Optimized Racing Oil Blends From Valvoline Pro-V Racing


Engine oil is the life of the party; strictly speaking, if the oil is not on the premises and mingling between the guests, then the engine itself is not going to be happy. Without the lubrication and friction reduction that engine oil provides, the hard parts of an engine would thrash around, making noise, wearing each other down, and generally destroying the party.

That’s the simple version of how engine oil makes horsepower possible; companies like Valvoline do the heavy lifting on the backside to ensure that the spirits are flowing properly, with the right amount of friction reduction and lubrication. They’ve recently introduced their Pro-V Racing line of oils, designed specifically for racing applications in various formulations, from 0W-20 to 20W-50, and even Break-In oil, gear oils, and transmission fluid.

The oil does a great job of taking the heat away from the bearings – the Valvoline has just been fabulous. – David Grubnic, Crew Chief, Stringer Performance

The building blocks that go into each of the Pro-V Racing oils have been developed through Valvoline’s partnerships with some of the industry’s finest racing teams, like Hendrick Motorsports, Kasey Kahne Racing, Stringer Performance, and Gray Motorsports – from NASCAR to NHRA, these oils are used by some of the best and most consistent competitors on the planet.

“These are the oils we’ve developed over the years with our professional race team customers,” says Valvoline’s Michael Morrison, Brand Manager, Motorsports. “They are custom oils that we’ve blended for those teams to meet their needs, and now we’re ready to share that technology with the public.”

The company’s new Team Valvoline push is not just an assortment of oils; it’s a complete program designed to offer racers an opportunity to earn rewards through the Team Valvoline website, which can then be applied to the purchase of more lubrication products; earning savings while using a product you’d be using anyway sounds like a win-win for the racing community.

Valvoline's Pro-V Racing oils are developed in the lab and constantly refined; Gray Motorsports has been very happy with the product and raves about its performance. We wish we could show you what's under that valve cover, but then the Men In Black might make a visit to the EngineLabs Headquarters!

Engine Oil Specifics

Each of the Pro-V Racing motor oils are formulated using synthetic base stocks in conjunction with the company’s proprietary additive technologies to ensure that the oils will perform under the intense racing conditions they see on a regular basis.

The chemistry has been developed to reduce engine friction while boosting horsepower and torque and protecting engine components from abnormal wear.

These are the oils we’ve developed over the years with our professional race team customers. – Michael Morrison, Team Valvoline

“In a race oil we don’t need the big detergent package like you’d need in a passenger car. We can also use more zinc and phosphorous and bring those up to optimum levels for performance, since we don’t have to worry about poisoning any catalytic converters,” says Valvoline Senior Staff Scientist Scott Wieland. “By backing off on the detergent package, it’s not fighting with the friction modifier for the surface of the material. The less interference you have for your friction modifiers, they better they work. The magic is in the friction modifiers. There are thousands of them out there, but we’ve found a few that give us great synergy and added horsepower.”

The lightweight 0W-20 formulation is designed for engines that run tight clearances, like NASCAR restrictor-plate engines, high-horsepower bullets like those found in competition in NHRA Pro Stock, and race engines with clearances under .0020-inch – even those found in bracket racing and heads-up competition. For those racing with factory engines, like Mustang Cobra Jet, COPO Camaro, and Mopar Drag Pak racers, Valvoline does recommend sticking with the factory-recommended oil viscosity.

Team Valvoline Video

There’s also 0W-30 oil, which is recommended for most V8 engines, Sprint and Midget oval track racers, factory hot rods requiring this viscosity, and other engines built with clearances between .0020 and .0025-inch. On the thicker side, the company has 20W-50 oil, which is designed for Late Model, ARCA, and Sprint car racers, along with engines set up with looser bearing tolerances over .0025-inch.

At the top of the chain is the company’s EXP 140 oil, which is a synthetic base-stock oil that’s specially formulated with friction modifiers and extremely light viscosity. This oil works best in applications like NHRA Pro Stock and Pro Stock Bike, 4-cycle Karts, and Junior Dragsters.

