As our racing season comes to an end, we tend to look back and apply a measure to our successes, or lack thereof. Success can mean many different things-it's all in the way you and your team look at things. Most assume that true success means you won lots of races and/or the championship, whatever that is for your racing. But for the fortunate ones with a broader view, success means much more.
If your view of success is similar to looking down a long tunnel, then you might experience lots of disappointment in your racing career. Focusing on just one aspect of the whole of racing might disappoint you, like finally seeing the light at the end only to discover that it's really the headlight of an oncoming train. There is so much more that can be enjoyed and shared besides "the win."
In a true racing sense, success can mean finishing further up in the points this year as opposed to last, or, running in the top (plug in your specific goal) of the field. You might have gotten your first pole, won a heat race or just plain survived each race without doing a whole lot of crashing while learning as you go. As was said before on these pages, first endeavor to finish, then to run in the top 15, then 10, then 5, and then, and only then, go for that first win.
Take for example the team that always runs in the last half of the field. I used to wonder, in my younger and narrower way of looking at things, why these teams even show up. They don't have the money (or any other resource that might apply) to run up front. They'll probably never win, so why try? I know that answer now.
The world of circle-track racing isn't just about the win. It's more about the gathering of friends to undertake a common goal. It's the time spent with family where, in this day and age, most modern families lose contact with each other very easily. It's about making friends in the pits that you would never have made. It's about sharing your parts and resources with others and borrowing from them too, without a hint of reservation.
It's the thrill of victory, whether it's your team or friends of yours who might have helped you along the way. It's about including your business associates, clients, and fellow workers. The list goes on and on if you really think about it.
I used to feel bad for a team that struggled to find the money to race. Then again, here are these guys, lifelong friends doing what they love, and the families helping out. There are lots of things that could take all of these people in different directions, but racing is one way of keeping them close.here.
I no longer wonder why the teams that don't win show up, I celebrate their commitment to the sport, the gathering of friends and family, and their camaraderie with their fellow racers. In that way of thinking, they are already winners. In this coming offseason, re-evaluate why you race. Think about all of the above and realign your priorities if need be.
The joy in life and all of the things we do isn't the destination, it's in the journey. As you go through this racing life and life in general, take in all of what it's about and sit back and smile. We all should feel very lucky to have discovered racing in all of its wonderful aspects. I know I do. And by the way, I needed this reminder just as much as the next guy.
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.
Dirt Late Model Update
How come there were never any follow up articles on Project Dirt Late Model from racing at a dirt track? How did the car work? What adjustments were made at the track to fix handling problems? I see you bought a new Mastersbilt chassis.
Why are you going away from the swing arm design that you tout as being the best design for limiting rear steer? Weren't your changes to the old car able to make that car work well enough so that the expense of a new frame could have been avoided?
Thanks for asking. In the last issue, we covered the project and outlined how we got to the winner's circle. In the future we will be building a new Mastersbilt chassis using many of the parts and pieces off our old car.
With the new car being a four-bar car as opposed to the swing arm design of the old one, we can now do more experimenting with rear steer, the lift arm, shocks, and more. We have really enjoyed this project as much or more than others we have undertaken. And we will continue to grow our knowledge and pass it along to you.
Yes, we have touted reduced rear steer, but with a car that won't rear steer, we can't do the necessary changes from zero rear steer to extreme rear steer to see the difference. With the new car, we can. To be perfectly fair, we need to experiment with both.
On Small Fields and Cookie Cutter Cars
I was thinking this same thing a couple weeks ago. We went to watch opening night at one of the local tracks and it was painfully obvious. There are a couple of classes where it isn't as noticeable, but it's there. I really noticed it over the last few years in the Late Model class. The outlaws were replaced with a template body/crate motor class a few years ago and there is minimal passing.
About 10 years ago, a friend of mine had a very good handle on this track. He won a lot of races and a number of championships. One year he skipped a couple nights to run a traveling series because he had such a lead in the standings. While those who weren't his fans may have gotten tired of him winning, it did make the races interesting because of all the cars he passed. He usually was a fast qualifier and would then draw the pill for the invert.
One night after the draw, the promoter offered him more cash for a win if he would give up his mid-pack starting position and start last. He accepted and took the lead with four or five laps remaining and took the extra booty with him. That was with a field of 20 or so cars. That wouldn't happen today. You couldn't do it, and the field is shorter compared to then. Anyway, funny you noticed it too.
Mike, there are some promoters who get it. We will be highlighting certain track promoters and how they run their show in coming issues. Then maybe the tracks like yours will see how they can enhance their program and draw more fans and racers.
I agree, and looking back when I used to go to the local dirt track and see the same two guys winning every week it didn't get boring. Inevitably, there would be a conflict with a lapped car and the leader would be sent to the back by virtue of being involved. At that point, it got real interesting as he made his way up to the front again. That is what the fans come to see and it isn't bad for the people in the infield either. We all love a good race. Thanks for your input.
Another View of Parity
I just finished your article and had some thoughts. Now first off it's not fair to object to parity in racing without tying your argument to a specific level of racing and maybe even a specific class. Cup racing is just too different to what I know about local classes to have any real opinion.
