In NASCAR, the Secret Weapon Is Motor Oil

Forget the engine; ex-NASA techs search for perfect lubricant
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2009 9:12 AM CDT
Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, left, and NASCAR driver Sam Hornish Jr. change oil for a customer at a promotional event, Tuesday, March 31, 2009, in Grand Prairie, Texas.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – How do you make a race car go faster? For NASCAR teams, one of the only options is to attempt to concoct the perfect motor oil. With technology restricted across the sport, engineers can't tinker too much with the hardware, but better oil actually helps. The Wall Street Journal looks at a world of secret formulas and scientists known only by their first names—so competitors can't find and poach them.

"I don't want other teams trying to find out who these guys are," says the perfectly named Lake Speed Jr., who runs the oil program at Joe Gibbs Racing. With a $1 million yearly investment, the team has gained about 2% in horsepower in its cars' engines. That might sound like a paltry return, but in the spilt-second world of NASCAR, it's more than enough to make a difference.