Tony Stewart is adamant that the Ford FR9 engine holds a power advantage over the other manufacturers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Roush Fenway Racing's Carl Edwards currently leads the Cup standings, while Roush-Yates powered cars have won four races thus far – more than any other engine builder - including Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500 win for Wood Brothers Racing.
The Ford FR9 engine, which was fully implemented by the teams running for the blue oval brand only in the summer of last year, has played a big role in turning the fortunes of Roush Fenway Racing around, the team winning seven races since then. At Daytona, the cooling package of the engine seemed to make a difference as well, as rival manufacturers appeared to be more affected by NASCAR restricting air intake to the radiators in an attempt to prevent the drivers from racing in tandem at the restrictor-plate track.
Stewart, whose team runs Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet units, expects NASCAR's dyno tests to confirm his theory.
"I think Ford definitely has an advantage right now over the whole field," said Stewart. "Anybody that doesn't have [a Ford], they've been working on this motor for a long time and we're still on about a six-year old model. I'm really proud of Hendrick's engine department – they've been fighting a lot and have been really working hard to keep us where we're at. I think you're kind of bringing a knife to a gun fight right now.
"I can't wait for one of these NASCAR deals after the race where they chassis dyno some cars and see where they're at because I think that will tell the tale."
Cup points leader Edwards disagrees with Stewart's claim and believes Ford has caught up with other manufacturers recently through the development of its newer power plant. Last year before the FR9 was fully implemented, Roush Fenway teams had struggled and only through the second half of the 2010 season where they able to contend for victories once again.
"It is even," said Edwards about Ford's power versus the competition. "We can go out and look at the dyno stuff NASCAR has if you like, but I can see it on the racetrack. We are not head and shoulders above other people, we have caught up. I feel like before we were behind and worked on our cars quite a bit and now that we have caught up it looks really good but we can't lay off our engine program.
"We have to keep moving forward. There are engines I raced against last weekend, and we were a little conservative in our package, that were making a lot more power off the corners.
"I am just going to have to disagree with Tony and say that we don't have a huge advantage. That is what he is supposed to be doing. He is supposed to be kicking and screaming and looking for an advantage of his own."
NASCAR officials have the chance to test engines from winning cars on their dynos at their R&D facility after every Cup race, but no adjustments have been issued to the Ford powerplants thus far.