Quicksilver Engines: Can A Boat Motor Help Save Grassroots Racing? – Quicksilver Q Crew
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Quicksilver Engines: Can A Boat Motor Help Save Grassroots Racing?

Grassroots racing has a problem, and anyone involved in the sport knows it. NASCAR star, Kyle Larson, was one of the loudest voices with a solution last year when he proclaimed that NASCAR needed to encourage drivers to race at local tracks with support series. “I feel like we’ve lost touch with our grassroots race fans,” he said.

As recently as a week ago, Kevin Harvick joined the growing sentiment that NASCAR is hurting because there is little support for the lower series.“It’s kicking those guys low on the K&N West Series when they don’t get to come and race at this particular racetrack (ISM Raceway) because there’s a little bit of a pissing contest between a budget and what is right or wrong from a sanctioning fee side on Trucks and Xfinity. So they cut the K&N guys out. Cutting the grassroots side of things out is not the right way to do things.’’

These may be true observations, and having the upper series provide monetary and physical support to the lower series might cause a trickle down effect to the grassroots level. But others offer different solutions. For example, Quicksilver Products claims that a Mercury Marine boat engine can help save grassroots racing. We listened to their explanation, and they might be right.

The Problem

As the NASCAR stars pointed out, the cost of grassroots racing has gone up, making it tougher for the low-budget teams to stay in the game. “Many teams are mowed down by the high cost and frequency of engine rebuilds,” said Mercury Marine’s Powertrain Director Mike Horak. Estimates range from $500 to $10,000 a year for expensive rebuilds that drive up the cost. According to Horak, much is this is due to the poor durability of parts. “General Motors has taken an active strategy of walking away from iron engines with their LS engines,” he points out. “The LS is a great engine, there is no doubt about that. We’ve taken a different approach, however, and that strategy is one that makes boating more affordable.” That strategy keeps iron engines as the staple of the Mercury Marine and Quicksilver Engines product line which fills a niche in dirt track racing as well.

“Many teams are mowed down by the high cost and frequency of engine rebuilds.” – Mike Horak

“We took a look at engines in general, and going aluminum adds cost,” said Horak. They chose to stay with iron engines for budgetary reasons. Boat and dirt track sports are “similar industries with similar challenges,” he asserted. Like boating enthusiasts, dirt-track car owners are not only hurt by the high cost of fuels, but also the high cost of rebuilding aluminum engines – which are often two or three times the cost of an iron-block rebuild.

According to a PRI presentation by Mercury Marine, these higher costs start a cycle of destruction for racing. The present cycle in motorsports is one of attrition. Fewer racers mean smaller crowds to watch racing. Smaller crowds mean less tickets sold, and eventually, the tracks close. The attrition of racers leads to eventual destruction of the sport.

Mercury Marine claims an iron engine that has a lower cost to own and operate is the solution to solving many of these problems. “We have free freight and tech support,” Horak declares. “We are our own distribution service. We built that distribution on getting boats on the water every weekend. Our reputation has been built on getting parts to enthusiasts rapidly. That’s our business.”

The Total Solution

Crate engines have cultivated their own reputation in recent years. Racers are skeptical of the sealed engine because of an impression of cheating by machine shops. Car owners are also afraid that the OE manufacturer is building these engines with inferior parts with more concern about the bottom line than the bottom end. We asked Horak about these issues. “We often hear from machine shops that crate engines are ruining their business. They don’t like the high-volume, low-cost work and seem to prefer the higher cost open-class engine work,” he said. “Machine shops are often cut out of the original sale of a crate engine as they are sold through GM dealers and distributors.  So they try to make money on the rebuilds since they are not selling or building the crate engine. This opens the door to perceived engine alterations.”

Horak went on to explain how Quicksilver’s business operation is different and more inclusive. “Quicksilver crate motors would enable the tracks, speed shops, and machine shops to be the dealer of the engine and sell them to the racers. That way the machine shops can now make money selling crate engines, not turn small customers away, and have a chance to up-sell to racers when they advance to higher-horsepower classes using engines the machine shops produce.”

“We have a great distribution system to sell to dealers. We don’t sell to end consumers. This means the freight is free to the customer. Believe it or not, it takes a lot to get an engine moved to different places,” he added.

The perception of cheating by machine shops is removed from the Quicksilver engines, because they are all manufactured and repaired at the factory. “Whether is it true or not, the perception exists of an authorized rebuilder helping a friend. We don’t have authorized rebuilders. We will give the racers a bounty for their old engine that they can use to help purchase a new engine from the factory. That removes the entire idea of cheating.”

