Part of the transition in...
Part of the transition in setup technology over the past 20 years was heavily influenced by directions engineers in Cup took. Was that good or bad for short track racers? We shall see.
For eight years now we have presented, examined, dissected, and rejected most of the setup trends racers are using today. Not much has passed us by because of the contacts we have and the large number of racers I personally talk to on a day to day basis. What follows is a synopsis of the evolution of setups for dirt and asphalt over that period of the past 20 years.
What is important about this overview is that we can see a pattern emerge of how unfortunately many, and maybe most, racers are followers and hold to the age old principle that the grass is always greener on the other side of the pits. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.
I have had a 20-year career working directly with race teams. I can tell you that I've been disappointed more times than pleased with the direction the teams go after, and sometimes while, I am coaching them. It's as if they can't maintain a direction and follow through with a plan.
The first rule of success is that if you keep doing what you've always done, you will always get the same results. Those are not my words, I forget the author right now, but there is a ton of truth in that statement. If you keep making changes to your setup based on nothing more than a whim, then you will continually be off balance, excuse the pun, with your setups. And success will never come.
One of the important technologies...
One of the important technologies that arrived during the '90s was a better understanding and methods of application of the geometry of the race cars. For once, the true dynamics that affected the handling and performance of race cars through the design of the suspensions and the setups could be understood and manipulated for ultimate performance.
I'm a firm believer in choosing a path, learning all you can about that path, and then go full steam ahead with the journey. It's the way I've lived my whole life. And you can live that way too. If you really want to run a Big Bar and Soft Spring setup or tie down the front of your Dirt Late Model with 2,500 pounds of rebound at 3 inches per second, then do it, and do it all the way, not that I in any way approve.
If you get the point, then let's proceed and maybe we can find a path for you. Think back on the things you have done setup wise over the years, however many that is for you, and try to evaluate how you've conducted yourselves in the evolution of your setups.
It was during the early to middle '90s that I went full-time with race car engineering. What I did first was try to evaluate and learn the state-of-the-art in chassis engineering. I read all of the current best sellers including a book that was popular with the Cup teams at that time, Race Car Vehicle Dynamics by the Milliken brothers.
Methods for making changes...
Methods for making changes to the geometry for improved control of the forces acting on the race car were explained in Circle Track and the response from the teams and car builders was extremely positive.
What soon became apparent was that information was plentiful on various subjects such as geometry, dynamics, aerodynamics and mechanics. In all of that, I never could find an author who put all of that together into a package and said, here is how you find your perfect setup. No one could offer a plan, or path, upon which to build a setup the car wanted.
So, that is where I began, with little useful information on which to build. When there's no pattern or set of plans, we must improvise or design for ourselves. It ends up being a trial and error process and I've said before that I hate trial and error.
I learned that even in Cup racing at that time, all of the teams tried this and that and mostly played follow the leader, or faster car, in the way they setup their cars. Even in short track racing in certain regions, teams just did what the winners did, or more correctly what they thought the winners were doing.
Most race cars then were setup up tight. That was to say they didn't turn well, abused the right front tire, and ended up with a severe push or went tight/loose eventually. Even at Daytona, Cup cars were setup tight to where the right front carried most of the front load and so we saw what were referred to as freight train springs upwards of 2,400 ppi rates.