RoushYates Factory Tour: Where Diligence and Experience Yield Winning Engines

Jack Roush at RoushYates Horsepower Factory Tour

Leading up to the year 2004, the Ford Motor Company strongly encouraged longtime rivals Jack Roush and Robert Yates to combine their race engine–building operations to help it beat Chevrolet, Dodge, and Toyota in NASCAR. Initially, there was reluctance, but the joint effort quickly paid off: Ford won the Nextel Cup championship with Kurt Busch that same year. Since giving their marriage vows with Ford wielding the shotgun, RoushYates engines have earned 192 total victories. Here is a quick look at the facilities that build those winning motors, as well as the motors themselves.


Two hundred employees build, test, and deliver 750 NASCAR V-8s per annum—plus 250 additional engines for other race series. Fueled by Sunoco E15 (15 percent ethanol) and lubricated by Safety-Kleen recycled oil, the Ford FR9 V-8s delivered to 27 race teams boast several awesome stats:

The blocks are compacted graphite iron—like in the new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 headed for the 2015 Ford F-150—and the heads are aluminum.  While every engine is torn down after each race, each block generally lasts 10,000 miles; heads live for 4500 miles.

Rules limit displacement to 358 cubic inches and the compression ratio to 12:1. The Ford FR9 runs a 4.175-inch bore and a 3.260-inch stroke, bringing its displacement to a legal 357 cubic inches.

RoushYates Horsepower Factory Tour

An electronic control unit produced by McLaren commands ignition timing and the port (!) fuel injection. Each exhaust collector is equipped with an O2 sensor, and the ECU also logs coolant temperature, oil pressure and temperature, air temperature, and intake manifold pressure for post-race analysis. Remember, onboard telemetry is not allowed in NASCAR.

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Flat tappets (cam followers) are mandatory in the Nextel Cup series. Rocker arms pivot on needle bearings and contact the valve stems through rollers. Pushrods must be made of “magnetic” steel, intake and exhaust valve lift is approximately one inch, roughly twice what’s common in production engines, and the valvetrains are tested to more than 11,000 rpm using six SpinTron machines.

Output peaks at 900 horsepower at 9000 rpm, but approximately 50 horsepower is lost in the driveline (transmission, differential, wheel bearings); torque peaks at 7500 rpm. The rev limiter is typically set at 10,100 rpm, while 10,000 rpm is also routinely used.

RoushYates Horsepower Factory Tour

For running the completed engines through their paces, RoushYates has three electric AVL dynamometers for tuning and development work, plus eight conventional (water-brake) dynos. The AVL machines can be programmed to replicate past races or to simulate the loads and rpm expected on new tracks. And all of this can be chalked up to Ford’s intensifying interest in motorsports in general, and NASCAR in particular. RoushYates has truly prospered to become one of the world’s preeminent horsepower houses.

About Don Sherman