We were fortunate to team...
We were fortunate to team up with a great program at Beloit Memorial High School in Wisconsin. Urban Force Racing has agreed to join forces with us to assemble and race a Super Late Model car at Madison International Speedway. Team members are from L-R, Ray Fallin, Ryan Saari, Dan Lensing (driver), Pete Raskovic (program director), school Superintendent Lowell Holtz, Tom Landwehr, Josh Bach, Craig "Squirrel" Burns, and Nick Carnes. Team members not pictured are: Ben Snyder, Dan Brown, Jerry Perryman, Chad Yaun, and Steve Bruno.
We have done Late Model projects before and had a lot of fun doing them. And we have reported on and supported high school racing programs in the past. The current project we are undertaking is a combination of those two and promises success on several fronts. Pete Raskovic is the team manager and the co-creator of a unique program that is a model for schools across America.
The Urban Force Racing Team is a group of eight Beloit Memorial High School students studying in the automotive technical program. This program is designed to give at-risk students a unique educational experience that leads to high school graduation.
The students will be setting up and maintaining an ASA Late Model racecar purchased by the late Ken Hendricks, founder of ABC Supply. The team raced for the first time at the Jefferson Speedway in May 2007. "Real-world experiences and a hands-on approach, in conjunction with classroom learning and knowledge, is the basis for the success of the Urban Force Racing Team," says Pete on the teams Web site.
The car is a brand-new Lefthander Late Model offset chassis. It will be raced in the Super Late Model division and driven by Dan Lensing, an experienced driver from that area. Many corporations are lending a hand in providing parts and other support to make this a success. We will approach this project just like any other. Here are the details.
I visited the shop in Beloit in early March and looked over the facilities and the car. This is a first class technical program with all of the tools needed to build and maintain this racecar.
The project car is a true...
The project car is a true offset chassis and incorporates all of the features necessary in order to run different setups and a full range of adjustments. We will be testing this car before the season, as well as during, to establish our preferred setup for Madison as well as trying different components for improved entry and exit performance.
Because this is a new chassis, we will be involved in educating the students as to how we set up an asphalt racecar from scratch. We also won't have to worry about metal fatigue or looking for cracked welds that might have been a result of on-track encounters, etc. What we will do is provide a process and guidelines for the students to follow.
My evaluation process involved a visual review of the entire chassis and a presentation to Pete and the group that explained how Circle Track and our support companies could help in making this project a success. The team has some experience with an older Late Model car that was raced last season. It is now time to start fresh and make something happen that we all can stand back from and be proud to have been a part of.
With this car, we will be evaluating the moment center location, setting the rearend alignment, designing for minimal rear steer, testing for front Ackermann effect, deciding on the weight distribution, and testing rear traction devices. All of the items we have presented as high priority in the pages of Circle Track will be looked at, measured and evaluated, and made better in context to a complete chassis system known as "the total package."
We will be installing new design components from many of our manufacturing partners for evaluation. The team is now in the process of installing a new body from Five Star Bodies, a new engine is on the way, and the team will be installing all new drivetrain components and a low-friction rearend from Tiger Rear Ends along with new wheels and other components.
The chassis mounts on the...
The chassis mounts on the Lefthander for the lower control arms are slotted to allow both arm angle changes for Moment Center design, but also to allow for different designs of spindles as to height and pin location. This means you could probably use this chassis along with your existing spindles, no matter which design, and still make it work.
Before the season starts, we will be testing the car and developing setups. The team will get to come to the track and prepare and maintain the car hands-on throughout the season. I saw first hand how excited the students were to be race team crewmembers. This program has definitely instilled a change in their attitude about high school. Their motivation level is high and we expect a great result.
Our overall design goal is to prepare a car that is correct for front suspension geometry and that will be adjustable within a certain range in order to provide a more balanced setup. The front geometry design will help make the car turn well through the middle and the setup balance will make the car both fast and consistent.
We will be testing three different setups in this car. One will be a conventional style setup similar to what I designed for Brian Hoppe back in 1999 when he ran a few weekly program races at Madison. Then we will test what I like to call a soft-conventional setup that is about half way to the Big Bar and Soft Spring setups that racers are trying to make work. The final setup will be a full-bore BBSS setup with all of the tricks. The design of the car will necessarily need to change to accommodate the various setups as well. We could not expect the same front end geometry to work through the wide variation of setups we will experiment with.
