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NeSmith founder plans tour for CT525 engines

January 27, 2012, 7:14 am
By Roby Helm
NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series
Mike Vaughn
Mike Vaughn

The founder of one of the most successful Crate Late Model organizations plans to launch a new series for the Chevrolet Performance CT525 crate powerplant in 2013.

NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series founder and director Mike Vaughn announced last weekend at the series banquet in Dawsonville, Ga., that he'll launch the more economical Super Late Model series in 2013 with a 22- to 24-race schedule and $30,000-to-win points fund. A title sponsor will be announced within weeks, he said.

“We’re moving forward with giving the Chevrolet Performance CT525 Engine a spot on the stage of Dirt Late Model racing,” Vaughn said. “This affordable all-aluminum engine has proven itself to be reliable and successful on the racetrack, and it is time to give it its own series."

The CT525 powerplant is based off the Corvette production engine and has been run sparingly in Super Late Model competition. Built and sealed at the factory to prevent any expensive modifications, the engine costs about $7,000 alone or less than $9,300 race-ready with everything except carburetor, fuel pump, power steering pump and headers.

The CT525 series won't change Vaughn's current tours for Chevrolet's lower-powered 604 and 602 engines, the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Tour and NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series. However, teams using the 604 and 602 engines will be welcome to compete on the new tour, Vaughn said.

To prevent illegal modifications to the CT525 engines, repairs and rebuilds will be done under one roof at the factory before being resealed, said Bill Martens, a Chevrolet Performance Special Programs Manager who also address the banquet.

“This rebuild center will be able to keep everything consistent and under tight control, as everything done to every engine will be documented and passed on to the series officials,” Martens said.

The rebuild center completed the final phase in making plans for the CT525 series.

“Bill Martens, myself, and our respective staffs have worked together very closely over the past three years in the research and development of the Chevrolet Performance CT525 Engine,” Vaughn said. “We also took some of the lessons we learned with the 604 and 602 Crate Engines, and the placement of the rebuild center was the final piece of the R&D puzzle before being able to move forward with the new series.”

The CT525 engine has seen success on the C.J. Rayburn-founded National All Star Racing Association, a tour that has encouraged the engine's use, and with other drivers including Hall of Famer Ronnie Johnson of Chattanooga, Tenn. Johnson testified to the engine's reliability and promise at the banquet, held at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been competing with the CT525 in Super Late Model competition since 2009, and I’ve run over 40 races with it trouble-free with no mechanical issues,” he said. “Since I put the CT525 in my race car, all I’ve had to do is change the oil. The engine has a hydraulic valve train and you do not have to adjust the valves. I can go out into my shop right now, fire it up, and it’s just as crisp as it was when it was new.”

Johnson said with his success, the powerplant has paid for itself 10 times over.

“I’ve won some $10,000-to-win races with the CT525 engine against $40,000 Super Late Model engines, and I’ve run in the top 10 in about 90 percent of the races I’ve been in with the CT525,” Johnson said. “The way I see it, why spend $40,000 when you can accomplish the same thing with an engine that costs less than $10,000.”

Vaughn hopes to follow the same pattern as the NeSmith Chevrolet organization has with the original crate engines, launching the tour in 2013 while encouraging weekly tracks to develop use of the CT525 down the road.

“In 2004, a lot of people said the crate engines would never work in Dirt Late Model racing," Vaughn said, "but now, it’s pretty evident the naysayers were wrong.”

In addition to the affordable Super Late Model series for the CT525 engine, Vaughn also announced another cost-saving option for competitors in the new Super Late Model series, and the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series Tour, that involves the development of a $150 Bilstein Spec Shock.

“There is no doubt that the engine costs can be kept under control, but now it’s time to go on to the next highest expense on a Dirt Late Model and begin to address the rising costs of racing shocks,” he said.

Like the engines, the shocks will be sealed and carry a serial number with rebuilding and resealing under one roof "to insure accountability and consistency," Vaughn said.