It's a trend that has grabbed the racing world big-time. Pickup truck racing obviously got its ignition from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and many local tracks and sanctioning bodies across the country have recently initiated truck classes of various types. One such sanctioning body, NAMARS, has created a formidable truck now racing in the Midwest in its NAMARS Super Truck Series, and these "pickups" are taking truck racing to high levels of success.
Truck TechThe NAMARS Super Truck's national tech director is Don Everhart, who knows these trucks like few others. "We here at NAMARS looked at truck racing in other parts of the country, and there were a number of things we didn't like. We wanted to make a series where the trucks would be inexpensive enough so even the low-budget weekend racer would be able to participate," he explains.
Low budget is definitely the situation here with the price for a complete car starting at only $16,000.
The NAMARS Trucks are full-body units, and four 2000-model body styles are available: Chevy 1500 Silverado, GMC 1500 Sierra, Ford F-150, and Dodge Ram 1500. About 60 trucks have been built so far; many are on order.
The fiberglass bodies are manufactured by Speedway Bodies and are, according to Everhart, "About as close to stock as possible. We feel that having the stock-appearing look is a very important aspect of this series."
In fact, if the trucks weren't carrying the characteristic race decals and wide race tires, they might pass for street trucks. They also bear a close resemblance to the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks.
The reason for choosing fiberglass was an economic one, according to Everhart. "We wanted something that could be easily and quickly repaired. When you smash up an aluminum fender, usually you have to buy a new one. When you damage a fiberglass piece, it can usually be repaired without replacement," he explains.
Everhart says the small-block engines are dyno'd, and their performances were made as equal as possible. "Since there are differences in the size of the engines, we play with the cams to assure equality," he indicates.
The engines all produce about 300 hp at 4,500 to 6,000 rpm on pump gas. The engines use stock pistons and rods and a stock crank, while an aftermarket cam is allowed as long as it conforms to the prescribed lift. A Holley 4412 500-cfm two-barrel is the only legal carb, mounted atop an aluminum Edelbrock performance intake.
World Products is currently providing a spec head for Chevy and Ford applications. No such head is yet available for the Mopar engine, so certain modifications are allowed on the stock 318 heads. Everhart says the stock Chevy or Ford heads can also be modified, but many opt for the available Mopar World Products piece. The engine costs about $2,500.
Firepower for the engine comes from a battery equipped with a Ford solenoid, located behind the driver seat on the left side of the car.
The other parts of the powertrain remain in the particular brand's camp with an automatic transmission mated with a manual shift kit. These trannys are shifted with a simple aftermarket aluminum shifter that requires the driver to actually change gears manually. Everhart says the use of an automatic tranny enables everyone to drive the trucks, and the setup will be much smoother on dirt.
A recent change also allows a quick-change rearend, which requires about 18 hp to run but allows more precise gearing. "With the expense of gears for a stock rearend, along with the racing wear and tear, it's more economical to go with the racing quick change," Everhart says. The steel wheels are either by Bassett or Bart.
Keeping ControlWhile much of the suspension is stock, some aftermarket parts and pieces have been added. Up front are stock lower control and tubular aftermarket upper control arms along with custom racing springs. In addition, Pro Shocks are on all four corners. For the 2000 model, the trucks include front and rear weight jackers to allow better handling characteristics.
The trucks use a common frame for all brands, a GM metric frame, chosen primarily for its availability. Many of the frames are acquired at salvage yards by the manufacturers, where they are straightened and aligned for their new racing duty.
The frames are modified with a tubular rear section except for the final 16 inches of the unit. This strengthens the location where the fuel cell is mounted. Along with the frame are the stock GM steering, spindles, control arms, and rear suspension.
Adjustable body mounts are used to accommodate the different body styles fitted to the common frame. The frame was then strengthened in critical areas including a series of stout bars in the door areas fabricated of 131/44-inch-diameter material.
The trucks also are fitted with sturdy rollcages, which are welded directly to the frame, sport a wheelbase of 108 inches, and weigh about 2,800 pounds without driver. The left-right weight bias is near neutral, with about 55 percent weight on the front wheels.
The trucks are designed to run on both dirt and pavement tracks (in fact, the trucks have been approved to compete in the new Parts-Pro Series), but to date only pavement races have been run, although dirt running should occur in the near future. The series has run on tracks in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and Kentucky, but for the 2000 season, which began on May 14 and runs through October 8, the trucks are slated to compete only on tracks in Ohio and Indiana. More races and tracks may be added as the season progresses.