While racing on dirt has good and bad points, which can be said of any race car on any surface, there are some unique drawbacks. Keeping the car clean is a big problem. While any race car gets dirty and each type of car has its own form of grime, cars that race on dirt or clay racetracks have some problems that are unique to this type of racing.

Just how bad can it be? Every time you see a dirt car on television or in a magazine it may look dusty and have some traces of mud on the surface, but it just does not look that dirty. The pictures in magazines often show a car in the winner's circle, and there may be traces of dirt and grime around the wheels and on parts of the body, but the car just does not look that bad-at least nothing a couple of dollars at the local car wash couldn't cure. You don't see the car after hot laps or the cars that were not good enough to run at the front all night. In reality, the problem goes a bit deeper for all of the cars.

Part of the process involved in getting a dirt track ready to race is packing the track or "wheel packing," as it is so affectionately referred to by race promoters and race directors. Racers seem to have more colorful terms to describe the process. It is during the process of running around the track at just above idle speed and "packing the track in" that it is not uncommon for the car to get many layers of mud several inches thick on every stationary surface. At this point, the track is not ready for racing, and the surface more closely resembles a thick mud puddle.

Depending on the level of preparation and the amount of water that has been applied to the track, the surface can range from a light coating of water over a hard packed surface of moist dirt to inches of soft and semi-liquid dirt, commonly referred to as mud.

From top to bottom, there is nary a place on the car that does not get covered with wet, tacky, gooey mud. During wheel packing, it is easy to mistake the cars circulating the track at slow speeds for moving bumps. It is very possible, depending on the type of race car, for it to pick up many pounds of dirt after wheel packing.

As a racer, you have very little time between the end of the wheel-packing session and when you have to start the qualifying process and/or heat races. You need to get the mud off the car for a variety of reasons. First, the sheer weight of the mud is going to affect the performance of the vehicle. How many racers do you know who would want to carry around an extra 50 pounds of ballast? Darn few! But that is only one of multiple issues surrounding the reason for the removal of the mud from the car.

We need to remember that this is still a race car. As such, we will be tuning or adjusting the car over the course of the night. We need to be able to get to the adjustments without chipping away at clumps of mud. Logic dictates that the greater amount of dirt seen on the outside of the car indicates more dirt has gotten into hidden areas you want to remain clean.