How Do We Bring In New Blood?
When talking with racers and track managers, the subject of bringing in new and young racers to the sport comes up frequently. There are many opinions about how to get this done, but we need to come to a consensus fairly soon. And we need to promote whatever it is that we think can work to bridge the gap between the generations.
The very existence of short track racing depends on growing the numbers of new racers. Right now I see several ways that this is being done that I think work well. The small car programs like Karts, Micro and Quarter Midgets, Bandoleros, Dwarf cars, and Legends cars do provide valuable experience to the younger wanna be racers.
Just this last week I saw a good example of this progression. This year's new Late Model track champion at All American Speedway in Roseville, California, is a 15-year-old who has been racing since he was 5 years old. So, he now has 11 years of experience and demonstrated that as I watched him dispatch several much older drivers on his way to the Super Late Model win the night I was there.
James Bickford started out in Quarter Midgets and accumulated over 150 A-main wins, 15 championships, and 1 national championship. He moved on to Bandoleros, then up the ladder to Late Models. This win record is extremely impressive in and of itself. But he was just getting started.
On this night, he put several moves on his rivals coming from the third row at the start and picking off the cars in front one by one. His best move, when he just could not gain momentum going into the turn, was to go high into Turn 1, cross over underneath the car in front and gain the inside going into Turn 3 to make the pass.
I can't tell you how many times I have seen young and older drivers "dive bomb" into the turns only to lose momentum and speed as they get pinched in the middle and lose ground coming off the turns. It just does not work. This kid got it. And it was so much fun for me to watch.
So, getting back to the subject, the current sequence of going from Quarter Midgets or karts up through the Bandoleros, four-cylinder classes, Street Stocks and Sportsman divisions before getting into Late Models or even more advanced classes works. But I believe there is more to do.
James Bickford started out in Quarter Midgets and accumulated over 150 A-main wins, 15 championships, and 1 national championship. He moved on to Bandoleros, then up the ladder to late models. This win record is extremely impressive.
So much for the future drivers, what about building the numbers of our pit crews and crew chiefs? Most young people only know computerized ignitions and fuel injected motors. Many tracks have resorted to calling the mini-stock cars the Tuner division. Tuner is a more modern word for a high performance street car that is usually a four-cylinder, fuel-injected, and computerized ignition car.
Is there more we can do? Some thoughts I have heard involve creating a four-cylinder Late Model Car. Or, should the tracks be renting cars out to potential racers so that they can get the feel of short track racing. It wouldn't take long for them to develop the fever and become "addicted" like so many of us have.
I think we still need to incorporate more modern engine systems that are computer controlled and fuel injected. But the industry needs to support that with quality racing parts that are more durable than stock parts. How about it, can we get that done?
If you have comments or questions about this or anything racing related, send them to my email address: Bob.Bolles@sorc.com, or mail can be sent to Circle Track, Senior Tech Editor, 9036 Brittany Way, Tampa, FL 33619.
Drive Straight and Go Fast Young Man
I'm new to dirt track racing but have been getting some seat time in a great man's car who can't drive it himself anymore due to his failing eyesight. It's a 1934 Chevy sedan with a 355 with all the goodies Santa Clause can bring. We run nostalgia races with DAARA and we are currently building a 1936 Chevy sedan with a straight six to compete at East Bay in your neck of the woods.
Sorry for rambling, but I read an article you wrote in Circle Track about braking into corners instead of pitching sideways! I was racing at a bullring when between heats a rear caliper froze and locked the left rear wheel.
We got it freed but if I hit the brakes in the main event it would stay locked so I stayed in the rear of the field just to get more experience and what do you know, I started getting faster! Instead of trying so hard and sliding I drove straight and repeatedly had to turn to avoid going into the car in front of me!
I know the saying, go slow to go fast, but dang. No one will believe me, and they all want me sideways in the turns and since it's his car I need some proof. I've been searching online and found only one video on Youtube of Smoke in a Super Late Model driving this style.
I'm just starting out and would like to learn once the right way and not learn someone else's bad habits because it looks so cool with that rear swung out. Thanks for the advice. This is the most fun I've ever had.
Yes, it is fun to go faster than your competition. What you have discovered is one of the best kept secrets in dirt racing. I know when I speak about this, many top racers probably wished I'd just shut up, and I understand that. But it's my job to discover these things and pass them on. It can be by far the fastest way around, if the conditions are right.
Just in the last three weeks on my Tour of the U.S. on the West Coast, I saw both top Dirt Late Model and Sprint Car drivers use this driving style. In one race, everyone ran a very straight ahead line and a few ran hard into the corners and sideways, and lost a lot of ground.
I will say this, there may be times when the fastest way around is to run the cushion and hang the rearend out and use throttle to keep the car turning, but for the most part, do it the way that produces the lowest lap time.
Slow Down To Go Fast
I read an article in your magazine several years ago that claimed the future of short track racing would involve decelerating in the straightaway and accelerating through the turns.
I do not know how long ago it was written or who wrote it. I know CT has published many articles since then but I would very much like to discuss this matter with the author of that article.
You can call me. I think you are referring to a racing school I attended and wrote an article about where it is taught to lift earlier and brake later into the turns and that enables you to get into the throttle earlier. This method, developed by Mike Loescher with Finishline Racing School, has produced a lot of wins and championships over the years.
It takes a lot of patience and trust because driving deep into the corner and braking heavy and late feels fast. But the stop watch will show that the method I spoke of will work much better in most cases, especially in qualifying.
