Drag Racing Online: The Magazine

Volume VIII, Issue 8, Page 51

Here’s the raw cylinder head casting you get when you buy the DRCE3 head for $920 retail at your friendly GM Performance Parts dealer. Warren Johnson likes that it is already so beefy with its small cast ports and flat combustion chambers, it doesn’t have to be welded up for proprietary port designs. It’s built by ECK Industries.

Engel noted that the new DRCE3 block was designed right after the new NASCAR block and incorporated some of its proven design attributes:

1) A camshaft tunnel using up to nine (!) roller bearings for support. The tunnel keeps valvetrain oil off the crankshaft.

2) Moving the camshaft up in the block to yield shorter, stronger pushrods and increase RPM and valvetrain stability;

3) Oil squirters in the cam tunnel to lube the camshaft. This was originally done in  GM IRL engines. The late Randy Dorton of Hendrick Motorsports showed them to me in a NASCAR engine block a number of years ago. It has since been discontinued in the latest DRCE blocks..

The next generation NASCAR block is going to be a big step up in sophistication from the current NASCAR block, notes Engel. You get the feeling he can hardly wait to see what design tricks he can borrow from that NASCAR block for the DRCE4. From what little can be gathered about the new GM NASCAR block, it is going to have optimized coolant flow (although that is not so important in a drag racing application), and have some weight management (it will shed some pounds) without weakening it.

Current Status

Johnson’s team has been able to make the DRCE3 engine/block combo relatively successful after a steep learning curve; particularly in 2004. He said about that first year, “we had adequate power, but with the increased RPM, it took time to develop the car.”

According to Johnson the useable RPM increased about 300-350 RPM from version 2 to 3. That is quite an impressive gain for an engine already turning 10,000 RPM.

It didn’t seem clear whether it was the new DRCE3 engine or the chassis  causing the teething problems -- turned out to be the chassis -- so it was not an auspicious debut for the new complete engine head/block package. Johnson’s current success with the DCRE3 has been hard-fought and hard-won.

Nevertheless, why aren’t more Pro Stock teams using the complete DCRE3 if it’s such a design improvement? According to Engel there are various reasons keeping teams in the DRCE2 camp. “It’s sold unfinished. For instance, there is a lot of design work in the cylinder head and its intake and exhaust ports. It’s a big investment for a team to develop a new engine. Teams want to continue to work on the stuff they already have. It’s also a cost increase to switch to the new stuff. But I think we’ll be adding one new team with the DRCE3 by the end of the year (2006).”

See what we mean by flat combustion chambers? Fire up the CNC-machine!

Engel continued he has been “surprised more teams haven’t used it. They like the head better; they do like the block better. There is more potential for gains in the new engine.” Indeed, GM Racing doesn’t just throw a team buying the raw DRCE3 head into murky waters – Engel notes they have access to a design-intent drawing GM will give them and can copy that head configuration to get started.

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