The upper control arm mounts...
The upper control arm mounts are hole slotted to allow changes to the height as well as anti or pro-dive. These slots are overlapping holes that serve to locate the bolts so they won't slip.
At the conclusion of all of this testing and racing, we will have established just what each setup type will do and what makes sense to run and why. There is a lot of theory running amok out there and I'm well aware of the bulk of it. Most racers cannot justify the lengths they go to get softer and reduce roll in their cars.
We will do front end geometry measurements for moment center location and design, bumpsteer, caster and camber and Ackermann effect. The Lefthander cars have always had a very good design for MC, etc., but we will need to know the exact numbers for our car the way we assemble it. This could differ from team to team due to differing ideology about upper arm lengths, where to mount the control arms within the adjustable slots, and other factors including ride height and setup stiffness and roll tendencies. Even the manufacturer cannot predict the result of those combinations.
Our goals for setup are to provide a balanced car where the weight transfer is predictable and where the handling balance will be consistent. Along with the spring layout and roll center locations, we are going to design specific rear steer into this car and a weight distribution than promotes better balance and traction off the corners.
In effect, this will be a project that will showcase critical asphalt design parameters and be used to develop a plan of attack for developing and modifying setups for different tracks and conditions. The overriding goal is to use this car as a teaching aid for both the readers and the students. We will learn from the experience and we hope our readers will learn through our successes and failures as we go along.
The left steering arm on the...
The left steering arm on the spindle is adjustable for Ackermann. We will be checking on the degree of Ackermann and adjusting the length of the steering arm so we will have the correct amount of added toe to match the radius of the turns.
We have a new chassis from Lefthander and a lot of parts yet to arrive. The students are learning how to assemble the car in the initial stages. Once we have a rolling chassis, the team will mount the body, engine, fuel system, etc., to completion.
We won't get seriously involved with setup and design until we have a completed car. Then we will walk the team through the process of measuring for front geometry, rear alignment, rear steer, pinion to driveshaft to transmission tailshaft alignment, weight distribution, and setup balance selection.
Before each stage is started we will, together with Pete and the team, map out a plan of attack and proceed with this plan. As we go, if we see where we need to make modifications, we will do that. The nice thing about working with this team is that they have a facility that is perfect for the task at hand. They are willing and ready to create whatever tools, equipment, or processes that are necessary as we go along to get the job done.
As this project proceeds, we will be reporting on our plan of attack, the team's progress, and providing details on what we do to the car and why. We will give you the exact setup parameters as well as relay any decisions we make as to setup changes as our testing is carried out. This will not be a generalized reporting, but rather one that tells all. These setups and designs might not work for your car, but the processes we use will demonstrate how successful teams think and act.
The ends of the steering rack...
The ends of the steering rack have a slot built in for adjusting bumpsteer. This one is built strong and has a good deal of range to accommodate different spindle designs with raised and lowered pins. It is much more efficient to adjust the tie rod angle at the rack rather than at the spindle end.
We don't expect to always be right in our decisions or with testing different setups. We will tell you when we do something that is not in the right direction. A change that does not produce the desired result always teaches us something.
The fact is asphalt racing technology has moved along and changed at a very quick pace the past five or so years. Many new and innovative setup trends have displaced the old setups and racing has gotten better because of it. We are going to learn which setups work for what conditions. We are going to try to determine how far to go with radical setups, the termination point being the beginning of the reversal of improved performance.
We will experiment with different chassis components and spring combinations to try to compensate for differing goals associated with the designs of various tracks. We will develop a definitive plan of attack to meet the challenge of going from a flat and tight track to one that is higher banked and larger. We're going to tell you exactly what our plan is and why we are following it. Any changes we make to the plan will be documented and presented.
Along the way, we want your input, too. As we move through this project, please send any comments and/or suggestions to us here at Circle Track. By the next issue, we should have the car ready to measure and evaluate. Stay tuned.
Safety, as always, will be...
Safety, as always, will be at the top of our list of necessities for this car. Our inspection noted that the team will install, similar to the other team car shown, an up-to-date racing seat with head restraints as well as current seat belts, fire suppression system, and padding. Dan will wear a Hans device head-and-neck restraint.
