Crowded pit areas are becoming...
Crowded pit areas are becoming a common sight. As the late season specials run their course, many drivers make their decisions about their racing futures. The chassis manufacturer who ends up in Victory Lane ends up as one of the busiest.
The amount of variation is the main reason a customer should be well informed before making a decision. "There are so many variations possible," says Boeve. "Take your basic offset chassis. It can race at five different tracks, but you'd have to have five different combinations because of the rules. Things were different six to eight years ago. For example, we raced in Colorado, Toledo (Ohio), Concord (North Carolina), Lanier (Georgia), and Jennerstown (Pennsylvania) with the same car. We did change engines once, but we used the same car."
There are two basic chassis styles for asphalt racers, and the rule books will often have a say in what type hits the track. The offset chassis (also known as "straight rail") can move the weight far left. The perimeter chassis has framerails that follow the outer perimeter of the body. Different front and rear suspension designs can be added to complete the package.
"We can build variations of the same car," Boeve says. "Ten years ago, the offset car was the most popular, which I feel is a safer car. Now, the perimeter car-or variations of it-is becoming popular."
Chassis manufacturers realize the competition is driving them to produce the best possible product. Every year, automakers in Detroit and Tokyo present the everyday driver with new options and new styles. It's really no different for the racer, except we don't park them on a lot.
"We're designing constantly," says Baker. "We're always evolving. We find something we think might work better and we put it to the test."
Constructing a chassis is...
Constructing a chassis is a precise and time-consuming process. Measurements are taken often and welds are inspected for best possible quality. Each manufacturer takes pride in its work and will not let a flaw keep the car from its best possible performance.
"You have to redesign constantly," adds Howe. "There are some things that stay the same for years. Cars don't go obsolete. They become obsolete because of rule changes."
"Redesign of the cars depends on a lot of factors," says Boeve. "You have to ask what's driving the market. If you have something that's working really well, you want to tweak it a little more and make it a little better. Then you can feed that directly to the customer."
"We do our research and development on the race track," continues Baker. "We get ideas from racers, customers, parts suppliers-just about anywhere. We even get some of them ourselves. We decide what we're going to try out and we see if it works. It could be a change in the existing cars or it could be a whole new car. Everybody wants the latest and the greatest, so you have to put it to the test."
The idea of winning on Sunday (or, in some cases, Friday and Saturday nights) really does translate into sales on Monday. The phones are generally busiest on a Monday at a chassis shop, especially while the company is celebrating a high-profile win.
"There's only one way to sell, and that's to win," says Howe. "You know you have good people in your cars who are out there racing to win. You realize that the trends work with you and they can work against you. It seems like you're always hot somewhere. There are some groups where the racers seem to prefer certain brands of race cars."
Backing winners is "the nature of the business," says Boeve. "Everybody is looking for the magic, and they're hoping this is it. It can be at times. One race doesn't make or break you. You can have a fast car, but it drops out of the competition. Having a fast car doesn't drive home the point like winning does. That's the frosting on the cake."
"It's tremendous," says Baker on the effect of winning. "It puts your name in everyone's mind. It gets seen by people all across the country, not just in the area where the guy races. When you don't win, you can't really talk about the accomplishment. You may have the most cars in the field, but if one of them didn't come home the winner, the other guy gets the attention."
Chassis builders don't generally solicit feedback from their customers. From the start of the season to the final checkered flag, most builders can be found at a racetrack on a weekly basis. They are also faced with phone calls.