I See winning drivers braking into the corners instead of slowing the car by pitching it sideways

I’m on the AMSOIL Great American CT Tour and visiting lots of different racetracks. What I do is get a take on the track, its management, and the health of the racing at each location. What I like to do, probably most of all, is watch and observe the racing and make decisions on why certain teams are successful.

The winners of each race get to the checkered flag first for some reason. They are better on some level than all of their competition. In my observations, performance is less a key factor on dirt than driving style and setup.

The following is what I have observed relating to Street Stocks, Super Stocks, Modifieds (both IMCA-type and big-block NE Dirt Mods), Late Models, and WoO-type Sprint Cars. The tracks include short and long, near 1/2-mile tracks, as well as paper clip tracks with tight turns. And it includes watching top drivers like Tony Stewart, Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, and Brett Hearn, winners of a large percentage of races they run, and I watch the current track points leaders at each track.

First off, I’ve seen a crate Late Model with +/- 350 hp beat a couple of full-blown open motor, 650-plus-hp Late Models purely on driving style and car attitude. And I’ve seen cars come from far behind to win when the leader faded. Here is what I see in a technical sense.

I see winning drivers braking into the corners instead of slowing the car by pitching it sideways. This is true of almost every class including Stockers, Late Models, Mods, and Sprint Cars. Even at Canandaigua Speedway, a true paper clip track, when Tony Stewart showed up, he won his heat going away by entering Turn 3 in a straight-ahead attitude to the entry point and braking to slow. He then drove straight ahead around the low side of the middle and then turned straight off Turn 4 to the wall where he turned again to go down the straightaway.

That style was in stark contrast to 95 percent of the other cars running there which blasted into the turns, swung the car sideways, hammered the throttle, spun the tires, and watched as Smoke drove away. In another heat where the current track points leader won, he drove the very same way. Imagine that.

Most of the winners in Winged Sprint Car races I’ve seen end up running the top, straight ahead for the most part, and keeping the car straight. Thinking about that, it makes sense to keep the wing at an attitude where the most air will flow across it and will then produce the most downforce.

Recently, at Fonda Speedway, the winner of the Sprint Car race ran the top driving straight ahead and was so fast that after the cautions would pull almost a full straight lead over second place after only two laps. He almost never got sideways. Lots of other cars did and they lost.

I saw a well-known, big-block Mod driver with 800 wins doing the same thing, entering Turns 1 and 3 mostly straight ahead, driving with a slight drift of the rear wheels through the middle of the turns and then drive straight off the turns when most of the others, far behind, were throwing their cars sideways and putting on quite a visual show, and losing. One car even carried its left front tire off the track all of the way down the straights. He looked cool but soon faded and lost too.

All of these comments are based on observations. They aren’t what I think things are like or want them to be, but what is actually winning races right now. I always promoted four wheel setups where the LF is always in hard contact with the track and straight ahead driving and corner braking like I did years ago racing karts on dirt. It worked for me then and it works for the winners on dirt now.

I know these things because I see them happening. Think hard about the way you circle the track and see if you can make some adjustments to your driving line and style. Keeping momentum is the key and these styles are successful because they add up to a shorter time spent running each lap.

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.

Upset With My Comments

Though Mr. Bolles (who I’m sure will see this email since he is the Senior Technical Editor) did point out many attributes to Kil Kare Speedway in Xenia, Ohio, he was quick to state the negatives. A little research on the facility would have gone a long way.

This track has been open since 1959 and racing regularly ever since, and there is no indication it’s going to close its gates any time soon. Not only does it race NASCAR Whelen All American Series, Street Stocks, and Compacts, but it also occasionally hosts ARCA and USAR Pro Cup events as well. The sign which you suggest a lack of confidence in the track’s future, has been that way for a while. I guess they see it as getting the job done.

You failed to mention that there is a law enforcement presence here just as well as Columbus Motor Speedway. Friday night hosts round track events due to Saturdays being reserved for the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Series on the quarter-mile. Car turnout varies weekly, I will admit.

