DEI has a 'handle' on horsepower

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Darrell Waltrip

Darrell Waltrip — winner of 84 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and a three-time champion — serves as lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He was selected for induction into the prestigious NASCAR Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2012. Want more from DW? Become a fan on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Hilary from Peoria, Ill.: By the looks of the Budweiser Shootout and qualifying, do you think there are serious problems brewing with Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s changes? It seems like Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s car did not have the power under the hood, and it did not look like a typical Junior race car in Daytona.
Sun., Feb. 20, 1 p.m. ET

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  • Darrell Waltrip: Dale Earnhardt Jr. feels like the DEI cars are down on power. Their cars are good. It's the same basic car that they've had in the past. But when their head engine guy, Richie Gilmore, moved out of the engine room to run all of motorsports, there's a possibility that they lost something there. Gilmore went back to the shop in Mooresville, N.C. to find a little more horsepower for the guys before the 500 on Sunday. If they've got to change motors, and they've got to start in the back, Dale Jr. and my brother, Michael, are already in the back based on their times on pole day. For what I see, everybody else took into consideration that there was going to be a restrictor plate change. It's only 1/64th of an inch — not much more than the tip of a pencil — but it probably equates to 12 to 15 horsepower on one of these engines. Instead of losing 12 or 15 horsepower, some teams even gained by changing the engine combination to work better with the smaller restrictor plate and the stiffer rear spring that NASCAR introduced at Talladega last fall. It looks like everybody besides DEI worked on those two changes — the stiffer rear springs and the smaller restrictor plate — and overcame any horsepower loss. Meanwhile DEI thought they had been so good in the past that these minor changes in cars and engines would not affect them. In fact, the changes affected them more than they thought. That's the problem.
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    Can DEI overcome this problem before the 500 on Sunday? When you have an engine room and a staff of probably 50 people, and you put everybody on the same project for five days, you might be able to find a little bit of power and get it back down to Daytona in time to use it by Sunday. Based on what I saw in the Budweiser Shootout, Junior is going to be able to race with the front-runners. He and Michael always handle well, and that's a huge factor in the 500. If you're down on power compared to everybody else, and you can run your car wide open more than anybody else, you can overcome some horsepower differences. They've done it before, and that's what has made those cars so dominant. If DEI's handling package is as good as it's been, we'll see it in the 150s on Thursday. Barring any late cautions where everybody groups up and the guy with the most power probably blows to the front, DEI's handling package will overcome horsepower and they'll be OK. But to be as dominant as they've been in the past, the boys better burn a lot of midnight oil and bring a little more power back to Daytona if they want to dominate this race like they've done in the past.

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