The Mercury Marine engines also run on pump gas, which can be a big money saver during the course of a season. Prices from $25 for five gallons to $20 per gallon (in Canada) have been reported for race gas. The standard $3 to $4 a gallon for pump gas doesn’t seem so bad now. In addition to the free freight, pump gas, and tech support, the cornerstone of lowered cost to operate the Mercury Marine crate engines lie in the tough and durable marine parts.

This isn’t the “Halls of Montezuma” type tough marine parts, rather the harsh environment of lake and ocean-type marine parts. With many tracks requiring a car to run only water in the cooling systems, Mercury built engines utilize components that resist corrosion in the marine environments in which they are exposed. This type of durability, and parts that are built by the company for strength, add to the longevity of the crate engines we’ve been seeing on the track. “We’ve designed these engines as a ‘build it once’ type engine. By our own methodology, it is designed not to fail,” claims Horak.

“Our engines have a huge advantage coming off of the corners.” – Mike Horak

In addition to the marine grade parts used throughout the engine, the iron blocks are reconditioned “seasoned” blocks that won’t experience core shift that other blocks may have through the heating cycles during the break-in period. Speaking of break-in, Mercury Marine uses a roller camshaft that is very durable and requires far less maintenance than flat-tappet camshafts. According to Horak, it is not uncommon to see these race engines go through three seasons without needing major maintenance or a rebuild. Once you have combined the initial low-cost, free freight, the use of inexpensive pump gas to operate, and eliminate the annual engine repair/rebuild/maintenance costs, Mercury Marine’s solution starts to make real sense.


Having a durable engine is one thing — having a durable engine that is competitive is something else. We asked Horak what makes these engines competitive? “These crate engines are competitive due to torque,” he stated. Quicksilver’s 357 circle track engine is rated conservatively at 350 hp at 5,000 rpm and 407 lb-ft at 3,600. The 383 circle track engine is rated at 375 hp at 5,100 rpm and 455 lb-ft at 3600 rpm. The horsepower ranges might not be as high as a custom-built engine, but the torque curve is as high, if not higher, and comes in at a lower RPM. “Our engines have a huge advantage coming off of the corners,” said Horak. “If you think about it, boat engines are driven hard. They are pushed to max from a dead stop and have a lot more force acting on them. That is where the torque is important on the water and on the dirt.”

Horak also explained that the engines are tested for 150 hours at wide open throttle. That’s over six days at full throttle. If that isn’t a good test of durability, we’re not sure what is. Can a boat motor save dirt track racing? Maybe. Time will tell, but the one thing that is clear, these crate engines will save many race teams. An affordable and durable circle track crate engine will change “My dad used to dirt track race,” into “My dad still dirt track races.” A quick google search turned up pricing at $3,369.00 for the 357 CT and $4,494.00 for the CT 383 at Crowley Marine.

Quicksilver 357 CT (350 hp and 407 lb-ft) features:

  • Remanufactured GM 5.7-liter, two‑bolt main iron engine with single-piece rear main seal
  • Remanufactured 3.48-inch stroke nodular-iron crankshaft
  • 9.4:1 cast pistons
  • Billet-steel roller camshaft
  • Cast-iron cylinder heads
  • 1.94-inch stainless steel intake valves
  • 1.50-inch stainless steel exhaust valves
  • 1.5:1 stamped rocker arms
  • Factory sealed
  • Runs on 87‑91 octane fuel
  • Filled with Quicksilver 25W‑40 four‑stroke synthetic-blend oil
  • Equipped with circle track oil pan and an automotive dual‑plane aluminum intake manifold
  • Engine is 5,500 rpm maximum

Quicksilver 383 CT (375 hp 455 lb-ft) features: 

  • Remanufactured GM 5.7-liter, four‑bolt main iron engine with single-piece, rear-main seal
  • New 3.75-inch stroke 4340 forged-steel crankshaft
  • 9.0:1 hypereutectic pistons
  • High‑lift billet-steel roller camshaft
  • Cast-iron cylinder heads
  • 1.94-inch stainless steel intake valves
  • 1.50-inch stainless steel exhaust valves
  • 1.6:1 roller rocker arms
  • Factory sealed
  • 100 psi oil pump
  • Runs on 87‑91 octane fuel
  • Filled with Quicksilver 25W‑40 four‑stroke synthetic-blend oil
  • Equipped with circle track oil pan and an automotive dual‑plane aluminum intake manifold
  • Engine is 5,500 rpm maximum

For more information on Quicksilver Products, visit them online at www.quicksilver-products.com.


View original article at www.onedirt.com

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