“EXP 140 is probably one-third as thick as the 0W-20 – it’s like water in terms of thickness,” says Wieland. “When you’re using an oil this light, your surfaces should be polished like a mirror – the crankshaft, the camshaft, and other moving parts must be nearly perfect. The oil is designed for an all-out class like Pro Stock for maximum horsepower potential, but has many other applications also.”

Other Lubricant Applications

Not only does the Pro-V Racing line encompass all of the different racing engine oils and the diesel oil for support vehicles, there’s also a complete line of assorted lubricants designed to maximize performance on other vehicle applications. From the Pro-V 75W-80 and 75W-140 Racing Gear Oils to the Power Steering Fluid, Shock Oil, and 2-Cycle Marine Outboard, ATV 4-Stroke Oil, and 10W-40 and 20W-50 Motorcycle oils, each of which has been optimized for application, Valvoline Pro-V has an oil to support nearly every vehicle use.

“Our pro teams don’t just come to us for their engine oil; as we’ve worked with these teams over the years, they’ve asked to us to improve their gear oils, reduce temperatures, prevent wear to their parts, and save them money. The experts in our lubricants laboratory have assisted them with developing these products to suit their needs,” says Morrison.

The Break-In oil contains a high concentration of zinc, designed to be used in both roller and flat-tappet camshaft-equipped engines. It also has a specific additive package that’s been created to help facilitate proper ring seal and surface finish for the camshaft and lifters during the engine break-in process.

Wieland explains,”Like the other Pro-V Racing oils, the break-in oil has come to fruition by working with our professional team partners. The quicker they can seal the engines up and get the rings to seat, the better, as time is money for them. We’ve come up with a formulation to really optimize that for them. It’s totally different from the racing oil in that there are no friction modifiers to help the rings seat. The friction helps to get the parts married and sealed up.”

They also offer Pro-V Racing Nitro 70, which is designed specifically for Top Fuel and Funny Car competitors, along with those racing in Top Alcohol classes. Most important in this formulation is the ability to provide extreme pressure protection under the service conditions these engines face on the dragstrip – all while remaining stable during serious thermal events. The additive package is designed to help the valvetrain remain calm when all hell breaks loose.

Each of the above oils are available in five-gallon pails and 55-gallon drums.

Yet another engine oil is the Premium Blue, which carries a 15W-40 designation and is designed specifically for heavy-duty use in modern diesel engines. Most importantly, it works properly and remains stable in applications where Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) are used. It’s built to exceed the lubrication requirements of Caterpillar, Detroit Diesel, and Navistar, and is endorsed by Cummins.

“The reason this oil is part of Team Valvoline is because we want to offer our racers a full portfolio of lubrication products. They can’t get their racecars to the track without some sort of hauler, and most of those are diesel-powered,” says Morrison.

The Dispersive Polymer Technology, when combined with the premium base oil, provides advanced soot control and cold start protection, and allows Cummins to suggest a 5,000 mile drain interval in all diesel engines built after 2007 under normal and light duty. In addition, it offers high temperature deposit control and ring and liner wear protection due to the design. This oil is available in pails, drums, and even one-gallon jugs.

Blending the Pro-V Racing lineup of oils and lubricants for maximum performance takes place in the Valvoline laboratory; the company's chemists are constantly working with the race teams on new technologies.

Each oil is developed specifically for the particular application; one oil might be heavy on friction reduction components, and another may be heavy on extreme pressure lubrication specifications. Customer feedback drives improved performance.

Who Uses It – And How

As a major sponsor of many professional race teams, Valvoline uses the experience gained in testing, research, and development to put the Pro-V Racing products to work on the racetrack. The feedback those teams provide is invaluable to optimizing the chemistry of the products.

Gray Motorsports' Shane Gray.

Gray Motorsports’ Shane Gray.

