SHEHEEN: An Engine Battle Is Brewing

Ralph Sheheen Mug
Ralph Sheheen

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The most talked about topic during the DIRTcar Nationals at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park was the trio of engine manufacturers now competing in 410 sprint car racing.

The newest being Toyota, which debuted its engine in February.

Chevrolet-based engines have dominated sprint car racing for decades, but Ford reentered the fray in 2019 with Tony Stewart Racing.

Gio Scelzi wheeled the KPC Racing No. 18 sprint car with Toyota power throughout Speedweeks. Scelzi feels the new engine is showing signs of strength in the areas that he knows are needed if one wants to be a winner with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.

Donny Schatz, who is the lead driver in the TSR/Ford camp, says they are still anxiously awaiting some new parts — engine castings to be specific. Schatz had told us during the Last Call in November that he was hoping to have the parts by early spring. Unfortunately, the challenges of the past year have delayed them further.

As much as the 10-time WoO champion is looking forward to the engine upgrades that are on the way, Schatz knows he has a proven winner in his engine bay, as he searches for his 300th series victory — one he very well may have achieved by the time you read this column.

Drivers such as Sheldon Haudenschild who compete with the dominant Chevy engine remain confident that the rest of the engine manufacturers are chasing them and will be for a while. When asked what the Chevy needs to stay on top, Haudenschild replied, “Nothing!”

– Our most recent “SPEED SPORT LIVE FROM” production for MAVTV originated from Speedweeks in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Featuring motorsports coverage from Daytona Int’l Speedway, New Smyrna Speedway and Volusia Speedway Park, no other outlet had more stories, video, social media posts and pictures from all over Speedweeks than SPEED SPORT.

We were at all of the tracks with coverage on a wide variety of media platforms.

– One of the best motorsports moments I have seen lately on television was the tour nine-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen gave viewers of his man cave during NBC Sports’ coverage of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to see some pretty cool and impressive racing-themed man caves, but Kristensen’s is jaw-dropping. While I have never been there in person, Kristensen gave the racing world a personal tour with his laptop during the race.

One wall features a huge display of literally every helmet he has ever worn, including some from his amateur racing days. He apparently wore a lot of them during his career. Other helmets came from his most recent stints behind the wheel.

Then, there are the trophies. When you have had a legendary career like Tom Kristensen, you collect a lot of trophies. He actually has a two-story trophy tree that is spectacular.

Kristensen later turned the camera on the laptop toward his nine Le Mans trophies. Each of the very recognizable trophies is in its own case and all nine are lined up next to each other, showcased on a declining mantle with a massive nighttime photo from the Sarthe as a backdrop.

As if all of this isn’t cool enough, there are a variety of cars and motorcycles in the room. The most significant of which is Kristensen’s Le Mans-winning Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro. Kristensen shared the car with Loic Duval and Allan McNish en route to his ninth and final Le Mans triumph.

This fantastic car is a stunning centerpiece to cap off one of the greatest racing man caves on the planet. If you didn’t catch Tom’s tour during the broadcast, it can be easily located on YouTube. It’s worth the search.

– Jarett Andretti is doing a tremendous job carrying on the family name and making his dad, the late John Andretti, proud. Yes, he is successful behind the wheel of a race car. However, he is doing a stellar job in continuing the charity work that his father was so passionate about.

John’s Race-4-Riley program has been a huge success for the Riley’s Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. Jarett has worked hard to continue the growth of the Race-4-Riley program, which is now in its 25th year.

One of the best things about Race-4-Riley is that all of the money goes directly to helping the kids. If you would like to help Jarett with the Race-4-Riley program, email him at [email protected]

The Andretti family has also launched The CheckIt4Andretti Charitable Foundation to continue John Andretti’s mission of educating people about the importance of cancer screenings.

The third-generation Andretti racer has a busy racing schedule this season as well. It includes running an IMSA LMP3 car, 15 or so non-winged sprint car races and maybe even a couple of midget shows.

Keep those elbows up and keep digging — on and off the track!