My father took me to the track for the first time in 1973 when I was 2, and I’ve been going ever since. It holds a special place in the hearts of local race fans here in the Miami Valley Region of Ohio. I just wanted to clear up a few things before I hit the sack.

—Jeremy T. Sellers; Paramedic by trade, race fan by passion!

Well Jeremy,

When I report on two tracks so close together, I’m sure to strike a nerve with someone. In re-reading my account of Kil-Kare, I said some really nice things about the track and made some suggestions for getting more of the Columbus racers to attend and possibly bringing up the numbers of competitors.

I understand the Friday night thing and if the races were run on Saturday night, it would be even worse with the competition with Columbus. So, I don’t disagree with running Fridays, I just thought a Thursday practice might entice a few racers to travel from Columbus and run two shows a weekend.

The comment about the sign is an honest one, although you took offense. Sure, it’s cheaper than a dedicated sign, but it does look temporary, doesn’t it? Things are as people see them. A track that is intent on being in business for some time into the future should project that idea in the appearance of the facility and that includes the sign.

I did like the track and the racing was excellent. I appreciate the management letting us visit and I encourage both fans and racers to try out this track. The layout is interesting and challenging and that is what most racers are looking for.

Questions For Bob

I’m looking to get just a couple of questions answered by someone who knows, and by everything I have been enjoyably reading, I believe that Mr. Bob Bolles is the person for me to get my answers from. I know you must get hundreds of emails and requests every month for “just a quick question” to be answered. Well, regrettably, I believe this may fall under that same category. I’m part of a team that races an IMCA-style asphalt modified in Virginia. Our driver has been racing for more than 30 years now, and he has an incredible way of explaining things for me to understand. I joined the team at its inception, and have been bitten by the circle track racing bug. I had always been into drag racing and, well, this is much more than I had ever imagined it would be.

My mind is very detail and engineering oriented. I want to know the “why” all of the time, and due to this need to know why, I was able to help our team work out quite a few bugs with the brand-new chassis that we had built for this year. We got the front moment center to a place that is tremendously better and more responsive from what it came to us from the chassis builder. This has gotten me into the subject of creating a “balanced” car geometrically. My questions are these:

1. How do I find out the “roll angles” of the front and rear suspensions?

2. How do I figure out the angle/plane/path in which the car feels the turns via centrifugal force? (We race at Langley Speedway, a 3/8-mile, 4-degree banked oval, with very little straightaways)

3. Is there a print publication similar to C. Smith’s Racecar Engineering that I can purchase that is written by Mr. Bolles?

4. Is there a way I can send direct emails in the future to get a personal response from hopefully the same person, so I always get the same person’s advice? I try to keep my sources minimal, so I’m not confusing theories or concepts.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Cheers.

—Darren Mix

Darren,

You sound like you’re in a place where I was back when I first started. This is the most fun you’ll have racing at this stage of your “career.” You’ve already seen the positive results of a more beneficial location for the moment center and now need to move on to the balance stage of setup development.

What I’m going to provide next might, to some, sound like an advertisement, but it is what it is. You asked, and I’m providing the information.

1. There is only one source for finding the roll angles and that’s a software program that uses patented and proprietary codes for calculating those roll angles and it’s distributed by Chassis R&D. With current published information, it would be nearly impossible for you to do that yourself. Search online for this software. You can also use trial and error and the methodology is provided in articles written in CT regarding tire temperatures.

2. Again, see answer number one. The direction of forces verses track banking angle is outlined in several articles we have presented in CT over the years. It’s a fairly complicated process to evaluate those forces and convert them to a roll angle.

3. I have a new book that is a refinement of Stock Car Setup Secrets (now out of print) and it’s titled Advanced Race Car Chassis Technology by HP Books publisher.

4. I have a CT email address. See the end of the commentary part of this QA.

Sway Bars and Spring Rates Relationships

I’m from Colorado and run an Asphalt Late Model. I have a technical question concerning splined sway bars and front coilover spring rates. Are the spring rates additive?