I really wrote to discuss Saturday night racing and how parity should be meted out. I've raced for the last 30 years and, while I've never raced professionally, I do feel I have an insider's view of what people want locally. For the sake of argument let's say there are only three divisions in SNR (Saturday night racing).
The first is Bomber. This class will never be equal by any measure and never should be. Its purpose is to introduce and make race car drivers. You should learn all facets of owning, driving, and repairing a race car. Anything else is really waiting for you in higher classes.
The second is spec. This is a class I have been working on for the last few years and am about to have a finished chassis. Legends would be the closest to my model but when done, mine will be about half the cost and look like, drive, and perform as a fullsize car. Actually, about the size of a compact car but here's where mine addresses the subject of parity.
In today's world we have race cars that are not only identical but are also maxed out as far as chassis and engineering. I'm sure you've heard of race car drivers who exit a car after a race win and exclaim the car was so right anyone could have driven it to victory.
Well, when you have all the best science has to offer then the driver was more right than wrong. This type of race car produces the dreaded follow the leader we see in traveling Late Model series. Now suppose all the cars were identical and yet the geometry was not able to be maxed out. No matter what you adjusted, the car could never be perfect. Now you have a scenario where true driver talent rises to the occasion and no one has a right to complain.
A track owner could produce a similar result by having different radius turns at either end where the cars would have to be set up on more of a compromise and driver talent would again rise to the top. This is the class where everyday guys come together and race clean. They have learned how to drive and have gotten past trashing others cars for an extra $20 at the payout window. They can share parts and panels as they are all the same but rules allow cosmetic changes to keep each unique. They will have a Reverse gear.
Third would have to be Late Model. This class should be seen as the last stepping stone to pro racing in the way minor league baseball is to the major league. All aspects of the car should be maxed out to recognize the professional abilities of the driver and team. I don't have much more to add to this class as I have no desire to race in it, so I'll leave it at that.
I believe there is a market for a class like spec, where folks go racing on the weekends the way we play softball, tennis, or golf. It's getting the fix without having to have a surface plate and a TIG welder. (I have both.) It's a class where all the approved parts are available in one catalog for all to see but much more affordable than Legends and not nearly as cramped. When someone sees your car he will know you race and not drive around in parades.
I have been trying for some 15 years to get everyone on the "perfect" setup and 90 percent of the racers still don't listen. You will never see all or most of the field with the same setup, even with supposedly upper class circle-track racing such as the USAR racing series. Watch one of those races and tell me they are all "perfect," far from it.
The Bomber class is a typical example of this. Never will you see all or most of those guys tuning their moment centers, or Ackermann, or dynamic balance or rear steer because only 5 percent of them will and they will win all of the races, and do. And that is the way it should be, being rewarded for your efforts.
I do like the idea of a series where more racers could get into it without needing a second mortgage on their home. There are many different levels of interest like you say and not everyone will desire to race Super Late Models. That is why karting is so popular.
What we propose is a return to "stock" car racing. Using a new stock body and suspension and running a series where you need to be innovative and work with a system that is not perfect. We are trying to get the manufacturers to provide "bodies in white" and other parts so that racers can truly run showroom stock cars at affordable prices. It will be a return to the old days of racing with modern equipment. We'll see what happens.
Sprint Car Steering
In regards to your request for information on axle-mounted rack-and-pinion steering in a Sprint Car, I suggest that you take a look at this website, http://www.hyperracing.com and have a look at its catalog and tech department, lots of excellent information. We have had tremendous success on some of the many dirt Micro-sprint tracks in central PA (Trailway, Path Valley, Lanco) in the past few years in our 600cc Hyper Micro-sprint with this type of steering.
I can't really see a good reason for running anything else. I will say though, that I did enjoy the days when we raced pavement cars with independent front suspension and I would spend literally hundreds of hours working with bumpsteer, moment centers, camber, Ackermann, and all that fun stuff. The tech articles in Circle Track were a tremendous help then, but I digress.
The owner of Hyper Racing, Mike Dicely, is an engineer by training and a genuinely nice guy. If you ever felt the need, I'm sure he would be more than happy to speak with you and provide you with any information you desire. I believe he also experimented with a push rod design on a Sprint Car
I have always enjoyed Circle Track and your tech articles and am very pleased to see the increased focus on Open Wheel racing, keep up the good work.
Crew Chief for Robbie Kendall
Racing #55k 600cc Micro-sprint
Bob, thanks for writing. This confirms that there are other ways to slice the cake. When we look at what others have done and the logic in these changes, it makes lots of sense. You mention the rack steering, independent front suspension, and the push rod design, all being not only innovative, but representing a known improvement.
Now maybe the major car builders will come out with a new design "all their own" and we can finally have a Sprint Car that drives well and provides better competition. It won't diminish the excitement of Sprint Car racing, it will just make it better for the drivers.
We deal with a lot of different kinds of circle-track racing and I know we get away from Open Wheel racing a bit, but your letter reminds us that we need to address Sprint Car and Modified racing more often.