Most good racers, whether they know it or not, will subscribe to the following saying: "Knowledge isn't always knowing but knowing where to find out." In some cases, it's easy. There are schools for building engines, setting up a chassis, and driving, but what about some of the other important skills?

Lincoln Electric, maker of those familiar red welders, actually offers two Motorsports Welding classes - basic and advanced. Held at its world headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio, these classes are for folks who can already weld. If you've never welded, you'll need to get up to speed before signing on. Sources for the basic education include your local vocational technical school.

Once you have the basics, then you can proceed to the Lincoln schools. Each of the class sessions run for five days. There's a great student-teacher ratio because each session is limited to about 12 students. Both offer about 75 percent hands-on welding time.

The differences between the two classes allow you to tailor the class to what you want to learn within the class's agenda. As one example, a student in the basic class worked for a drag team, and his job was to be focused on the repair of blown aluminum heads and blocks. He spent the majority of the school week welding on scrap heads and blocks that had been donated by the many race teams partnered with Lincoln Electric. Another was a racer who ran endurance go-karts. He welded nothing but chrome-moly tubing all week to take advantage of having instructors virtually at his side to get him up to speed.

The basic class is just that. You'll be exposed to MIG, TIG, plasma, and oxyfuel torch cutting, as well as preparing yourself for the advanced class. Many students will take the two classes back to back in order to increase their skills even faster. The basic class serves as the prerequisite for the more demanding advanced class. The Lincoln Motorsports advanced class was developed for racers who needed to know about welding the more high-tech materials that are increasingly used on today's race cars. To that end, the class is 100 percent TIG welding, requiring students to come prepared with a basic knowledge and experience level with TIG before taking the class. The good news is that if you have basic TIG skills, the class will give you the opportunity to add to them. The instructors are the same guys we see at the big races, welding the tough jobs at the track. Since Lincoln is involved in nearly every type of high-level racing, its instructors have seen and done it all. You gain from their experience.

Each day, class time (in both basic and advanced) is limited to an hour or so of material you can actually use on the job. The advanced class concentrates mostly on how to identify and weld more exotic metals. The bonus is the extensive amount of reference material you'll take home. The real pearl in this package is a set of educational materials on the metals and their characteristics-the EMJ Materials and Technical Resource. This is a two-book reference set that every shop should have. Other materials show you how to identify alloys and their welding characteristics, as well as which ones not to weld. Critical filler metal is clearly explained in detailed handouts you take home.

We're going to place emphasis on the advanced class. On the first day, everyone gets up to speed by welding chrome-moly tubing. This aspect reinforces control since welding tubing means simultaneously rotating the torch and moving the filler rod. This gets everyone on a more even keel for TIG welding before they move on to day two and titanium (TI). TI requires 100 percent gas shielding coverage, and that takes some getting used to. A trailing cup keeps the Heat Affected Zone (HAZ) enveloped in shielding gas and protects the area from outside air contamination until the weld cools enough. The TI pieces you weld are also placed in a jig where gas shields the bottom of the piece and the backside of your weld. It takes a few passes to get used to working with all the shielding equipment, but the welding itself is the same as most other TIG operations. There's an elaborate array of telltale colors involved with welding TI that you need to know about before you light up. Since TI is used so much on military equipment, the government has come up with standards for welding TI that can also apply to motorsports. It's more knowledge you'll take back to your shop.

On the third day, things get more high tech with nickel alloys, sometimes commonly referred to as Inconel, a metal used for high-temperature exhaust pieces on race cars. The trick to welding nickel alloys is the keyhole style of welding because the metal is so gummy when wet. We've all seen a hole open up in our weld puddles when we don't move the torch fast enough. That hole is called a keyhole. When you're welding nickel alloys, you actually want that keyhole to develop so you can put your filler rod right into it to fill out the puddle.