Relationship Between Temperature and Gasket Failures2

should we do?”

Reagan was not sure, but his brother and driver partner Fred Reagan was on the
phone and needed a decision. Should they run in the race or not? It had been a successful season so far, but
the Pocono race was important because of the prize money and TV exposure it
promised. This first year had been hard because the team was trying to make a
name for itself. They had run a lot of small races to get this shot at the big
time. A successful outing could mean more sponsors, a chance to start making
some profits for a change, and the luxury of racing only major events. But if
they suffered another engine failure on national television…

thinking about the team’s engine problems made John wince. They had blown the
engine seven times in twenty-four outings this season with various degrees of
damage to the engine and car. No one knew for sure why. It took a lot of
sponsor money to replace a $20,000 racing engine, and the wasted entry fees
were no small matter either. John and Fred had everything they owned riding on
Reagan Racing. This season had to be a success.

Edwards, the engine mechanic, was guessing the engine problem was related to
ambient temperature. He argued that when it was cold the different expansion
rates for the head and block were damaging the head gasket and causing the
engine failures. It was below freezing last night, which meant a cold morning
for starting the race.

Burns, the chief mechanic, did not agree with Paul’s “gut feeling,” and had
data to support his position (see Exhibit 1). He pointed out that gasket
failures had occurred at all temperatures, which meant temperature was not the
issue. Tom had been racing for twenty years, and believed that luck was an
important element in success. He had argued this view when he and John
discussed the problem last week “In racing, you are pushing the limits of what
is known. You cannot expect to have everything under control. If you want to
win, you have to take risks. Everybody in racing knows it. The drivers have
their lives on the line, I have a career that hangs on every race, and you have
got every dime tied up in the business. That’s the thrill, beating the odds and
winning.” Last night over dinner he had added to this argument forcefully with
what he called Burns’ First Law of Racing: “Nobody ever won a race sitting in
the pits.”

Fred and Tom had discussed Reagan Racing’s situation the previous evening. This
first season was a success from a racing standpoint with the team’s car
finishing in the top five in 12 of the 15 races it completed. As a result the
sponsorship offers that were critical to the team’s business success were
starting to come in. A big break had come two weeks ago after the Dunham race,
where the team scored its fourth first-place finish. Goodstone Tire had finally
decided Reagan Racing deserved its sponsorship at Pocono, the last major race
of the season — worth a much-needed $40,000. Furthermore, Goodstone was
considering a full season contract for next year if the team’s car finished in
the top five in this race. The Goodstone sponsorship was for a million a year,
plus incentives. John and Fred received a favorable response from Goodstone’s
Racing Program Director last week when they presented their plans for next
season, but it was clear that his support depended on the visibility they
generated in this race.

we only have another hour to decide,” Fred said over the phone. “If we withdraw
now we can get back half the $15,000 entry and try to recoup some of our losses
next season. We will lose Goodstone, they’ll want $25,000 of their money back,
and we end up the season $50,000 in the hole. If we run and finish in the top
five, we have Goodstone in our pocket and can easily add another car next
season. You know as well as I do, however, that if we run and lose another
engine, we’re back at square one next season. We will lose the tire sponsorship
and a blown engine is going to lose us the oil contract. No oil company wants a
national TV audience to see a smoking car dragged off the track with its name
plastered all over it. The oil sponsorship is $500,000 that we cannot live
without. Think about it — call Paul and Tom if you want — but I need a
decision in an hour.”

John hung up the phone and looked out the window at
the cold, fall sky. It looked like the temperature for race time would be as
forecasted, 40 degrees.

Note from TomBurns


I got the data on the gasket failures from
Paul. We have run 24 racs this season, with temperatures at race time ranging
from 53 degrees to 82 degrees. Paul had a good idea in suggesting we look into
this, but as you can see, this is not our problem. I looked at the seven races
with gasket failure, and tested the data for a correlation between temperature
and gasket failures and found no relationship.

Between Temperature and Gasket Failures2

# Breaks in Head Gasket During Each


Ambient Air Temperature (Degrees F)

In comparison with some of the other teams,
we have done extremely well this season. We havefinished62.5% of the races, and when we finished,
we were in the top five 80% of the time. Our rate of blown engines is 29%, but
we are running fast, so we have to expect some difficulties. I am not happy
with the engine problems, but I will take the four first-place finishes and 50%
rate of finishing in the money3over seven blown engines any day. If
we continue to run like this, we will have our pick of sponsors.


2Each point is for a single race. Agasket can have multiple
breaks, any of which may produce an engine failure.
3Thc topfive finishers in a raceare“inthe money.”

Paul Edwards for me.” John was calling to get his engine mechanic’s opinion on
whether they should run. The data Tom put together indicated that temperature
was not the problem, but John wanted to get Paul’s direct assessment.

