NASCAR Rookie Regan Smith has his game face on, do you? Courtesy of NASCAR
The minutes are ticking away. You can practically smell the burning rubber. You can hear the exhaust noise in your head. Now it's time to get your game on. Hopefully, to do that, you won't have to pull any all-nighters-but just in case you do, we've put together a list of some commonly overlooked items that should be checked prior to hitting the track. Let's face it, in our excitement to get the new racing season started, we've all been guilty of doing the Homer Simpson doh! at one time or another.
In the March '07 issue of Circle Track, Bob Bolles penned a terrific article dealing with post-season car maintenance. The bulk of the article dealt with the rolling stock, so with that in mind, we're going to address other areas of the car unrelated to chassis and suspension.
Prior to the new season, it is essential that you go over the motor with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that everything is clean, undamaged, and in good working order. There are obvious items and not-so-obvious items that always should be checked. So, to get a bead on what you need, we asked five racers, including our friend Chris Douglas from Comp Cams, to name the top 10 motor-related items that you shouldn't forget to check prior to race season. In addition, we asked our team here at the office their opinion on the subject. Not surprisingly, we all came up with pretty similar answers despite the fact that we all race in different divisions in different parts of the country. That being said, there were a few departures. So, instead of a top 10 list, here are the top 15 motor items that you shouldn't forget to check prior to race season.
Dalton Zehr readies himself in the cockpit during a recent test session at New Smyrna Spee
1. Valvesprings - Check them thoroughly, and remember that pressure loss could lead to major engine catastrophe.
2. Lash Valves - Take time to research how to properly lash the valves. If you think you know, double-check yourself-it never hurts to make sure you're doing it correctly. CircleTrack.com has many good articles on this subject.
3. Service/Clean Carburetor Internals - Sitting up all winter makes for a lot of corrosion and trash buildup.
4. Change Spark Plugs, Gap and Index - In fact, before the season, buy several sets of plugs and spend time properly indexing and gapping them. That way, you won't have to waste time doing it during the season.
5. Ignition System - While you're messing with the plugs, don't forget to give the ignition system the once-over. Properly indexed and gapped plugs are worthless if your plug wires need to be replaced.
6. Pull Distributor and Check Gear Wear - While looking at the distributor, pull the cap and check the internals for cracks or loose parts. Replace anything that looks out of whack.
It's one of the most important parts of any engine. Make sure your carb is clean, serviced
7. Replace Header and Valve Cover Gaskets - Just do it! That way, you will be sure to avoid any leaks or other problems.
8. Flush Fuel Lines and Check Line Condition - While it is great to check all of your fuel lines, the best approach is to replace the fuel line entirely, especially those lines that are directly exposed to engine bay heat and destructive elements. While you're working on the fuel lines, don't forget to inspect the fuel cell, inside and out, for trash, dings, rips, or other damage.
9. Service Fuel Pump - Clean it and replace the gaskets.
10. Belts - Check all the belts for wear and proper tension.
11. Radiator Flush - You might be surprised by how many racers actually forget to do this. Prior to race season, you should always flush out the radiator. Check the internals of the radiator, too.
12. Hose Replacement - Sounds logical enough, but it is easy to overlook. Check every one of your hoses and make sure they are not damaged in any way.
Don't overlook your distributor and plug wires, as well as the rest of the ignition system
13. Compression Check - A compression check is always a good way to gauge your motor's internal health. If it's down, you know there is a problem somewhere and it is time to do some detective work.
14. Timing Chain - Check it and replace if necessary.
15. Nut & Bolt Everything! - So simple, yet overlooked in the heat of the season.
Safe Bet As you're giving the motor the once-over, don't forget to check all the safety equipment. While it's great to race fast, it's even better to do it safely.
Check the bottle pressure on the fire-extinguisher system. Make sure it is in the acceptable range as marked on the gauge. If not, get the system serviced before turning a single lap. Make sure all the nozzles are clean, in good working order, and free of any dirt or obstructions. Replace worn or damaged nozzles. If those nozzles are connected to a remote system with lines, double-check every line for nicks, kinks, or holes. Also, be sure that all holes the lines run through are lined with properly mounted grommets.
If it is an older system or if you're using a single bottle, now is the time to upgrade to the double-bottle system discussed in "Plumb Safe," May '07 Circle Track.