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NASCAR feeling out fuel injection in 2011

Jay Hart
Yahoo Sports

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR moved one step closer to implementing fuel injection into the Sprint Cup Series with the announcement of a partnership with Freescale Semiconductor and McLaren Electronic Systems.

Teams will test the new fuel injection system throughout the 2011 season, with an eye on full-scale implementation in 2012, though that target date isn't set in stone.

NASCAR is making the move, already two years in development, to be more "relevant," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. Currently, all NASCAR engines feature carburetors, which haven't been used in street cars for years, if not decades.

"This is a positive step that will provide greater fuel efficiency and a greener footprint while maintaining the same great competition we have seen on the race track," said Pemberton.

To better understand exactly what this change means and why it's happening now, Y! Sports compiled some answers:

What is the difference between a carburetor and fuel injection?

"If you think of an engine as an air pump, the amount of air that flows to the engine determines what fuel you need to put in," explained Peter van Manen, managing director of McLaren. "What a fuel injection system does, it allows you to put in the precise amount of fuel in at the right time.

"With a carburetor, you will set up the optimum amount of fueling for a specific point in the engine cycle," van Manen continued. "At that specific point – at a certain load and a certain engine speed – the carburetor and the fuel injection system will be very similar. As you go outside of that range, fuel injection system can be optimized for it. So in terms of power, the way that you would have to set up a carburetor system to get power in the complete range of an engine is to waste fuel when you're away from that optimum point. With a fuel injection system, you'll be able to optimize for all points."

Why has NASCAR continued to use carburetors even though they are outdated?

Carburetors are easier for NASCAR to police.

Can the fuel injection systems be tampered with?

According to van Manen, no. Each unit carries with it a code specific to NASCAR. Without the code, the system will not operate. If teams attempt to open the unit, the code will no longer be present and the system will not work.

This feature was essential in NASCAR's decision to move toward fuel injection and one of the main reasons why McLaren was chosen as the partner.

Can McClaren's engine control units (ECUs) fail?

Yes, though in four years in the IndyCar Series and three years in Formula 1, McLaren has not had a failure, according to van Manen.

Will fuel injection impact performance?

No, though fuel injection should provide for better fuel mileage.

Will this come at an increased cost to teams?

Yes, in the short term, but Pemberton expects the long-term savings will offset the losses in the short term.

Will fuel injection be implemented in the Nationwide and/or Truck Series?

Not at this time.

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