"You have to listen to what [the customers] have to say," says Boeve. "What works in one part of the country may not work somewhere else-but it may. All the variables have to be worked in. Tracks can be night-and-day different."

"Hearing from customers is an important part of our business," says Howe. "I have two guys on the phone all the time. When you buy a car, the service should go with it. We can give you baseline setup ideas. You'll have to adjust them to fit your style. Communication with the customer is vital."

Most major chassis builders will also sell quality components to complete the race car. Some provide additional opportunities. Rocket Chassis hosts a chassis seminar each January to provide educational opportunity. The '04 session will be held January 16-18.

That communication needs to begin early if you're placing an order. The chassis companies stay busy with repairs during the season, but when the year winds down, orders for new cars start to take precedent.

"The early bird gets the worm," sums up Boeve. "When you have the rules and know what you want, that's the time to order. We used to have cars in inventory. Now we don't dare have more than six sitting around. You have to have lead time. If you're planning to start racing in February, then you need to order in August or September. You have to get your car and get it ready."

"The earlier the better works because it allows us to project what we can produce," says Baker. "If you want it for February, it has to be ordered before October. You could easily be looking at a wait of 8-10 weeks.

"We usually put our crews on a production schedule later in the year. This year, we had to do it in October. We have to produce 10 frames a week or four complete cars to keep up with the demand."

Typically, the calls coming to the builders can be new customers, repeat customers, or "transfers," drivers from within the division looking to change chassis builders. All are treated equally.

Says Howe, "My dad (legendary racer Ed Howe, who founded the company in 1971) said, 'When you have everyone running your car, be prepared to lose them all.' We've had customers come and go and we've weathered those times. You can't hold it against a guy if he wants to try something different. You need to treat everyone the same. We've had them go and come back. We've welcomed them."

If you're planning to have a new car at the start of the new season, you're probably too late (unless your track doesn't open until Mother's Day). If you're thinking about changing midseason, now is the time to complete the research and put your program in order. Allow a little time for shakedown because you're going to need a period of acclimation to the new surroundings. Soon you'll be hitting your stride in a quality ride, and you'll have the chassis maker backing you all the way to Victory Lane and beyond.