Engine, transmission, spark plug, tires, radiator, suspension, brakes, power steering, electrical, wheels, hubs, and vibration. Oh, and accidents. Obviously.
If you dig into the weekly media guide for each NASCAR race, buried in 180 pages of detail you’ll find all of these listed as reasons a car didn’t complete a race. Drivers say, “If you want to win, you first need to finish.” A little obvious, but in the world of auto racing, finishing isn’t easy. Want to prove your product has the highest levels of performance, quality and reliability? Go racing with it.
What you won’t see on that list is ‘engine control unit’ or ECU. Not once. Not this year, and not last year. Not once in 66 races stretching back to the start of the 2012 season. Not once in one million miles of competition.
- 196 hours of racing, or over eight days behind the wheel for each driver. Driving for 40 hours a week, that’s almost five weeks.
- Over two round trips from the Earth to the moon
- 40 trips around the Earth
- In every race, the spark plugs and fuel injectors fire about 3.6 million times in each car. One million miles of racing? That’s over 10 billion times.
Reliability in race cars, just as in passenger cars, has improved considerably over the last several decades. But the old adage remains true – racing is the ultimate test of a machine. If you want to find out what will break, take a car to a race track and push it to the absolute limit for a few hundred miles. Then do that every week for 36 weeks. Last year at the final race in Miami to determine the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ champion, Jimmie Johnson was leading with a chance for the win. An unexpected oil line leak put him in the garage after 212 laps. The entire year of racing and a leak in an inexpensive oil line keeps him from a possible championship. Racing breaks things, and sometimes at the worst possible time.
When Freescale entered into the highest level of NASCAR competition, the Sprint Cup series, as a sole-source supplier of automotive semiconductors, there was certainly enough concern to go around. Not just taking out carburetors, which have been used reliably for decades, but installing an entirely new system. That entirely new system included an engine computer, along with sensors, injectors and wiring – all of which increased the chance of things going wrong. Oh, and did I mention we launched this new system at the Daytona 500 – the 7th most valuable sporting event in the world? What’s the worst that could happen? Well, what did happen is all the talk was about the race, not about issues with the EFI system.
And now, we’ve completed one million miles, and truly changed the sport. Not just by bringing the exact same technology that has proven itself in passenger cars, but also by providing the teams with a new way to gather information to win.
There are many reasons why a car won’t finish the race. They may even run into a jet dryer on the track (just ask Juan Pablo Montoya). But so far, they haven't failed to finish due to the engine computer.
The best news for Freescale and NASCAR’s one millionth mile is that there’s really no news. The launch of EFI has gone so smoothly, it’s really not a story – which is just the way we like it.
Steve Nelson is Director of Marketing, Freescale Americas.