Mid To Late '00s
In what we can now call the modern era of stock car racing, we see a gradual change associated with the way setups are developed and the goals associated with development of the asphalt setups. I'll get to the dirt setups in a minute.

What happened, I think, is that a small percentage of teams were truly working the balanced setup deal and they were dominating. When other teams could not find out how that was happening, or were technically challenged and couldn't figure it out for themselves, it became easier to bolt on parts to try to go fast.

So, we saw in Cup, as a direct result of the aero engineers taking over the lead in developing setups for those teams, where the teams made all of the setup decisions based on improving the aero efficiency of the cars and damned be the handling. The drivers would just have to adapt. It was a tough road, but one every team pursued because, hey, they were all doing it. Nice logic.

The problem was, too many short track teams paid attention to what the Cup teams were doing and began to copy them. Before you know it, we saw large sway bars, stiffer right rear springs, and body shapes that would produce more aero downforce at the front.

Now the teams that couldn't decipher how to create a balanced setup before merely had to bolt on parts and hit the track to go fast. The problem with that involves several areas of science.

When you radically change the mechanics of the suspension in this way, you lose control of the fine tuning. It was soon discovered in all asphalt divisions including Cup, that finding the handling balance (forget the dynamic balance, it just ain't there anymore) was like walking on a knife edge. It was hard to find and harder to maintain.

It has been a frustrating five years or so for many teams. If you look at the fast times recorded at many racetracks over a 10-year period, the current trends have not improved those lap times, and in many cases have digressed over the long haul.

What we now see is a full circle trip back to the early '90s where, as we stated early on in this discussion, teams sought out the fastest lap time and disregarded the pursuit of longevity, or the goal of being fast at the end of the race, where it counts.

I witnessed this phenomenon at Lanier Speedway, the very first race event on our AMSOIL Great American CT Tour. The team that set fast time and led the first 25-30 laps was a good 2 to 3 tenths faster than the car running third. About 20 laps later, they traded places. The jackrabbit "start fast" car faded badly to third and the consistent car won. It was evident to my trained eye in the way the cars looked on the track that the balanced setup had beaten the BBSS setup. I rest my case.

As for the dirt guys, this setup thing gets really interesting. Most of the car builders have been influenced by what the teams have done through the early '00s with improvements to their front end geometry and moment center design as well as the arrangement of spring rates.

We saw front runners starting to keep the left front on the track, a more level attitude, less rear steer, and a more straight ahead driving style when track conditions permitted. But time marches on. As of this writing we see a trend in development that I hope dies soon.

It follows the line of thinking we saw with the asphalt guys and the BBSS setups. It involves using high rebound front shocks and very stiff right rear springs. Hey, sway bars aren't used in Dirt Late Model cars...yet, so stiff rebound shocks will have to do.

Is the BBSS mentality taking over Dirt Late Model racing? Not necessarily. Read my Tour review in this issue (page 48) and you'll learn about probably the most successful Dirt Late Model team in 2010 and I can assure you that it doesn't prescribe to the trend alluded to above.