Crew chief Jim Cook Jr. maintains...
Crew chief Jim Cook Jr. maintains a rigorous maintenance schedule on the car to make sure the driveline works as efficiently as possible. This includes keeping an eye on the brakes to make sure that they don't drag and changing all the lubricants after every 150 to 200 laps.
You can also achieve similar results with the springs. For example, if they feel the need for a more drastic change, Long and Cook can go with a lighter spring on the right front along with the shock adjustment to further help the car turn.
Adding a stacked spring system to the right front wheel can also help add bite to the car without causing it to push. A car that pushes will scrub off speed, which is deadly in the Crate class where the entire game is about maintaining as much speed through the turns as possible. By using a stacked spring setup-for example a 250 pound spring with a 600-the softer spring will allow the right front wheel to bite on turn entry but the 600 pound spring will hold that corner up until the throttle gets picked up through the middle of the turn and off.
The rear bars on a Dirt Late Model chassis can be quite intimidating for new racers because what the changes actually do aren't always obvious. But Long recommends a few specific changes that are easy to remember and understand how they work and work well in most situations.
Speaking of the brakes, Long...
Speaking of the brakes, Long says investing in a good set of lightweight brakes can be very helpful. Not only will the lower rotating weight help acceleration, but the improved braking consistency can help you avoid over-braking and scrubbing off too much speed on turn entry.
At the racetrack, Long only moves the ends of the rear suspension bars that connect to the chassis. The ends that connect to the rearend through the birdcage aren't touched. The lower left rear bar is the one Long most often turns to for adjustments. Moving it down will usually take out some of the roll steer and helps tighten up the car. In general, both lower bars will help increase bite when moved up, but they will also increase roll steer. The upper bar on the left rear can also be raised to increase traction to the rearend, but this too will increase rear steer on the loose side.
In addition, and if you have time, you can also change the wheelbase difference side to side by changing the length of the suspension links at one wheel to affect changes to the rear alignment. Normally, Long and Cook set the rearend up so that the right rear wheel is 1/4-inch behind the left rear. If the track gets slick, moving the right rear wheel forward will help tighten the car up. But if the track is extra tacky, moving it even farther back will help keep the car loose.
Overall, Long says that the fastest setup for a Crate Late Model is a bit touchy. A tight car will kill speed, so you want to never scrub the front tires, but to keep the car driveable it needs to be right up on the edge of being tight.
The best place to start is with a baseline setup that works well for both your driving style and your car at most places. Normally, your chassis builder can give you a baseline setup for your area of the country and the type of track you normally race. Then, you can slowly adapt that setup to your specific needs.
Having all of your transmission...
Having all of your transmission and rearend gears (pictured) REM-polished can be a bit expensive, but it also cuts a significant amount of friction in the drivetrain and can help reduce lap times. Some manufacturers' rearends are designed for low friction and include polished gears, low-friction bearings and seals, and lighter weight ring-and-pinion gears.
But make only small changes at a time, and if you find yourself way off in left field in terms of your setup, that probably means you've missed something that may be broken or bent on your chassis and you're trying to correct it with an extreme setup. If you find yourself in that situation, go over your chassis with a fine-toothed comb the next time you get back to your shop.
Keep an Efficient Driveline
Besides finding the perfect setup for your car, the second key to winning in the Crate Late Model class is making your driveline as efficient as possible. After all, it only makes sense that if everyone has the same, limited amount of power, you want to make sure that all power possible is transferred to the rear wheels.
One of the biggest energy-saving investments you can make is in the transmission and rearend. Both Long and Cook advocate using REM-polished gears in both places. "REM" is simply a machine process for polishing and smoothing metals, that yields a lower coefficient of friction between parts. Translation? More power is put through to the wheels. They also use only low-drag bearings and even go so far as to apply antiseize lubricant to both ends of the axles every week.
"You just have to make sure that nothing is binding up in the drivetrain," Cook says. "You are so limited in power, that every little bit you burn up as friction in the transmission or rearend can really cost you."