"The Referee" will judge the...
"The Referee" will judge the innocent and guilty at the tech station. A properly installed body will result in the car whisking through tech.
The spirit of cooperation is starting to take hold in racing, and the end result is going to benefit everyone involved. An example of this trend comes with the establishment of the Approved Body Configuration (ABC) guidelines that will be implemented in some asphalt racing sanctions in 2004.
The idea evolved from the perceived competition between body manufacturers to push the envelope. The competing companies were creating downforce bodies, and some promoters felt this was going a bit too far. R.J. Scott of the Sunoco Super Series and Ben Atkinson of the Alabama-based O'Reilly Southern All-Stars were among the first to speak up on the issue.
"We were racing limousines," says Atkinson. "They were extending the front of the cars, they had wide shells, and the spoilers were extended. They looked like spaceships."
You can expect to spend less...
You can expect to spend less than five minutes watching the device before pushing your car back with an approval sticker.
The problem is often traced to tech inspection and interpretation of rules. Five Star Race Car Bodies sent letters to promoters, addressing their concerns about the way cars were inspected. There was no response, so the company, in its effort to be competitive with other manufacturers, built a downforce car for the 2002 PRI show, which drew attention.
Scott joined Atkinson and representatives of Aluminum Racing Products (ARP) and Five Star to hammer out a compromise. The end result was the ABC plan.
"It was getting expensive for racers," Atkinson says. "As promoters, we were caught in the middle of this."
The body dimension sheet will...
The body dimension sheet will be easy to follow. Racers and tech inspectors will find their jobs a little easier.
ARTGO founder John McKarns was brought in as a mediator who offered input. It was McKarns who noted that racers would have a better resale market. Under standardized body rules, a car raced in one part of the country would be legal in another area, increasing the market.
Once the word was out, other sanctions began to get involved with the ABC guidelines. Bert Ashleman of the Florida Pro series and Don Nerone of FASCAR, which sanctions Super Late Models and Late Models, put their groups in the coalition.
"These promoters working together really shows the effectiveness of the idea," Atkinson states. "They've realized that they need to draw more than just Florida cars to keep going. A racer isn't going to travel if he has to change his car so much. It got to the point where a lot of out-of-state cars weren't coming to Florida for big races."
On-track competition will...
On-track competition will be enhanced by the standard body rules.
Of course, none of it would have happened if the body manufacturers hadn't taken the message to heart. "ARP and Five Star have spent a lot of money and a lot of time to make this work," Atkinson says. "We're getting good looking cars and they're not expensive. When you buy an ABC body, you get the rule book and templates on how to install the body. Whether it's an ARP or a Five Star, the templates fit them all."
The '04 season will be a transitional year for implementing the new rule. In the case of the Southern All-Stars, legal bodies in 2003 will still be legal in 2004, meaning owners of a good body will not incur expense to race this year. However, those who choose to use the ABC-approved body will receive a 50-pound weight break. In 2005, the ABC rules will be mandatory.
Inspectors will check the...
Inspectors will check the nose with the vertical nose template to assure it is within the allowable tolerances.
"We've had a positive response," adds Atkinson. "There are some who didn't have to change, but they've already made the move to the new body. We're not penalizing the ones who don't, but we're encouraging the ones who do. There's going to be someone winning with the new body, and when he does, everybody's going to want to have one."
Atkinson has implemented the ABC rule in the Pro Late Model class, which is the two-barrel division that also runs crate engines.
"I'm glad to see this happening," Atkinson concludes. "It was almost getting to the point where we had to cut the fields on the quarter-mile tracks because the cars were taking up too much space."
The body will need to follow...
The body will need to follow the proper contour and match the template.
In the past, some areas of the body such as the front overhang and rear overhang proved difficult to measure. Some inspectors made their own devices, but it was inconsistent from track to track.
To make the program work effectively, the rules must be universally interpreted. An ABC body program advisory committee will monitor the progress. This group provides the approval for participating manufacturers.
The Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Ford Taurus, Dodge Intrepid, and Pontiac Grand Prix bodies are approved for 2004 use. The entire body must be from one manufacturer.
This side-to-side template...
This side-to-side template will keep the width of the car in check.
A sampling of the rules is provided on these pages. For complete rules, contact the manufacturer or sanctioning body.
The nose cannot be intentionally altered in any way and must be centered on the front tread width of the car. The new rules call for a minimum ground clearance along the bottom edge of the nose to be 4 inches.
The front of the car must fit three templates. Measurements will be taken along the left and right fenders as well as over the hood.
The hood will need to be adequately braced and fit tight to the fenders and windshield at all times. Hoods will have a minimum of five locking pins across the leading edge.
An inspector can place this...
An inspector can place this template on the decklid. It will be immediately obvious if something is amiss.
Metal fenders are not allowed under the new program. Approved fenders will carry ABC-approved labels. Wheel openings will be no larger than 7 inches from the edge of the wheel (not the tire). Each fender must pass the template test in order to get the car into the event.
Roof panels will face the same stringent inspection as the rest of the car. Likewise, doors will be closely scrutinized to make sure competitors are keeping within the rules. Quarters must be cut out with polycarbonate windows in both sides. A side-to-side template will be handy to help officials check the car.
The decklid and filler panel will be another area where the templates will be put to work. The decklid cannot distort under racing conditions and should be properly mounted.
The tech inspector will simply...
The tech inspector will simply place the bumper cover template up against the car to determine legality.
The rear bumper cover is well addressed in the rules for 2004. It must be supported by a tubular support to the chassis. Those tubes must be behind the bumper cover and cannot extend through or past the bumper. Correct rear overhang dimensions and vertical conformity will come with proper mounting.
The rule book also addresses spoilers, windshields, and remaining windows. Participating manufacturers and sanctions will have the rule books for competitors in need.
To help get the job done, an inspection station called the Referee has been developed. Tech inspectors will be able to check seven critical areas on a body in just a few minutes:
1. Front overhang
2. Tread width-front
3. Roof height
5. Tread width-rear
6. Quarter-panel height
7. Rear overhang
Racers face a quick and easy...
Racers face a quick and easy inspection process with the ABC body regulations in place in some parts of the country. A properly installed body can pass in under three minutes.
When used in conjunction with the ABC templates, the Referee becomes a great time-saving device, which will be important in getting competitors on the track in a timely fashion. The car is simply rolled through the device much like a passenger car in an automatic car wash. Tech inspectors handle a certain area and note the compliance. An ABC body inspection checklist includes areas covered by templates and the Referee in a pass/fail format to inform a crew chief of any deficiencies.
The days of the high downforce body are numbered. After the '04 season, these bodies will not be allowed to compete in an ABC event. Bodies made in 2002 or earlier will carry a weight penalty. Many organizers had already outlawed the '03 body. Some expect to see the ABC body proliferate shortly after its first win.
Unified body rules have been a part of the dirt Late Model racing scene for some time. The move to standardize the asphalt Late Model body will provide traveling opportunities that may open the door for aspiring drivers. As time rolls along, more tracks, sanctions, and manufacturers are expected to step up and take part. It's setting a trend for tomorrow's racing.