For those who foresee a race car in their future, it is important to understand that dedication and sacrifice are as much a part of a successful team as a good chassis and engine program. We use the term sacrifice in its truest form-not to be confused with dedication. A dedicated crew is a must for any successful race team, but when those people give more than is expected of the average person, it usually involves great personal sacrifice on their part. The Northeast Warrior crew has reached a crossroads in its adventure. The car is complete; we are ready to fire the engine for the first time and get some track time before the season begins. Now that we've reached this point, it is vitally important to understand how we got here.
Several nights per week spent working on the car for the last several months have given us a first-class race car, but not without a price in human terms. The Northeast Warrior car virtually took over K-Auto Tech during this period. Keith Koppenal devoted hundreds of hours to the project that would have been spent running his business under normal circumstances. Brian and Jeff Baringer devoted as many hours that impacted their personal lives as well as time that could have been spent developing their individual careers. Mitch Frank lost track of the miles logged commuting 65 miles from his job in New York City to the shop and then home to New Jersey on weeknights. Somehow, he also found time to coordinate this project and get enough sleep to function each day.
Everyone involved in this project has his or her own reasons for doing so, but we can all find common ground in that we have produced a first-class product and that the time has come to refocus on the future.
It's ShowtimeIt was a late night and a very early morning, but we arrived at the Middletown Motorsports show with plenty of time to unload the cars and set up our display area. With the show running Friday through Sunday, all cars were brought into the building on Thursday.
For three days, members of the Northeast Warrior team rotated shifts to meet show attendees and answer any questions they might have about the project. We were extremely pleased at the turnout for the show and how many people came by to wish us good luck and tell us that they had been following our progress in Circle Track.
Saturday was judgment day. The Pro Stock division was well represented with the finest cars from past winners and new entrants. We knew going in that we had little chance of winning "Best of Division" because the car was not completely race ready. Judging is based on a strict 100-point system with deductions for minor offenses such as dirt or nicks in the paint. On Sunday afternoon the winners were announced. We were all thrilled when we learned we had won second place in one of the closest races ever in the division. The trophy we received now resides at K-Auto Tech as a reminder of all the hard work that went into the car.
Engine Break-InSeveral hours were spent at the show over three days, but it was a welcome change of pace that allowed us to kick back and relax for a while. Playtime had to end, however, and it was back to work too soon. Our next step was breaking in our new motor. For this much-anticipated event, our engine builder, Jeff Saaf, came to the shop and walked us through his procedure.
The first step was to ensure that the engine was primed, allowing the oil to circulate throughout before firing it for the first time. To accomplish this, you can purchase a primer, or you can knock the gear off an old distributor and weld a nut on the top. We used the latter procedure.
Here's how it's done: Insert the distributor in place and, with a power driver and socket, rotate the engine. Two revolutions should get the job done. When you are finished priming the engine, remove the No. 1 cylinder valve cover and rotate the engine. When the No. 1 exhaust valve begins to open, reverse the crank rotation to TDC. Remove the old distributor, and install the new one to the No. 1 rotor and cap alignment. You should have oil coming out of the rockers at this point, so reinstall the valve cover and prepare to fire it up.
A separate starter and ignition switch works well here, allowing you to crank the engine until the oil pressure comes up prior to hitting the ignition switch to fire it. This procedure is a little easier on the rod bearings. Pour gas down the vent tube in the carburetor and pump it, then fill the bowl with gas. Using regular pump gasoline here will be helpful because it will fire more quickly than race fuel when cold. This is of particular importance with a new engine because you want to avoid as much cranking as possible.
Fire the motor and allow it to run at 2,500 rpm for about 20 minutes, allowing the cam and lifters to break in properly. After 20 minutes, shut off the engine and remove the oil filter. Cut the bottom end off the filter and remove the cartridge from inside. Closely examine the filter cartridge by cutting it apart and looking for metal particles. If you find any particles that are bronze or brass in appearance, tear your motor down-you have a serious problem somewhere. A few minor silver particles may be leftover debris from engine construction.
Install a new filter and fire the engine-let it run for another 20 minutes. "Any major problem is going to develop within the first five minutes," says Jeff of a new motor. At the conclusion of the second break-in period, check the filter again to determine if the debris problem has gotten better or worse.
When you have determined that the engine is in good form, remove the valve covers, check the valve adjustment, and do a good visual inspection.
In case you are wondering, the motor sounds fantastic! Jeff was pleased with the break-in, which put smiles on everyone's face. We are particularly impressed with how tight the motor is. With the rpm at 2,500, we let off the throttle, and in the blink of an eye it was at idle.
Chassis SetupWe finally got a chance to use the set of digital scales we received from Longacre Racing Products when we baselined the car. We must maintain a minimum weight of 3,050 pounds with the driver but no fuel. With Mitch in the car wearing his driver's attire, including helmet, we were within weight specifications. Keith disappeared into the dark recesses of the shop and reappeared with his little black book of chassis setups. Mitch was directed back into the car with orders to sit completely still and not to breathe unless given permission (Mitch doesn't really have to hold his breath while sitting in the car during chassis setup, it just keeps him from asking, "How does it look?" every 10 seconds while Keith is computing crossweight percentages).