The momentum for spec engines in the NASCAR series got a huge boost when an executive from one of the dominant auto brands did a 180.
"If there are some spec engines that have to be under a Tundra hood, so be it, we'll be OK,'' said Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson on NASCAR Radio's "Tradin' Paint".
Whoa! That's a big departure from just six months ago when Wilson said this to autoweek.com.
"Toyota is not in favor of spec engines at any level within NASCAR's national series," Wilson said then.
To be fair, Wilson went on to say that NASCAR needs to take whatever steps necessary to keep more teams from going under, and it appears now that he's in favor of giving teams the option to use a spec engine.
"Arguably the biggest single piece of (intellectual property) in any car or truck is the engine, so certainly that's important to us," Wilson told nbcsports.com. "By the same token, we understand the bigger picture. We have been working with NASCAR, all the (manufacturers) have been working with NASCAR to make sure that we keep this series going."
One of the largest expenses a team has is in the supply of engines to run an entire season. Teams without manufacturer support will spend between $25,000-$30,000 per race to lease an engine from one of the big three - Toyota, Chevy or Ford. Some team owners say spec engines that are just as powerful and keep them competitive cost half as much. They weren't given an option though. You want to drive a Ford, you've got to have a Ford engine under the hood. The ARCA series has really opened the door on how allowing spec can help.
"Our motor budget is about half of what it was," Venturini Motorsports owner Billy Venturini told autoweek.com. His team gets engines from Ilmor Engineering. "Before the Ilmor deal, it was $250,000 so I save about $125,000 a year per car from where I used to be."
Wilson thinks automakers will do what's necessary to keep more teams from exiting NASCAR. The bigger picture he alluded to is simple - to develop the next generation of drivers for Xfinity and Cup racing, you need seats in the Truck series to get them into.