Ask any dirt Late Model driver for a list of goals and you'll find most of them have included the Show-Me 100 at West Plains (Missouri) Speedway. This race is considered the start of the "big race" season. It has always been held in late May and generally draws nearly 100 quality Late Models from around the country. The track is a 31/48-mile red clay oval, slightly banked with a wide racing surface.
Seven drivers have been victorious in Show-Me efforts, led by Billy Moyer with three victories, and Freddy Smith with a pair. Single wins have been recorded for Ray Cook, Rick Aukland, Scott Bloomquist, and Terry Phillips. Wendell Wallace of Batesville, Arkansas, will be the defending champion for this year's chase.
Most of the race winners were using the GRT Race Cars chassis at the time of the win. Based in nearby Greenbrier, Arkansas, Joe Garrison's company utilized the knowledge of the nearby racing tracks in the car's designs.
Payout Is Unique There are Late Model races that pay higher amounts to the winner, but this race is unique in its pay structure. From the beginning, the Show-Me 100 was noted for its pay throughout the field, all the way to the last-place finisher. The trend continues in 2003. The winner will receive $37,000 while last place will get $3,700, so making the race generally means a substantial payday.
Track Conditions While racers seldom completely agree on anything, there seems to be a consensus about the track at West Plains: It offers competitive racing, and that thrills fan and competitor alike.
"I think the greatest thing about my win was that Terry Phillips, Davey Johnson, and I were three-wide for the lead for about three or four laps in a row," recalls Cook of Brasstown, North Carolina.
"The track was great to race on," says Wallace. "There was a lot of two- and three-groove racing. We started on the pole and didn't have to do a lot of passing in that event, but I know a lot of cars came from way deep in the field."
"It's a multi-groove racetrack," adds Wallace. "You can't use the track as an excuse if you don't win."
Despite the side-by-side competition, there have been at least two occasions where the race ran the full 100 laps without a caution, a testament to track and driver. It's also a salute to track owners Don and Billie Gibson.
"If you go to the Show-Me 100, you'll see Mr. Gibson out there when the races are over and he works on it all night long," Cook says. "It's nothing to get up real early and see him still working. That guy puts as much effort into his racetrack as we do in our race cars."
Strategy This is one race where the names and numbers mean less than the track itself. "We just try to drive a smooth momentum line there," says Cook. "You have to race the racetrack. It's so slick, if you get to racing your competitor, you end up spinning and using up the tires."
Geography The quest for chassis builders is to build a car that is competitive anywhere in the country. Characteristics of the tracks make this a difficult chore, so it's not surprising when a chassis company can do well in its own area. In the case of GRT, West Plains is very important in the grand scheme.
"I've got a lot of feedback from drivers who've raced at West Plains," says Garrison. "Wendell has always been comfortable with that style of racetrack because it's so racy. You can race two- or three-wide there and it's slick, so it takes some finesse to race there. That's what makes our drivers and our cars successful there."
Car Tuning Working as a team is one of the most important factors in finding success at a track like West Plains. "Our baseline setup will pretty well get a guy started at West Plains, and he can start there and be competitive right off the sheet," says Garrison. "The track is a bit of a challenge because the fine-tuning comes in. The driver's experience is helpful. It needs to be combined to help get around that racetrack. It takes skill and chassis setup combined because it's so slick."
Like most chassis builders, Garrison shares his knowledge with customers to help them succeed. For a track like West Plains, the dry slick setup baseline is the starting point. Track time enhances the basics to get the car to its most competitive end.
GRT Late Model Dry Slick Setup
Springs-LF 550#/RF 375#/LR 250#/RR 225#(Sixth coil cars-400# on end of torque arm, keep sixth coil straight up).
Shocks-LF 75/RF 76 (75 for flat slick)/LR 93/RR 94
Torque ARM Settings-
73 shock, 350# spring, 3-inchtravel, preload 11/44-inch and check travel. (32-inch range usually performs best).
LF-3 inches between top of lower control arm and bottom of frameRF-3 inches between top of lower control arm and bottom of frameLR-Set with the wedge in the carRR-411/44 inches between top of the lower framerail and the bottom of the axle tube (newer cars that have dropped-down underslung bar)Three inches between top of lower framerail and bottom of axle tube (older cars that have up-sloping underslung bar).
Bite-150# to 200# of LR bite
Running Spring Behind Left Rear-Run spring behind the axle on all track conditions except rubbered-up or extremely tacky. Run dummy shock with spring behind and real shock on front on semi-slick to traction track conditions. (Note: This setup will calm the movement of the car. This is not a cure for erratic movements.)
Panhard Bars-Standard Panhard to use-1911/42-inch J-bar (center-to-center). Panhard bar should be mounted 9 inches from the bottom of the framerail to the bottom of the slider bracket and in the second notch on the right side of the pinion mount. Optional Panhard bars-Long J-bar (2411/42 to 2431/44 inches)-Bottom hole on pinion and 9 inches to bottom of bracket on frame. (This position and Panhard bar style is good on most track conditions, especially when the track is rubbered-up or tacky. Straight Left Side Panhard Bar-(1711/44 to 1711/42 inches)-Second hole on pinion from bottom and 8 inches from bottom of frame to bottom of bracket. (This bar works well on smoother, flat, slick track conditions. It creates side bite and forward bite. This bar also will cause the car to be more erratic and difficult to drive. Do not use on a tacky track.)
Birdcage Brackets with Multiple Holes-Moving left upper four-bar to lower hole will help create more instant forward traction and should be done on smooth tracks only. Moving shorter left upper four-bar to forward hole creates even more instant traction, but is more radical and should be used in extremely smooth track conditions.
Common Setup Problems- Car too loose on entry and tight when you pick up the throttle? Try a pair of 250# springs on the rear. For smoother, flatter tracks go to a 350# spring on the RF.