Have you ever wondered if all of the new technology is indeed moving us forward? Are our cars truly getting faster with the new setup trends? How would we ever know if all of the crazy setups we are seeing truly make the car faster and/or more consistent? The only way to know is to run an older, much older, setup against the others in head-to-head competition. And that's exactly what we did.

I was fortunate enough to be allowed to work with one of the true legends of stock car racing and whose cars have won a disproportionate amount of races around the Southeast. Dick Anderson is, in short, old-school. The setups he normally runs are much stiffer than any others in this day and age. And, Dick runs a well-organized, well-equipped, and clean shop that was a pleasure to work in.

He recently decided to try going back to setups he ran with great success in the late '70s and early '80s just to see what would happen. The difference is in the stiffness of the front springs and sway bar. His cars are a big spring design and in our analysis we will translate spring rates from big spring to the equivalent in coil, using the same wheel rate, so you can compare to what this would mean for your car.

I will say up front that this was Dick's idea, not mine. Most readers will assume because I have historically spoken out against running on coil-bind and bump rubbers that I might have influenced this process. I will admit that I was excited when Dick spoke of going in this direction, but I allowed this process to run its course and did not push an agenda of my own.

From the start, we knew we were going to learn something, even if it didn't agree with our predictions. That's what experimentation is all about. If you don't go there, you never know. So we went and what follows is a true account of what we found. There were road bumps along the way, but all in all, we did make some discoveries that were backed by lap times and head-to-head comparisons.

A Review Of The Goals For Setups
As a preview to lead into this experiment, I want to go over what every race engineer on the planet will agree with as the basic concepts of goals for the optimum race car setup.

First and foremost, we want our car to be engineered so that all four tires will be loaded in the turns so the most traction can be attained, while at the same time providing a handling balance. This will allow the car to negotiate the turns more quickly. Speed gained at the slowest portion of the track will be carried all of the way around the track. So, our most significant performance gains are setup related.

Next, we want that speed to last a long time. In our case, we will need for the setup to provide a high level of traction and handling balance for 200 laps. What happens most of the time with many race teams is that they search for the fastest lap times and usually disregard consistency.

That in and of itself is a good goal, but it must be matched with a setup that will produce longevity of speed at the same time. So, once we find our fast lap time, we must compare that with how the speed drops off over a longer run.

A good balanced setup, where all four tires are working in unison, usually produces consistent lap times that don't fall off nearly as much as less balanced setups. This has been my focus and the theme that has led me throughout my career. It's the one message I constantly try to convey.

What I suspect, and Dick shares this opinion, is that most of the current setups are not balanced in the way I describe and will not have longevity of speed and handling over the course of a longer race. What we set out to do is prove or disprove that notion. Now, on to our test.