Story updated April 13, 2011 at 8:50am ET
Sunday evening, Senoia, Georgia driver Bubba Pollard chased Chris Eggleston under the checkered flag in “THE RACE” PASS South event at North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina. Pollard had dominated the event, but lost the lead to Eggleston in the final laps of the $75,000-to-win Super Late Model show.
The second-place finish at the checkered flag was then rescinded on Monday morning, when PASS South Officials announced via a press release that Pollard’s #18 had been disqualified in post-race technical inspection and placed as the final finisher in 44th.
Speed51.com contacted PASS President Tom Mayberry for further explanation of the disqualification, but Mayberry told us it is PASS policy not to elaborate on the infraction. Pollard, when contacted by 51, admitted it was an issue with the balance of the crank shaft inside the engine that was the issue.
The parts in question from the engine, which was a Ford Crate Engine from McGunegill Engine Performance, had been installed after leaving the MEP shop by Michigan engine builder Phil Harper. (EDITOR'S NOTE: The engine in question was originally reported to Speed51.com as a Ford Sealed Engine, but was clairified on Tuesday morning by MEP as a Ford 425 LM Crate Engine - click here for statement from MEP)
“On some of the Ford engines, (the crank shaft) comes from Ford internally balanced already,” said Pollard. “This McGunegill engine, with their specs, doesn’t come internally balanced. If the Ford Blue Oval engine is internally balanced, why can’t specs on McGunegill’s Ford engines be internally balanced? Wrong is wrong and I accept that. You can balance a motor from the inside of the motor or on the outside of the motor with the flywheel. It’s really no advantage; it just keeps the motor running smoother.”
“The engine in question was purchased by the Elliott team a few years ago,” said DeWaine McGunegill, Owner of McGunegill Engine Performance. “But, the work that was done and in question was not done by MEP. I want to keep my nose clean in all of this. The reason why we do not internally balance the crank shaft is to keep the cost down for the racer. An externally balanced crank shaft saves the racer $200. That’s the only reason we do not internally balance them in our engines.”
Speed51.com’s calls to Phil Harper were not returned on Monday. On Tuesday morning, 51 received a call from Harper and was provided with a press release on behalf of Phil Harper Motorsports with their reaction on the situation. (click here for the press release (.pdf format))
Pollard’s familiar #18 number was on the side of a deep-blue Ford racecar, but the car wasn’t out of the Ronnie Sanders stables. This machine was the same car that was driven into victory lane by Chase Elliott in the PASS South event at North Wilkesboro in September of 2010.
Pollard had crashed his Ronnie Sanders Racing #18 car the previous weekend at Montgomery Motor Speedway (AL). On Monday, Pollard purchased a car and engine from the Elliott team to compete with in “THE RACE.” Pollard also brought several of Elliott’s crew members along for the race, including Crew Chief Ricky Turner.
“THE RACE” was the first time that Turner and the Elliott crew had been back inside a PASS South pit area as a team since they were in victory lane in September. At the conclusion of that race, PASS South officials asked Elliott’s #9 team for a deeper investigation into the engine of the race-winning car during technical inspection. The Elliott team reportedly declined. Elliott kept the victory, but a letter from PASS South President Tom Mayberry was delivered to competitors at the next series event (at Hickory Motor Speedway). The letter indicated that Elliott and his team would not be allowed to compete in PASS sanctioned events indefinitely. Elliott, to date, has not competed in another PASS South race.
In a statement provided to Speed51.com, Bill Elliott Racing said the following:
“Bill Elliott Racing has nothing to do with the engines. The engine in question was not a Ford Blue Oval crate engine like Chase runs in the late model series(s). In each series, the engine builder is bonded and certified by the series to work on the approved motors for that series and then seal the engine. There is no way anyone could tell from just looking that something internal did not meet the specifications of the series rules. It is unfortunate for Bubba that he was put in the middle of this situation. What was found in the engine adds no performance enhancement and Bubba did a fantastic job in the race last Sunday. We are disappointed that this happened and have offered to buy the car back because of the financial burden that this has put on Bubba and his team.”
According to Pollard, the engine he used at North Wilkesboro is not the only one with a similar issue.
“I’m not up on all the engine rules and things like that and I couldn’t tell you the ins and outs of an engine, but from what I know, there are more engines like that one out there. It’s not just from the engine builder that we used this past weekend, but other engine builders that are out there as well. I don’t feel like Phil Harper is the only one to blame here. I feel like there are other engine builders out there that have done the same thing. We were just the ones that got caught up in the deal.”