From Ligonier to Daytona
From Ligonier to Daytona
By Bob Buttgen
Sunday, February 26, 2012, 12:00am
LIGONIER — When 43 stock cars take off today in the world-famous Daytona 500, a major change will be unveiled under the hood as the racers roar up to 195 mph on the 2.5-mile track.
The change in the engines involves a crucial part manufactured at Millennium Industries in Ligonier.
Millenium Industries produced fuel rails for many of the NASCAR racing teams taking part in the most prestigious and opening race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.
The fuel rails are key to a new electronic fuel injection system NASCAR mandated for all of its Sprint Cup cars this year. The change to fuel injection is one of the most anticipated and important changes in stock-car-racing history.
By 1990, every passenger car sold in the United States had adopted electronic fuel injection. But NASCAR held steadfast to the tried-and-true carburetor. Until this year.
Most of the major race teams in the Daytona 500 — Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler — will be using fuel rails produced in Ligonier, according to Jackson Roe, Millennium’s business development manager.
Roe is in Daytona Beach this week to watch how his company’s fuel rails perform for NASCAR.
A fuel rail is essentially a small pipe (usually resembling a rail) that is used to deliver fuel to individual fuel injectors on internal combustion engines. But these are no ordinary fuel rails. They were built in Ligonier to exact specifications supplied by NASCAR and the race teams.
The parts are being produced in a low-volume, experimental division within Millennium Industries, which also makes parts for companies such as Roush Racing, along with other high-performance applications for General Motors and Chrysler, Roe said.
“The move to electronic fuel injection in NASCAR has expanded the opportunities for Millennium Industries, and we are pleased to be a part of this,” Roe said. “The NASCAR teams came to us, we didn’t go looking for the business. Racing applications are the most extreme environment for parts to survive in. The vibration and abuse that is generated at 195 miles an hour takes a lot of engineering to overcome. But by being the foremost major supplier of fuel system parts in the U.S., it just made good sense for them to go to the leaders in the industry.”
Roe said he is not at liberty to say exactly which teams are using Millennium’s products, but a majority of the big-name racing teams are using fuel rails made at the factory on North Main Street in Ligonier’s industrial park.
Millennium is considered a leader in new technology in the fuel-system industry with production, design, engineering, research and development, along with testing facilities — all in the Ligonier factory, Roe said.
“We have also worked directly with NASCAR officials in developing hardware and guidelines for the new fuel systems that will be run at Daytona for the first time. It is very exciting for Millennium as a company and its employees, and we are very proud that a prestigious organization such as NASCAR had the confidence to come to us for this new technology.”
Fans will not see much of a change as a result of Sprint Cup cars going to electronic fuel injection. The cars will achieve better fuel efficiency, because more fuel will go into the cylinders and not splash outside them. But teams will also be trying to get as much horsepower as they can, so it will be much the same balancing act as in the past.
Sprint Cup cars produce up to 900 horsepower, while traveling up to 195 mph and covering 500 miles in less than three hours.
Another change that comes with the switch to fuel injection is that when a car runs out of fuel, the system pretty much shuts down, which could reduce opportunities for drivers to coast to pit road, as they did with traditional carburetors.
Roe said he hopes to return to Ligonier on Monday with news that the winning team was using a Millennium fuel rail.