Paul Edwards was a classic “gas station
mechanic.” His fingernails were permanently blackened by grease and his
coveralls never stayed clean for more than two minutes on Saturday mornings. He
had been knocking around the professional circuit for ten years after dropping
out of school at sixteen to follow drag racing. He lacked the sophisticated
engineering training that was getting more common in racing, but he did know
racing engines.

John had discussed the gasket problem with
Paul two days ago. As he waited for Paul to come to the phone, he reflected on
their previous conversation. Paul was a man of few words, and was not given to
overstatement. “The way I see it, the turbo-pressure during warm-up — in
conjunction with the different expansion rates for the head and block — is
doing a number on us,” was about the extent of what he had to say on the
problem. It was his personal opinion on the cause of the engine failures and he
would never represent it as anything else.

It was the same story John had heard twenty
times, but it did not match Tom’s data. “Paul we have chewed this over before.
How do you know this is the problem? When we ran at Riverside the temperature
was 75 degrees and we still lost the gasket and the engine.”

“I am not sure what happened at Riverside,”
Paul had replied. “I am not sure that temperature is the problem, but it is the
only thing I can figure out. It is definitely the gaskets that are blowing out
and causing the engine to go.”

Part of Reagan Racing’s success was due to
a unique turbo-charging system that Tom and John had developed. They had come
up with a new head design that allowed them to get more turbo pressure to the
engine while maintaining fuel consumption at a fairly constant level. By
casting the head and turbo bodies in a high-strength aircraft alloy, they had
also saved almost fifty pounds of weight. The alloy they were using was not as
temperature sensitive as the material in the engine block, but the head gasket
should be able to handle the different expansion rates.

John could hear the sounds of race day in
the background as Paul approached the phone. “Hello John,” he said, obviously
excited. “The Goodstone coveralls just got here. We are talking some fine
threads, and no sew-on patches from these guys. The logo on the back and our
names are stitched right into the material. I guess this means we get to keep
‘em. Course, I got some grease on mine already, so they probably won’t want ‘em
back anyway.”

“I’m glad you like them,” John said. “I
need some information from you. What are we doing about the gasket failure

“The car is set to go. We have been using a
different sealing procedure since Slippery Rock, and had no problems for two
races. Tom says the Goodstone deal is set as long as we finish in the money
today. The guys in the shop want this bad. Goodstone is a class act. They can
make us the number one team on the circuit if they decide to take us on.”

John had only ten minutes to make up his
mind when he called Tom. There was one last thing he wanted to know. “Give me
the temperatures for the races where we did not have any gasket problems.”

“What do you need them for?”

“Just call it idle
curiosity. Do you have them?”

“Hold on.” Tom was
organized, which counted for a lot at a time like this. “Okay, here we are. I
am going to give you the number of races at each temperature. Let’s see: One
race at 66 degrees; three races at 67; one each at 68 and 69 degrees; two at
70; one each at 72 and 75;two at 76;
one each 79, 80 and 82. That 82 was Tampa; what a scorcher that day turned out
to be’ And I do not have the last two races on my list. They were 78 and 73
degrees at race time.”

John plotted the points as
Tom read them off (see below). It was time to call Fred.

Temperature for Races without Blown Gaskets

Ambient Air Temperature (Degrees F)

Number of Races


Reagan Racing Background: The Risks of

A RISKY PROFESSION…By Ed Hinton, Tribune Auto Racing Writer.
February 14, 2001
(Edited by Dr. Goitein)

Mario Andretti awakens a
split-second before dying. “I still wake up from dreams that I am crashing, or
that I’m upside down,” he says, “things I used to dread and fear.’

He is now 60. “Thank God I
survived that era,” he says. In his time, he did it all:
dirt-track stock cars,
sprint cars, midget cars, lndy cars, prototype sports cars, NASCAR, Formula
One. He won it all: the lndy 500, the Daytona 500, the world driving

And he lived to tell about
it. He cannot count the friends who didn’t. “At the beginning of a season, I
would look around at a drivers meeting and I would think, ‘I wonder who’s not
going to be here at the end,’” he says. “There were years when we lost as many
as six guys.

Questions: Estimates
and advice

The car was
designed and tested at “room temperature” conditions.

Based on the
track record of races at less than “room temperature, ” i.e., 65 degrees or
less, what do you estimate the chances for
the car to have a gasket failure during
a less than room temperature race? ____%

Based on the track
record of races at “room temperature,” i.e., 66-77 degrees. what do you estimate
the chances for the car to have a gasket failure during a room temperature race?

Based on the
track record of warm temperature races
i.e., over 77 degrees, what do you estimate the chances for the car to have gasket failure
during an above room temperature race? ____%

All things
considered, what do you estimate the chances for the car to have a gasket
failure at the Pocono Race?____%

What do you estimate
the chances will be for being “in the money” at the Pocono Race?____%

on the case material, if John was a good manager, making a good decision, what
should John do? Why?



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