You're not really slowing down early, you are ending the acceleration early, which is not that great and beneficial at the end of the straightaway anyhow. You're maintaining speed later by coasting and braking softer to make the car faster from turn entry to mid-turn. Most turns are a parabolic shape and you don't need to slow to mid-turn speed too soon.
Cam for a Hobby Stock Dirt Car
I'm currently racing in a hobby stock division at a southern Oklahoma dirt track. Being an "economical/beginner class" the rules require that we run large chambered heads, stock exhaust manifolds, stock intake manifolds, and more. Where the rules don't specify any limitations is camshaft specs. However I know that with limited breathing capabilities an oversize cam is not going to do me any good.
I'm running a set of xxx993 heads I believe with 1.95/1.50 valves and a quadra-jet carb that a friend built that flows right around 700-cfm on a standard stroke 350 small-block Chevy. I'm trying to match a hyd. camshaft with this combination that will give me plenty of torque coming off of the turns but still allow the engine to turn 6,500 rpms or more if needed.
I know that velocity of air flow can somewhat make up for the lack of mass in airflow. However I'm not sure what the right cam specs would be. Any thoughts on the situation would be greatly appreciated.
I will tell you what the engine experts will tell you. Every major cam manufacturer has tech people on staff who specialize in helping you choose the correct cam for your application. They get paid to do this and they like what they do.
Call up the cam company of your choice and tell them what you told me. I'm sure you will get the information and help you need. Anytime you have an engine specific question like this, go directly to the experts who know and work with your engines and their design. They'll get you going in the right direction.
More Kit Car Ideas
I have just been reading your article in Circle Track talking about coming full circle (Track Tech Q&A, "Coming Full Circle" Sept. '13) and I have been beating this horse to death since 2006 here in Georgia with no luck. Fast forward to 2013 and most all of the paved tracks are gone or lost completely now. It kills me that there just doesn't seem to be anybody that really cares any more about short track racing or racers.
We are not just a bunch of rednecks running around in junk drinking beer and fighting The biggest problem we have run into in dealing with tracks is the lack of rules for the brand X guys. Maybe it is just me. I have raced Mopars on and off for 20 years, and right now our class at Dixie Speedway is being talked about being cut out. It is hard enough to find a place to race and if you show up with the very cars you cited, (Kit Car Mopar) they do their best to run us off.
Racing is not just a Chevy lock, the last time I checked people do buy Fords and Dodges too. I have worked on a set of rule/regs/points, the whole deal, for a Series and if I personally have the money to fund it I would. I would gladly retire from racing to get it going because I have tried to be fair to all engines Chevy, Ford, and Dodge
My deal involves having more spec motor builds and putting limits on the entire program to keep the cost down. Whether you want to pay somebody to build it for you or you want to do it all yourself, you can. I have sent this to a few people and tracks and had no response. Maybe CT could float the idea out there and somebody might run with it.
The key to making any of this work is to have the track promoters and managers buy into it. They must see the benefit in order for them to make the rules changes necessary. They will be convinced when enough racers voice their opinions in favor of it.
The idea for spec motors is excellent in my opinion. I have always said the perfect solution to the built versus crate motor debate is a spec motor that might well match the crate specifications. Then the racer can elect to pay to have it built or do it himself.
As for the kit car concept, someone with funding and support will need to come along and implement that program. It is a risk for the reasons listed above, the tracks will have to allow these cars to run. Therein lies the answer.
Leaf Springs Versus Verses
I know it's a minor thing, but you constantly do something that just drives me absolutely crazy! You always substitute the word "verses" in place of the word "versus." Remember, a poem has verses. A court case pits the plaintiff versus the defendant!
Also, sometime would it be possible for you to explore setting up a leaf-spring car? An explanation of roll induced push versus roll induced looseness, and bite as it relates to spring wrap-up, cross weighting, antisquat, spring split, and how to calculate leaf spring rates would be great. There are still some leaf sprung cars racing, both on ovals, and in the lower classes of road-racing.
Thanks for correcting my grammar. I guess the copy editors at CT aren't so sharp after all. If you read the previous email responses, you'll see where I used "versus" this issue. I might go back next issue, who knows. But I'll tell you the same thing I told a big time Cup engineer who worked for GM and Ford Motor Company for years when I referred to "planting" a tire, a term I seldom used, but did over dinner with him.
He said in a condescending way, "You plant corn, you don't plant tires." I got hot, as in pissed off, and said to him, "Did you understand what I meant?" He said he did and I then told him he might not want to speak to me that way again. I guess you knew what I meant, so I won't belabor that point. It's all about the meaning.
There are plenty of leaf spring cars running today. And that would be a great article to write. I have done some leaf tech in the distant past verses lately (excuse the pun), so maybe I'll get going on that.
Meanwhile, here are a few things about leaf springs. One, a leaf system has a wide spring base versus the stock coil spring systems. This is good for tacky tracks where the lateral g-forces are greater and the roll forces influence the rear more than the front. The wide spring base helps control that roll.
Spring split, with the RR softer, enhances roll and is good for slicker tracks to gain rear traction and bite. The reverse spring split with the LR softer reduces roll in the rear and is good for helping to match the roll tendencies from front to rear and is good for tacky tracks.
The leaf systems generally have a high rear roll center too. This reduces roll in the rear, again good for a tacky track condition. Lowering the car can lower the rear roll center on leaf systems, but you are also lowering the center of gravity, so it's a trade off. You're kind of stuck with the rear roll center and must adjust for track conditions with spring rates, which is not easy.