So, how do I get involved in racing? This has to be one of the most frequently asked questions regarding motorsports today. There are, of course, many answers to that question, but for us, we opted to race in a Pro Stock-type car. Our driver is Mitch Frank of Waldwick, New Jersey, who started out in the Pure Stock ranks. The 2000 racing season will be his first year in the Rookie Pro Stock division.
In the Northeast, today's Pure Stocks are what Pro Stocks were when they were introduced some 20 years ago-fundamentally, a street car with safety modifications.
Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, New York is where we will compete. The facility runs two divisions of Pro Stocks-Rookie and Novice-along with a Pure Stock class. Both of these classes afford the beginner an opportunity to get behind the wheel of a race car without mortgaging the house or cashing in the kid's college fund.
Our car is one of the newer non-perimeter-style chassis sweeping the Northeast Pro Stock ranks. We will begin our odyssey with an illumination of the early stages of construction, led by Keith Koppenal and crew. Keith has built more than 20 race cars and is an experienced Pro Stock driver.
Although a newcomer has the option of building a new or buying a used chassis, we decided to build. For our purposes, we chose not to take the cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all chassis route, so building was the obvious decision. Also, chassis kits are available, but that did not fit our plans. As a result, the build path was selected, which enabled Koppenal to integrate some of his own ideas in the chassis design.
Let The Games BeginWith our decisions made on how we are going to approach the making of our Northeast Warrior Pro Stock car, the time arrived to begin the chassis construction.
We will be competing in the DIRT series; DIRT Pro Stock rules state that on unibodied cars only, a homemade frame may be constructed using steel rectangular tubing, with minimum specs of 2x3x.120-inch wall thickness. The 3-inch dimension must be in the vertical position and should start at the rear of the front stock OEM subframe.
For this, we visited a local junkyard and found two '79 Firebirds for $400. Our newest team member, Jamie Bugari, spent a few days stripping down the cars to remove the front clips and control arms that will become part of our chassis.
Next, we had to find a local race shop that could supply our needs and answer our questions. Fortunately, our shop and the Orange County Fair Speedway are within a few miles of Behrent's Performance Warehouse located in Florida, New York.
Behrent's technical consultant Bill "Pink" Floyd, a former California Sprint Car driver, became our intermediary in this project. Familiar with local rules and what local teams are using to get the most out of their Pro Stocks, Floyd's feedback was essential to our decision-making process.
We start with 110 feet of 131/44x0.095-inch and 150 feet of 111/42x0.095-inch seamless tube steel. We also pick up 44 feet of 2x3x0.120-inch boxed steel and six sheets of 22-gauge sheetmetal.
Back at the shop, a jig is built of 2x4-inch steel. The jig is the initial platform from which the chassis is constructed. The dimensions of a jig were determined by the specifications of the frame.
We are required to have a factory stock wheelbase of 107 inches. The frame must also be as wide as the original subframe. In our case, a late '70s Firebird-type subframe will be used.
With the front clip removed from one of our Firebirds, it was brought into the shop and placed on the jig to be cleaned and readied for the framerails; this took hours of work.
Once preparation was complete, the seams were stitch-welded to firm up the chassis and eliminate flexing while on the track. The clip also had to be altered to accept components that would be added later.
The rear rails of the clip were cut at the position of the stock firewall. When we start fabricating interior sheetmetal, a firewall and floor (which saves about 250-300 pounds) will be installed.
At this location, the 2x3-inch framerails are then welded. The chassis photos illustrate the design features that make this a non-perimeter chassis. This chassis has a left-side weight bias integrated into the design. With the frame rails tack-welded to the clip, the frame was squared off and the rails tack-welded to the jig. Once this was completed, the framerails were permanently welded to the clip, and everything was firmly held in square.
One of the problems encountered in the early non-perimeter designs was too much left-side weight built into the chassis. To compensate, ballast had to be added to get the desired setup.
The goal is to integrate the perfect weight balance in the chassis design, left/right and front/rear. In addition, we will have weight jackers in each corner of the car for future adjustments. While running a basically stock suspension, a properly handling chassis is obviously our objective. Our design aim is to allow the car to transfer weight diagonally, and from front to rear, when and where we want.
DIRT rules stipulate that the rollcage must be constructed from seamless, round steel tubing with a minimum of 111/42-inch outside diameter. We will be using 131/44x0.095-inch tubing for the cage for safety purposes. The 111/42x.095-inch tubing will be used in those parts of the car in front of and to the rear of the driver. The diagonals integrated into our design allow the driver to exit from both sides of the car and provide track personnel an additional top egress in case of emergencies.
A mandatory six-point cage must surround the driver with uprights mounted on the left- and right-side framerail, in front of and behind the driver. Take note of where the uprights are mounted in the accompanying photos. On the right side, the uprights are welded to the right 2x3-inch framerail, while on the left, they are welded to the 2x3-inch frame-rail extension; thus, a left-side weight bias. Three horizontal bars must be on both sides of the car connecting the main uprights. At least one bar must extend to the outer doorskin. The horizontals must have at least one set of vertical supports positioned between the main uprights, which connect the horizontals. We have completed the right-side horizontals and verticals, while leaving the left side open to allow for interior work. When the interior is completed, these pieces will be welded into position.
With the bulk of the chassis nearing completion, the next step is suspension components. Some work still remains to be done on the front clip, and brackets need to be installed for the rear-leaf springs.
DIRT rules state that all suspension parts must remain stock; all mounting locations must be stock as well. Keith has some ideas in this area also. Next, we will put the finishing touches on the chassis and begin installing the suspension components.
Editor's Note: This is the second installment of our new Northeast Warrior series. In the spirit of the Saturday Night Buildup series, this newly created feature highlights the ongoing challenges of a race team that is starting a race program from the ground up. This series, as its name implies, is being carried out in the Northeastern United States and is intended to give a coast-to-coast balance to Saturday-night race enthusiasts. Saturday Night Buildup and Northeast Warrior will alternate in upcoming issues.
ManufacturersBehrent's Performance WarehouseDept. CT0438 Meadow Rd.Florida, NY 10921914/651-7339www.behrents.com
Dynatech HeadersDept. CT04975 Hyrock Blvd.P.O. Box 608Boonville, IN 47601812/897-3600