Team members Josh Bach (left),...
Team members Josh Bach (left), Craig Burns (bottom), and Ray Fallin (top) install a fireproof heat shield around the foot box to isolate the header heat from the leg and foot of the driver. This also helps prevent flames from encroaching into the driver's compartment should an oil fire or similar occur.
Just as we see on the team's...
Just as we see on the team's other car, the local rules require a steel plate cover to be placed on the sides and back of the fuel cell. This helps to prevent a puncture of the cell from the bumper bars or other pieces during a crash. Tech inspectors take note. This must have been a problem in the past.
The right side crash bars...
The right side crash bars and the fuel cell bumper bars are designed to be easily removable on this car. This enables quick replacement should a problem occur between heat races or during practice. Spare sections can be built and kept on hand.
These pieces are designed...
These pieces are designed to crush and absorb energy so the main chassis structure will remain unaffected in a crash.
The drivers seating area is...
The drivers seating area is surrounded by steel sheeting and bracing. Note the plated door bars and along the right side of the seat area to prevent incursion. We were impressed with the thought that went into this chassis not only for the performance technology, but from a safety standpoint too.
Companies who have given their support to this project thus far:
* ABC Supply Co. Inc.
* AcroTech Hubs
* Automotive Youth Educational Systems
* Auto Meter
* Bassett Racing Wheel
* Chicken Hawk Racing
* Dan Lensing Racing
* Five Star Racing Bodies
* Grant Signs
* G-Force Racing Gear
* Lefthander Chassis
* McGunegill Engine Performance
* Miller Welding
* Morris Body Shop
* Snap-on Tools
* Tiger Rear Ends
* Tilton Engineering
* Racin Rivets
* Roltek Transmissions
* Wegner Engineering
* Welder's Supply
Ken Hendricks was the founder of the Urban Force Racing team featured here. He was a high school dropout who ultimately became a billionaire as the owner of ABC Supply and other companies. But what is most important is that Ken never forgot his roots and the needs of the community in which he lived. His generosity and love of his community and employees is well documented. Unfortunately, we suffered a terrible loss when a tragic accident took Ken from us on December 21, 2007.
Pete Raskovic, the team manager for UFR, and who along with Ken put together the idea of a racing program for at-risk kids, became not only the recipient of Ken's support, he became a friend. And as such, the loss of his friend took a deep toll on him as it did the countless others who either worked for, had the unique opportunity to pass Ken's way, or be touched by his generosity. This was a man who was truly loved because he loved his community and his many employees and customers.
Pete had this to say about Ken, "He was the founder of Urban Force Racing. Ken and I put the concept together in his office. It was our collective project, so he was not a "sponsor" but a part of the team. He would meet with the kids in the pits and speak with them about what was going on. It was all about the kids. Once he got them hooked on the racecar and school, he wanted to move them to the next level; being winners on the track."
This was a man who had vision like few others. A quick Google search will offer up the details of his accomplishments. He spent much of his life building a huge business from literally nothing. That success pales in comparison to the good he did in his own community, and UFR was just one of the projects he took a personal interest in.
We rarely see or hear the kind of heartfelt tributes that Ken's family received after his untimely death. Many messages were dedicated to the man who had risen to such great heights, not on the backs of others as is so common in this day and age, but while working along side his many associates and truly for their benefit as well.
Notes posted in the aftermath rang true the respect he had developed in his community, such as: "I worked for ABC for almost 13 years, and when I first started with the company I hadn't planned on staying. It was because of what I saw in both Ken and Diane that I did stay. Ken was the most grounded person I'd ever known, and showed in many ways the heart he had for his employees and his customers." and, "Ken always remembered where he came from, and always remembered his old friends when they were in need. He always gave a second chance to those who might not otherwise have gotten one. He will be truly missed in our community." Or this one, "I am proud to be an ABC employee for over 15 years and today we became a family in mourning. That is what Ken was about, his employees are all like one big family and there never will be anyone else like him."
On behalf of Pete and all of us here at Circle Track, we want to thank Ken, his family and the entire ABC Supply company for their support of this meaningful project and the many others like it. We hope that by joining with this team, we can provide a template for other philanthropists who might decide to share their good fortune for the benefit of others less fortunate.