Hands-on demonstrations in which students participate to further their understanding is a
Bush is fond of asking questions, and he nailed all of us in the class with this one: "What turns the car?" Everyone, and I mean everyone, in the class got it wrong. Most of us said the obvious (the steering wheel) but the answer Bush was looking for was tires.
That leads us to the topic for the first day of class...tires. That's right, nothing but tires. The instructors even took an old tire and cut it in half to look at the construction. Bush argues-and rightly so-that you should know your tires and their construction inside and out. Everything that happens in a racecar throughout practice, qualifying, and the race itself can be traced back to the tires: turning, braking, acceleration, everything. Your success is a direct result of what happens at the tires.
"Do you have a pyrometer?" Bush asked. "If not, you need to go out and buy one. It's an invaluable tool in assessing what your tires are doing."
Once you have a firm understanding of the importance of the tires, next on the agenda is learning accurate handling analysis techniques. Bush boils it down to the three W's-what, where, and when.
RaceWise is not all classroom. Here the class takes part in sessions at Larry Shaw RaceCar
What is the chassis doing?
Where on the racetrack is it doing it?
When does the problem occur?
Static chassis conditions and measurements are understood by most dirt-car crews, but the understanding of how dynamic forces change the handling is a completely different matter. In order to achieve that understanding, you must be able to answer those three questions. If you can answer them accurately you have the foundation to begin to solve your problem.
As the school progresses through each day, the subject matter gets more complex, covering just about everything you can think of, including chassis-hike adjustments; axle- mounted versus birdcage-mounted calipers; swing-arm versus four-link analysis, and much, much more.
Now this being my first trip to RaceWise, I was curious to see what type of students were in the class. RaceWise focuses on dirt chassis setups, specifically late-model and modifieds, but also some street stock topics-and that's who made up our class. We had racers in the class representing all three of those divisions, and they all agreed that attending the RaceWise school was money well-spent.
Here Kevin Shaw discusses how to scale a car.
Jason Trevathan, a late-model driver from Texas, said, "I learned a lot about the physics of handling, but even more important, I learned how to solve specific handling problems. I run a four-bar car at Devil's Bowl, the tackiest clay track in the world, so that's real important."
Jason was a first timer at RaceWise but his father and car owner, Steve, was not. "I've been (to RaceWise) multiple times. There is always valuable suspension design and tuning information for all types of dirt cars with every conceivable suspension device."
The reason behind going to the school more than once lies within Bush's philosophy of staying ahead of the curve. He is constantly adding information to his textbook. As manufacturers introduce new components and as new techniques for maximizing setups are developed, Bush analyzes their usefulness and then adds them to the course.
The textbook for RaceWise is almost 2 inches thick and something you will refer back to ti
We had young racers, seasoned veterans, and even a college professor in the class. With such a wide range of experience, you'd think it would be difficult for Bush to cater to everyone, but he has a way of explaining chassis physics so that both the novice and experienced tuner feels as if the course was designed for them.
I thought back to two years ago when I was bad fast in the B-Main. I spanked the entire field, won the B, and then finished Second in the feature. I had no idea why I was so fast that night. I had accidentally hit on the setup and won the race by accident. Of course, I didn't tell anybody that back then. After attending RaceWise and reading through the textbook multiple times, the light bulb began to shine on the reasons why I was so fast that night.
To say that I gained a lot out of the school would be an understatement. But while I know that I have personally made huge strides in a better understanding of dirt-track chassis setup, I also realized that there is a whole lot more to learn. In order to start reaping the rewards of a school like RaceWise, you have to take the information from the school and relate it back to what you've already done at the track (right and wrong), even down to some of the simplest operations, such as scaling the car. Combining the lessons from the past with the teachings of the school and applying that to your future racing activities should yield the results every one of us is looking for-Victory Lane. With the season just a few weeks away, I can't wait to put my education to the test.