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Doug Yates says changes can be made to increase horsepower but challenges remain

Motormouths discusses calls for more horsepower in the short-track package, with Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty saying it's no surprise Martinsville needs more passing, but they don't know why the focus is on engines.

Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, sees a way to increase horsepower from the current Cup level of 670 horsepower to 750 with minimal costs but acknowledged that the topic is “not one of our bullet points that we discuss in every (engine) builders meeting with NASCAR.”

The notion of increased horsepower for Cup cars has grown since drivers — particularly Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano — called for more horsepower after last weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway. They said making changes to the engine would help increase passing.

Jeff Andrews, Hendrick Motorsports president and general manager, said after the Martinsville race that any decision to increase horsepower needs to be made soon because of the time it would take to acquire the appropriate parts and pieces for such a move.

Yates said Wednesday that he agreed with Andrews’ assessment because “this really hasn’t been on our radar screen.”

Yates is the son of NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner/engine builder Robert Yates. Doug Yates followed his father into building engines before heading Roush Yates Engines, which supplies engines to Ford teams.

Yates said changes could be made to efficiently increase the horsepower to 750 but that going to 900 horsepower — a level Cup cars once were — “would be a pretty long runway to get there and probably add a lot of expenses due to the life of the engine would be shorter.”

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, noted Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that it would take some time to increase horsepower significantly if officials wanted to do that.

“It takes a little bit of a runway to get everybody on the same page and do that in the most efficient and economical manner,” Sawyer said. “If there are other options outside the engine it would be far easier for us to pull that lever. I’m not saying it isn’t a good option down the road, but it takes a little longer runway to get there.”

As to any increase in horsepower, Yates said Wednesday: “We’re here to do whatever NASCAR, Jim France and our Ford Performance guys want to do, but I think the (750), I think that’s a pretty easy change. I don’t know if I can envision them doing it this year.”

NASCAR is not likely to make such a significant change in the middle of the season. Part of that is because Cup teams are required to run 16 long block sealed engines prior to the second-to-last event of the season, meaning teams have to run the same engine more than one race. It’s why winning drivers often ask their crew chief if they can do a burnout. Sometimes they can’t because they have to run that engine another race.

Yates noted not all teams have the same rotation of running engines a second time at this point in the season.

“I think we would have to get some sort of answer on those things to be able to make this happen, but that would be a discussion and a great point to bring up,” Yates said of the engine usage rule.

Yates also said that the topic of increased horsepower has been more a discussion point in “podcasts and media.

“I think NASCAR is keenly aware of trying to make sure that we’re having a light powertrain at the track, we’re keeping costs in mind and we’re also keeping the future of the sport in line with what would attract a new (manufacturer) to come into the sport. All those decisions are strategic discussions that we do have with NASCAR.”