Let’s say I gain 200 pounds more in a larger bar, but want to keep my total spring rate the same from the old existing setup. Would I drop my coilover springs 200 pounds between them? Is there a direct correlation between them?

We are trying larger bars for a somewhat flat track at Colorado Speedway. Is it trial and error method to find that correct spring rate or can we use a total between bar/springs to get close? Thanks.

—Douglas Cox

Douglas,

There is no direct correlation between sway bar rate and spring rate as to the effect on the setup. The rates of both will influence roll angle and stiffening the sway bar rate will offset softening of the front springs.

Most asphalt teams are now—not at my urging, by any means—running softer front springs and larger sway bars in order to reduce the height of the front of the car in the turns and reduce the roll angle to keep the left front down.

In doing this, we need to keep in mind that you can go too far, meaning run too much sway bar and too soft a front spring rate. What most teams have settled on is a medium rate 3/8-inch bar and around 175- to 200-pound front springs in a coilover Late Model car such as yours.

In order to help reduce the rear roll to equal the reduced front roll for a balanced setup, you need to increase the right rear spring rate, but not too much. If you’re used to running a 200- or 225-lb/in RR spring, you might need to run a 300- to 350-lb/in spring to balance the roll tendencies.

Some teams force this issue of holding down the LF and go to much higher RR spring rates of upwards of 600- to 800-lb/in rates and this only reverses the imbalance and puts too much loading on the LF tire. These setups will fade in a few laps whereas a balanced setup will keep going to the end of the race.

There will be a roll angle of around 1.5 degrees with this balanced BBSS setup, but that’s not at all bad. Rather, you get the benefits of reduced roll, a lower front end, along with a balanced setup that won’t fade. You will get a slightly higher LF valance than a level car, but that’s OK.

Motor Mounting vs. Weight Distibution

I have an idea that I have been wanting to try and I’m shopping around for input. It really is something I’m sure few have tried but I think it just may make a difference, and amazingly still be legal.

I race a second-gen. Camaro in UMP Street Stocks. The motor can be set back no farther than one plug, even with an upper ball joint. I want to leave the motor in that location but not mount it to the crossmember at the side motor mounts. I want to still utilize side motor mounts but fabricate that mount to be tied into the chassis behind the mid plate.

I even want to mount the mid plate so that it’s tied in farther back. Basically, all the weight of the motor would be mounted around the firewall. I originally thought it would take some weight off the front end; but thinking about it more, I don’t believe it will. It should be no different than mounting weight over the rearend or by the bumper.

Front weight in static form shouldn’t change, but it should in dynamic. I know I will have to add weight in front with all the bars necessary to make this strong enough to work, but I think it just may be worth it. What are your thoughts on this? I’m getting mixed reviews.

I haven’t really asked too many except for those close around me. If it works, then not everyone needs to know. I think it should transfer more weight to the rear. Not sure if the chassis will know if the motor is actually mounted farther ahead. I believe it should think the motor is mounted back. Scratch your head a little bit and let me know what you think. Thanks.

—Jim

Well Jim,

This will teach you to write to CT, now everyone will know. You’re correct in the fact that the car will feel the weight of the motor in relation to where it’s mounted, regardless of the mounting method.

I can save you a lot of trouble by telling you, and others, that this method is not going to produce the effect you think it will. Weight and placement are what counts. The weight and placement are unchanged with the new motor mounting system, in static or dynamic situations.

What you’ll end up with is a very dangerous mount where several hundreds of pounds of engine will be cantilevered some distance from the firewall and be prone to breaking off and flying out of the car at some point in time.

The structural integrity needed to prevent this occurrence would be way too heavy to be of much use, and as I stated above, to no real advantage. Once it’s solidly mounted to the chassis, the car knows only that X amount of weight is located in Y location. The dynamics are unchanged from the standard engine mount method.

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