With drivers Shane and Jonathan Gray behind the wheel of their respective cars in the NHRA’s Pro Stock class, Gray Motorsports has been using the Valvoline product for several years. As the team builds all of their own engines for competition, they have a handle on what type of performance they receive from the product and are able to provide the Valvoline chemists with information to continue developing better products on a regular basis.

“Our oils need to be able to lubricate and provide good oil film on the parts, and at the same time allow the rings to seal to the cylinder walls,” says Kevin Finney, General Manager, Gray Motorsports. “We’re looking for something that allows the parts to handle the environment and still last – we don’t want to have to change oil after every pass.”

Containing costs is a big issue for the professional race teams. Finney explains, “On a six-second pass, you’re only talking about the crankshaft rotating 1,100 times, notwithstanding the burnout, so there’s not a lot of part-to-part movement. The demands on the oil in drag racing are different than they would be in a stock car race.”

Shane Gray in action. NHRA Photo

Shane Gray in action. NHRA Photo

With this in mind, unless there is a mechanical issue where the oil gets contaminated, the Gray teams typically run an entire weekend on the same batch of oil. During their in-house testing, Finney says that they provide direction to the Valvoline chemists based on what types of feedback they learn about the oil’s characteristics. As the Gray teams monitor every parameter under the sun during their testing and track runs, they’re able to determine whether the oil is flowing properly and providing the correct pressure to the engine in operation.

Gray Motorsports’ Craig Hankinson On NHRA Pro Stock Transmissions

At the very pinnacle of the motorsports arena, there’s this little class called Top Fuel. The nitro eliminators like Top Fuel and Funny Car have very different requirements for their oil blends than the Pro Stock-type teams, and for insight, we managed to pin down none other than David Grubnic, former Top Fuel driver and current crew chief for Stringer Performance, which fields the Fueler driven by Clay Millican.


Stringer Performance Crew Chief David Grubnic. NHRA Photo

With the immense pressures and temperatures seen by a typical Top Fuel engine, not only is lubrication of the engine parts important, but it’s also critical that the oil not break down during engine operation. Pro-V Nitro 70 is designed specifically to perform in these applications.

“At 10,000-plus horsepower out of 500 cubic inches, there’s a lot of cylinder pressure we’re dealing with,” says Grubnic. “Transferring the pressure into horsepower to the crankshaft means that the bearings, the crankshaft, it’s all under immense load, and the oil film has to protect our parts. Admittedly, we pull the engines apart every run, but that’s preventative maintenance.”

As Stringer Performance is a new startup team for 2015, controlling costs is especially important to them, and the Nitro 70 oil has proven itself in competition so far.

“We’ve run 3.70’s in Charlotte and made it to the final round there, and all season we’ve managed to keep our engine program in the happy window for the tuneup,” says Grubnic.

“For that to work we need an oil that can support the load. If the oil can’t protect the piston between the piston and the cylinder wall, the piston will scuff and break down. The oil does a great job of taking the heat away from the bearings to keep them from blackening and blackening the crankshaft – the Valvoline oil has just been fabulous.”

Another important characteristic for Grubnic and Stringer Performance is that the oil can handle dilution well, and Grubnic explained that making the run is not the problem – it’s the idling on the starting line and after the burnout.

In a typical Top Fuel engine, at idle, there is so much fuel that it can wash the engine oil right off the cylinder walls. Grubnic tells us that on a typical run they’ll start out with 12 quarts of oil and end up with 13 or 14 quarts of fluid in the crankcase at the end – a mixture of oil and nitromethane. So far, he says the Pro-V Nitro 70 has been excellent in this respect.

With the help of some of the sport’s big players, Valvoline’s Pro-V Racing oil has been formulated to provide protection and excellent wear-prevention properties, no matter the engine.

Clay Millican in the Stringer Performance Top Fueler. NHRA Photo

Clay Millican in the Stringer Performance Top Fueler. NHRA Photo

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About the author

Jason Reiss

Jason draws on over 15 years of experience in the automotive publishing industry, and collaborates with many of the industry's movers and shakers to create compelling technical articles and high-quality race coverage.
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