ML Motorsports crew chief Chris Rice said the new Chevrolet RO7 engine is so good, teams almost have to have it.

The Warsaw-based NASCAR Nationwide Series team, which has competed in 17 NNS races this season and is scheduled to compete in Saturday's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, will use the new engine package next season.
"PME (Pro Motor Engines) has been good to these guys, but the new RO7 Chevy engine is just so good," said Rice, who joined the team as its crew chief at the race at Bristol Motor Speedway in August. "There's so many benefits with the new engine. You almost have to have it."

ML Motorsports will buy their engines for the 2010 Nationwide Series season from Earnhardt-Childress Racing.

"We've already signed the contract with ECR," said ML Motorsports Team Manager Tony Barnes. "We're really excited about it. The horsepower is better, the fuel mileage is better, it's a lightweight engine. The whole package is just better."

ML Motorsports will also update its fleet of No. 70 Chevys, which will again be driven by Greenwood native Shelby Howard.

The team will purchase new cars from Kevin Harvick Incorporated, as well as share information and setups with the KHI teams.

"We ran into them at a restaraunt in Texas in the spring," Barnes said of how the deal began to take shape. "They said they had a car for sale, and we later talked on the phone about getting help with setups for the car. We started talking about buying more cars from them, and we just kept talking and talking about stuff, and every thing just came together. They're building us new cars for next year, they're building us C.O.T. (Car of Tomorrow) cars, which the Nationwide Series is going to full-time in 2011, and we're going to share information back and forth. This is a really big deal for us. Just to be a part of the technology they have in North Carolina, and to be hooked up with Kevin Harvick Incorporated and getting engines from ECR, that's a big, big deal for us."

During the second week of December, Harvick and Howard will test cars together for four days at the Desert Proving Ground in Uma, Ariz.

"Right now, we're a 15th, 16th-place car," said Rice, who grew up around NASCAR racing, as his father, Allen Rice, was a crew chief for Jeff Burton. "I think next year we can be a 7th to 12th-place car. With the help of Kevin Harvick, I really think we can do that."

With 24-year-old Howard, who took over the wheel of Mary Louise Miller and Stephany Mullen's No. 70 Chevy in April, ML Motorsports has competed in 16 Nationwide Series races.

In those 16 events, they have finished in the top-20 seven times and in the top-15 five times.

Howard has finished 12th at Nashville and Memphis, 13th at Richmond and Gateway, and 14th at the second race at Nashville.

With the upgrade in cars and engines, as well as Rice's relationshp wit Howard, 2010 could be a great season for ML Motorsports.

Rice, who has also crew chiefed in the Truck Series for Ron Hornaday and in the Nationwide Series for Kenny Wallace, has worked with Howard before.

"When we go to the race track, you've got to believe he's the best driver out there, and that's what I believe," Rice said of Howard. "That's how it is in this business, you have to believe that your driver is the best driver. That's the way it is with Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson. That's the way a relationship is built. Look at Todd Berrier and Kevin Harvick, they have a great relationship. I know Shelby very well, and with the new cars and engines, next year could be big for us."