Consider Your Oil

Lake Speed Jr., Joe Gibbs' General Manager of its high-performance oil program pointed out that there are lots of quality motor oils on the market. No longer is it a matter of avoiding bad or poorly performing motor oil formulations and finding the best one. Instead, these days it's more a matter of avoiding the oils that may be great for the type of engines they were designed for but ineffective for your particular engine.

Different parts of an engine are subject to different types of friction. So, for most oils there are different additives that are designed to protect the piston skirts as they slide up and down the cylinder walls, the lifters as they ride over the camshaft tappets and the main and rod bearings. But a flat tappet lifter has very different requirements than a roller lifter. Likewise, a race engine is very different from a street engine.

So don't judge the quality of an oil by its price tag alone. Also, don't assume an oil that works great in a modern sports car will work just as well in your Street Stock. Finding the best oil for your particular application is key.

New Spring Dampers

Keeping the harmonic vibrations of your valvesprings to a minimum is one of the most important things you can do to keep your valvetrain happy and healthy over the long haul. Years ago engine builders in the Cup Series discovered that flooding the valvecovers with oil does a great job at both dampening spring harmonics and keeping the springs cooler. That trick has caught on in a lot of other racing series, but if you're racing a wet-sump engine this trick isn't practical.

Jason Youd of PAC Racing Springs says that the company has been experimenting with an external spring dampener that shows promise. The dampener is a plastic or otherwise non-metallic cup that the valvespring sits inside of. The cup provides a guide that keeps the spring from moving laterally as the valve opens and closes. This dampens any harmonic movement and helps improve valve control.

But one issue is that the cup holds oil near the spring. Oil needs to be constantly moving across the spring to pull away heat. This isn't too big of a deal in OEM engines that spend most of their lives just above idle, but the design still needs some refinement to work in race engine applications. Maybe we will see this on the racetrack someday soon.

Testing Tips

Bill Hancock worked in Chrysler Corporation's NASCAR racing programs for a decade before leaving to start his own company, Arrow Racing Engines. He offered some very interesting tips for track testing based on his many years of experience.

Hancock stressed that you must make the very same safety precautions for a test session as you do a race. It can be easy to let your guard down during a day of testing. There is no one else at the track, the pace is slower, and life seems easy. But Keller points out that the race car and that wall has no idea that this isn't a race and can kill you just as quickly at a test as during a race.

It's also a good idea to have someone at every test who's only job is to record the data you collect. While you're busy trying to swap intakes or throw a new set of shocks underneath the car for one last run, it can be easy to forget to write down all the details. But the most important thing you can gain from any track test is good data you can use later on. Don't depend on remembering anything correctly; make it a priority to get the data down where you can go over it again later when it's quiet and you can concentrate.

Finally, it's rarely a good idea to make several test runs on the same set of tires. Tire wear can negate any gains you make in later tests. This doesn't mean that you have to throw on a new set of tires every time your race car hits the track, but you do have to have at least two sets you can rotate out to keep tire wear even.