Maintaining the mechanical...
Maintaining the mechanical efficiency of your race car is a critical part of the winning process. Teams that consistently win have control over their maintenance issues. The first step in any maintenance program is a thorough cleaning and inspection of the car.
Winning races requires a variety of skills. While this may seem like an overly simplistic comment, it is nonetheless true. It is also fair to say that the driver is not the only member of the team who has to have a set of well-developed skills. The TV personalities and other pundits may romanticize the driver as being the key player, but he or she is not the only player. Developing a winning combination involves blending many different skill sets. Winning can be attributed to a combination of driver skill, the skill of the tuner, the engine builder, the chassis setup, and a well-executed maintenance program.
In the real world, a maintenance program is often loved even less than the proverbial red-haired stepchild. The fact of the matter is, your individual maintenance program is the foundation of a well-constructed overall racing program. Without a well-run, well-executed maintenance program, you may find yourself at the track working on the various subsystems of your race car, just trying to get the car to run, instead of tuning for speed.
This point often separates the top racers from participants and field fillers. If you place the best driver in the world in your car and it falls apart during the race, you cannot expect the win column in your stat chart to be very full.
Removing, cleaning, and inspecting...
Removing, cleaning, and inspecting the nozzles. Not every racer performs these tasks, but they are critical to keeping the engine performance at a high level. This is especially important on cars fueled by alcohol because alcohol is hygroscopic and causes corrosion.
Within the ranks of the weekly warriors racing around the country, one of the most highly strung cars you can race is a Sprint Car. These cars have a reputation of being the helicopters of the racing world, real hangar queens. There is a lot of garage time for the amount of time they actually run on the track. But this can be said of many other types of race cars, and the focus here is the process, not so much the type of car.
From a systemic perspective, the process is similar. Regardless of the type of race car, the act and process of pre-race maintenance is very much the same. It also doesn't matter if the car utilizes coil springs, torsion bars, or leaf springs, has disc or drum brakes, or if it uses a four-, six- or eight-cylinder engine. From a process and systemic perspective, we can all learn from a well-executed maintenance program.
At a truly professional level, it is more a part replacement process than it is a maintenance program. As a part becomes older, its chances of failing increase. If you are part of a traveling series and your livelihood depends on how well you finish, the chances of parts being replaced on a more frequent interval are greater.
This type of luxury may not be an option at the local or regional level. Since costs are high, you will have to develop an individualized process that fits your budget and level of racing. Fortunately, if we remove the part replacement interval, the overall process is not so different for a traveling series and the weekly local Saturday night racer.
A well-defined list and well-documented...
A well-defined list and well-documented processes make the job much easier and rewarding. Being able to check off each operation as you go down the list makes keeping track of what you have done much easier.
In order to make this story a bit more relevant to the reader and not just a collection of opinions and pet theories, we spent some time at the track and at the shop with a very successful Sprint Car racer and his team. Jeremy Sherman's team races in Arizona. We will outline the process utilized on a week-to-week basis to maintain and prepare Sherman's Sprint Car for the next race.
Sherman continues to have a great deal of success in the 360- and 410-powered cars. Currently, he is doing a good job of dominating the 360 Sprinters racing at Manzanita Speedway and Canyon Raceway in the Phoenix area. In fact, Sherman has been doing so well that at the last race at Manzanita, it was announced that a special prize would be offered if he could win from the back in the feature.
The special prize was a cash bonus over and above the regular prize money. At the time this story was being written, the prize totaled over $3,000 and was still growing. Apparently, people want to see Sherman charge through the field.
The car must be cleaned in preparation for the next race. While this may sound like a simple process, there are some precautions that need to be taken, such as keeping electronics dry and making every effort to close any path that may bring water to the engine. The same can be said for making sure vents to drivetrain components don't become water pathways. This is not a complex process, but it still takes some planning. Once you have the car clean, the real work starts.
Here, a crew member looks...
Here, a crew member looks through the nozzle tube to see if any sludge or other buildup or corrosion has taken place.
Always check the barrel valve...
Always check the barrel valve to make sure that the adjustment has not changed. This is another check that ensures continued high engine performance. The engine builder is not responsible for the things that you as the owner should be responsible for between races.
Adjusting the valves is an...
Adjusting the valves is an important task. Not only does this help maintain a higher level of performance, but it also provides an opportunity to look into the engine. If one valve is always requiring adjustment, then it is possible that a cam lobe is wearing or the rocker arm and adjusting nut are worn.