All Ilmor Engineering NT1 engines were collected after the regular season champion was eliminated from Playoffs along with widespread engine failures at LVMS
On September 13th, the NASCAR Truck Series visited Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The dry heat and sand in Nevada tends to be an issue for racing cars of all forms when they visit the state.
That was the case during the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoff event. Four engines blew during the course of the event.
ThorSport Racing alone, lost three engines. Johnny Sauter, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton all lost an engine from that stable.
As a result, the regular season champion of Grant Enfinger was eliminated from the 2019 Playoffs. Matt Crafton was able to survive with bonus points accumulated.
Problems were outside of ThorSport as well. Additionally, the Young’s Motorsports entry of Tyler Dippel also lost an engine.
The NT1 engine is an affordable engine introduced during the 2018 season. Typically, the engine performs better than the custom built team engines. As a result, a bulk of the Playoff contenders have made the switch.
A gear rule and rev limiter was placed on custom built engines last year. This gave a competitive advantage to the more affordable NT1 engine package.
NASCAR collects 32 engines for evaluation
The NASCAR sanction didn’t ignore the problem.
NASCAR officials traveled to the ThorSports Racing headquarters in Sandusky, Ohio to find out more information on the failed engines. The engines were collected and officials made teardowns on all four. Ben Rhodes was able to finish the event but damage to that engine was also discovered in the process of engine collections.
NASCAR also found indications of damage on the GMS Racing No. 24 driven by Brett Moffitt who finished 7th.
The combination of all these findings led NASCAR to claim all 32 of the Ilmor Engineering engines used at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In full transparency, NASCAR invited representatives from all truck teams to the NASCAR R&D Center. They then went about the teardown process.
ThorSport took the biggest hit in the race at LVMS. And it was out of their control.
“We don’t have that opportunity of a re-do,” NASCAR’s Brad Moran said.
“The playoffs are points earned throughout the season starting at Daytona, stage wins, race wins — that’s what gets you into the Round of 8. After that, it’s a three-race series, so it’s not just the one race.”
“Unfortunately, we just don’t have that ability to pull a re-do on something like this without affecting the rest of the garage or players that are in there.”
“So it wasn’t a one-race deal. It’s just a real unfortunate incident, but a mechanical issue that took out two of their trucks.”
Brad Moran on NT1 engine failures
“Obviously, the warning signs went off,” Brad Moran, NGOTS managing director told NASCAR.com.
“It was very disappointing to see that happen to ThorSport and Ford. They’re a great team and did everything right. Unfortunately, the circumstances put them in a real bad spot.”
“As that was happening, we were already putting plans together on what the next steps were. If we’d seen that with any organization or any number of teams in one race, we would’ve done the same thing. Measures were being taken the moment that happened.”
“They’re totally professional. They’re a great organization and they come to win, so obviously it was more than disappointing for them, the way it went,”said Moran regarding ThorSport.
“The timing of it probably couldn’t have been worse. Again, they really went above and beyond on their side in letting us come into their shops and look at all the issues and take everything away. They wanted to know what the problem was, too.”
“We feel badly how it went down, but mechanical issues and system issues, systems do fail. The timing was not good and very unfortunate on their side, but we’re pretty confident this will never happen again,” Moran concluded.
NT1 engine dependability
Until this point, the NT1 engine had been a great introduction to the NASCAR Truck Series as a cost cutting measure. A division that had seen truck counts go down in recent years due to increased costs.
“The dependability has been there. It’s been a great savings to the teams. The competition has probably never been better and the teams have never been stronger.”
“All of this wouldn’t be possible without the program, so we believe 100 percent in the program. We’re definitely disappointed in what happened at Las Vegas.”
“I believe that NASCAR and Ilmor Engineering have done all the steps to make sure this’ll never happen again in this way. Still disappointed in what happened, but very confident from this point going into the end of the season and as well next year.”
Ilmor Engineering statement
“Ilmor Engineering is committed to our partnership with NASCAR and to the long-term development of the NT1 engine,” the company said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
“To that end, following the issues experienced by a number of different teams and competitors during the Sept. 13 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, engines were returned to the NASCAR R&D Center for technical inspection and data review.”
“The combination of the high engine load condition combined with the extreme weather conditions in Las Vegas resulted in some engines suffering severe detonation.”
“Ilmor is taking new measures in engine calibration to ensure to this situation is corrected for all future races.”
It was hot during the race weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The high of the day was 97 degrees, record just over an hour ahead of the green flag.
“That was definitely a factor, and it definitely promoted the failures,” Andrew Richards, a motorsports development engineer with Ilmor said.
“Everybody took a look at the parts and came to an understanding of what happened and so it was widespread, all over the course of last week and it continues on this week. We’re replicating the conditions that were run at Las Vegas so that we can implement a fix moving forward.”
“ThorSport was very cooperative and very cordial through it despite the difficult situation, to say the least. They’ve tried to understand what was going on and more than anything. Just trying to understand that it won’t happen again,” Richards concluded.