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Larson: We Could Bring 1,000 HP ‘Next Week’ If NASCAR Allowed It

The Cup Series champion says it wouldn't even cost extra.
Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

It’s a question that’s always asked: How can NASCAR improve its on-track package? That’s especially relevant as the Cup Series teams and manufacturers continue to figure out the Next Gen car. Aero tweaks are usually the first suggestion, but some folks think it could be simpler than that. NASCAR could potentially spice things up by adding gobs of power, and according to Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsport could take a car with 1,000 horsepower to the track next week without spending any more money.

Larson, a Cup champion on the series’ most dominant team at present, explained this on The Dale Jr. Download podcast:

“I’ve heard [Director of Powertrain at Hendrick Motorsports] Scott Maxim say we could bring 1,000 horsepower next week and it not cost any more. They’re literally taking the [670-hp] engine that I won with at Vegas and making it a 1,000-hp engine to put in one of Rick [Hendrick]’s personal cars they’re building right now.”

Kyle Larson. Getty Images Getty Images

Putting aside any daydreams of being Rick Hendrick, that’s crazy. It shouldn’t be surprising, considering Chevrolet has pretty well perfected the formula with the 358-cubic-inch pushrod V8s. So why won’t NASCAR let the Bowtie, as well as Ford and Toyota, have at it?

“They’ve always used the excuse, ‘Well we’re trying to keep power to where other manufacturers will come in’ but as long as I’ve been in the sport, 10 years, it’s been the same three manufacturers,” Larson said. “So, maybe someone else is coming and they’re the ones pushing for lower horsepower but I’ve yet to see someone new come in and all these engine builders and teams keep saying it’s not going to cost any different to do it.”

Denny Hamlin. Getty Images Getty Images

Fellow Cup Series vet Denny Hamlin said something similar recently. When asked if NASCAR could realistically increase power on short tracks, Hamlin replied, “It can be done before next weekend, and they said it won’t change any of the durability that they’ve got. It can be done with one phone call and no additional money.

“I think any horsepower you can add will make the racing better. It’s hard to pass because we’re all in the gas so much. So you have to get us out of the gas, either through the tire or the horsepower.”

Both drivers provide valuable insight, and Hamlin’s is particularly interesting since he’s also the co-owner of 23XI Racing. In turn, he has firsthand knowledge of what the manufacturers could do if NASCAR opened the floodgates. Still, neither Hamlin nor Larson knows why the sanctioning body won’t let it happen.

It seems likely that more horsepower would spread the field out, separating the true aces from the rest of the drivers. That sounds exciting in theory, but parity is what keeps NASCAR entertaining from one race to the next as YouTuber Eric Estepp rightly points out. While it may be lame to cap performance intentionally, I find it hard to say I’d rather the most well-funded teams trounce the competition almost 40 times a year.

If the France family isn’t careful, their on-track product could become a lot like Formula 1, where one team and driver could walk away with the win virtually every time.

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