DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Tony Stewart was impressed with the latest track test of the Ford Performance 410 sprint car engine.
Although Smoke left the heavy lifting to 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz, who pilots the No. 15 Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing car, he observed the first test Monday at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Schatz also tested the new 410 engine on Wednesday at All Tech Raceway in Lake City.
“It went really well,” Stewart told RacinBoys.com. “I’m really excited. The test went about as flawless as you could ask. I think we learned a lot with it. We went and tested on a bigger track on Wednesday. I didn’t get a chance to drive it. We just ran out of time. But I’d rather have the best driver in the world driving it and collecting data.
“That’s fine. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to drive it—I’ll have more time driving it than he will before it’s ready to go. But it was important to get data. It’s something that Donny and I are really good at, and that’s our feedback. It’s very similar. But Donny is just so comfortable in those cars. He can really pick apart every aspect of it. So I felt it was much more crucial to have his feedback than it was mine.”
With 30 years of racing experience and 283 victories on his resume, there’s no one better than Schatz to shake down the developmental engine. However, the newest generation of the sprint car engine will have to be stout—and reliable—before Schatz competes with the Ford power plant.
“He’s really picky about his motors and what he’s looking for,” Stewart said. “Every time that I’ve had an opportunity to drive his cars at a test session, I know why. That was an important deal for us—to really get his feedback. But at the same time, you want to make sure that everything you’re doing when you’re changing from (from one variable to another), you have to have the same driver and he has to be doing the same thing.
“Donny is the best sprint car driver in the world,” Stewart said. “I’m not just saying that because he drives for me. His stats prove that. So having his feedback and his input—he’s so detailed oriented on every part of it. He’s been with Ron Shaver (Shaver Racing Engines) for years, and there have been times when he’s felt the need to tweak on it. So having someone of his caliber that can pick apart the little things he wants in his motor is beneficial to me as well.”
With Stewart moving his NASCAR effort from Chevrolet to Ford in 2017, the race has been on to bring the TSR sprint cars on board as well. At the end of last season, TSR moved crew chief Rick Warner to the team’s research and development program to expedite progress on the engine. Stewart believes Warner’s attention to detail—and his long-time relationship with Schatz will be beneficial. Steve Swenson became Schatz crew chief for the 2019 season.
Doug Yates, President & CEO of Roush Yates Engines, who oversees Ford Performance’s engine building, was thrilled when Stewart-Haas Racing joined the Blue Oval’s NASCAR camp. He’s excited that TSR is taking the same route.
“It’s great to see Tony Stewart in a Ford,” Yates said. “Now, to have Tony’s sprint car with a Ford engine in it is the way it should have been from the start of it. But it takes a while to develop those things. The project to build the 410 was really the combination of Tony’s desire to have a great engine and Ford’s contribution—they wanted to make sure that Tony’s cars had a Ford engine in it. So they were part of the project.
“Andy Durham Racing engines is going to build the engines. Andy used to work for us. Then he started his own company—which he does a great job. And then, the design team at Roush Yates that has helped design the components to put it all together. It’s really been a collaboration—and then Ron Shaver for dyno-ing the engine and helping out.”
While dirt racing isn’t Yates’ milieu, he has “a ton of respect” for grass roots engine builders.
“You have to live that 24-7,” Yates said. “There’s not a NASCAR engine builder I know that can run a dirt car or sprint car race and go beat those guys. They are the best at what they do. I give them a lot of respect.
“We knew that would be a tall order for us. We just wanted to be part of the project with Ford and Tony and Andy and that’s what we did. I can’t wait to see that engine on the track this year because it’s really off to a great start. The first dyno pulls exceeded our expectations. I’m sure with Tony’s team—as good as they are—we’re going to win a lot of races.”