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NASCAR Illustrated: Ask a crew chief with Steve Letarte

July 24, 2014, NASCAR Illustrated,

Life span of machined engine blocks

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Editor's note: Photo by LaDon George

From Tom Skaggs (via Facebook):

"Are the machined engine blocks used for more than one race? What is the typical life span?"

Crew Chief, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet: "Certain parts, such as valve springs, you race one race and you throw them away, or you use them in test engines. Pistons are kind of the same way, they're a one-and-done part. The engine block, the heads, the crankshaft, camshaft, they're not only extremely expensive, but you start to get a history with that part. You find that this block runs a little better than this one, or this set of heads is a little better than this one. There are a lot of parts used over and over and over again. That's why you have to have such a large engine shop."

NI: So just like you may bring a chassis back that performed well, you might do the same thing with parts?

Letarte: "It's funny. I love the chassis comment, because the fans have grabbed a hold of this theoretical chassis number, and they would be so disappointed to know that's only for accounting. It's just a piece of steel. It has nothing to do with how that car has run. A car is nothing more than a welded-together steel cage. The spindles, the springs, the shocks, the suspension, the seat, the wiring harness -- none of that belongs to that car. That gets raced through a bunch of different cars all year long. Even the bodies get cut off probably monthly. The car [number] itself is really just an accounting method to say there's that car that has this value for the accountants."

NI: So when everybody gets excited that Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s bringing back the same chassis he won with at Michigan they need to settle down.

Letarte: "Yeah. It's nothing more than a line item in the books."