This weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Race at the Kentucky Speedway is significant for two reasons: first, it marks the debut Sprint Cup Series race at the Kentucky track, but it also marks the first test of fuel injection systems for Sprint Cup cars. Unlike automakers and other racing series, who switched to fuel injection decades ago, NASCAR has been immovable in their avoidance of fuel injection. That changes in 2012, as the series will join the modern age and mandate fuel injection for Sprint Cup cars next year.

The series’ opposition to fuel injection isn’t without merit, since carburetors are fairly simple mechanical devices that don’t allow for easy manipulation of the rules. Fuel injection systems, on the other hand, are significantly more complex, and significantly easier to tweak both mechanically and electronically. In other words, NASCAR has been avoiding the switch to fuel injection primarily to prevent teams from cheating, or “creatively interpreting” the Sprint Cup rulebook.

All fuel injection system components for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series will come from two vendors, Freescale Semiconductor and McLaren Electronic Systems, and are built to identical specifications for each engine. McLaren is a veteran to racing fuel injection systems, and currently provides components and support for both F1 and IndyCar teams.

All manufacturers participating in the Sprint Cup Series (which includes Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota)  are expected to test fuel injection systems on Thursday, which will also give both teams and drivers a feel for the 1.5 mile Kentucky track. The Quaker State 400 Sprint Cup race will run on Saturday night.

[Inside Line]