Burton said. “But it has certainly worked, and they’ve found a way to make it work very well.”