I've been on a bit of a discovery binge of late. I have ventured out and done some experimentation using my imagination and made some significant discoveries, some of which you will read about in this issue. I can't tell you how much fun all of that was. And it made me think about racers in general and how we all yearn to discover.
I get displeased sometimes with the direction some teams go in the quest to find the "perfect" setup. But isn't that what racing is all about. From the time I was a small kid, I read hot rod magazines and others and followed racers around trying hard to understand what it is they do. The mechanics of the sport intrigued me more than anything else and I fell in love with the way racers were never defeated.
When they ran up against something difficult, they got busy. There was nothing that couldn't be designed and built to suit the problem at hand. There was this freedom of thought and actions in racing, with no one telling them they couldn't do this or that, that interested me to no end.
Rules are a racer's arch enemies. Of course we need some rules, but when we restrict the basic processes that make us want to go racing, we take away that which drew us in the first place. Tech officials take note. Some racers want it made easy with lots of rules that produce cookie-cutter cars, but most, and I emphasize most, don't want the excessive restrictions. The problem is this, the whiners will usually cry louder than the majority.
We desperately need the innovators, engineers, and scientists in racing. And I'm not talking about degreed individuals necessarily, although those are welcomed too. I'm talking about the average guy with a mechanical inclination who just loves to build things and see them go fast.
Getting back to my personal discoveries, I have never considered that everything that could be known about race car design and setup has been discovered, applied, and written about. No way. We all need that extra boost that comes when the light goes on and you experience that Halleluiah moment. You know what I'm talking about.
It usually comes when there is something that is happening and you just can't put a finger on why it is happening like it is. I still have areas of setup engineering where I just can't define why something works, but I can't deny it does. I just can't explain how. And that frustrates me to the point of obsessing on the search for the discovery.
My thought for the day is this, when you get to a point where you can't figure out something on your race car, dig and push until you do. I'm probably preaching to the choir here. The answer to our mysteries lies somewhere, if only in a place waiting for discovery. We can all be explorers in this sport and you never know when you might be the one who comes up with the answer.
If you have made your own discoveries and want to share them with the rest of us, please don't hesitate to write and we will do all we can to pass it on. It's very simple, the easiest way is to email me here at Circle Track. We may even open up a special section for these ideas if the response is big enough. Meantime, keep those brains working and try not to push those unwanted rules too far, just far enough to have fun.
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.
Accident or Two
I was reading your article about Massa and the coil-spring incident, the situation strikes very close to home with my family. I was a SuperModified racer for 20 years, and am now the co-owner of the track where I did most of my racing, Oswego Speedway. Whether it be good or bad, my son is now in his fourth year of racing Supers.
There is no Masters of Modifieds or Doctorate of Dirt Late Model degree that I know of, unfortunately. There should be. These cars are far more complicated than any course you will ever take in college. There are opportunities to help design and build race cars in college. Look around and find one that suits your interests and that's not too far from home.
I believe you are thinking in the right direction and your college experience will enhance the designs of your family's race cars. Remember that true learning comes after college, but we use that knowledge base to build on. I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree, but only really used it later on in life. I never forgot the principles though.
This past Labor Day weekend during Oswego Speedway's premier event, the Budweiser International 200, my son was involved in a freak accident. Having his right rear tire go down, his car was disabled in a very vulnerable spot on the track. His car was struck by another with the other car's bumper sneaking perfectly between the support tubing, dislodging his right kneecap and breaking his left leg in two places.
We are now in the process of rewriting our rules to plate the right side to protect the driver. We have support bar plating rules in place for our small-block Super division but never thought about it in the Supers because the driver is in the center of the car. In looking at other divisions, like Sprint Cars, the driver could be vulnerable to a puncture situation also. It may never happen, but I think now that we've seen what can happen, we'd be remiss not to address the situation.
We all know racing is a dangerous sport, but as you stated very truthfully we need to protect the most valuable investment, the driver.
Yours in racing,
Steve Gioia Jr.
Thanks so much for writing. We all learn from these kinds of experiences. Racing will never be totally safe, but as we progress, we can move toward a much safer environment. It is important that we analyze each and every accident to see if we can do something different to try to avoid the same outcome.
We promote safety in racing and encourage track owners and promoters to always keep it at the top of the priority list, right above making money. We all lose when someone gets hurt. Unfortunately, many times we see organizations move too slowly when obvious change needs to be made. I commend you for both acting quickly and for sharing this with all of us.
We recently received word of a couple of other freak accidents that happened at Lowe's Dirt track where Chub Frank was injured. From the World of Outlaws website: "Frank, 47, of Bear Lake, Pa., visited a specialist near his home and was informed that he would not need surgery for his injuries, which included fractures in his right cheek and orbital bone. He suffered the injuries during the first heat of the WoO LMS Hungry Man Showdown on Nov. 4 at The Dirt Track at Lowe's Motor Speedway when an apparent clod of thick, hard-packed clay entered his car's cockpit and smashed into his helmet."
Clint Smith and Tim Fuller were also hit by large flying dirt clods at the same event, but were more fortunate than Chub. Maybe it's time to require a heavy screen on dirt cars to break up the larger chunks into smaller, less lethal ones.
Related to Racing
I am a 16-year-old Junior in high school and I need a little bit of help with choosing a major that I would be interested in for college. I work for my dad and stepmom at Fast 1 Fabricating and we build Dirt Modifieds and Limited Modifieds during the week and race on the weekends.
I am very interested in the way race cars work such as the dynamics and weight transfer (especially Modifieds). However, my problem is I'm having trouble finding a major that would increase my knowledge on the dynamics and the way a race car works.
I would enjoy a major in that area because I would like to take Fast 1 Fabricating and the Fast 1 Chassis to the next level and eventually get to the stature of Skyrocket Chassis, for example. If you don't mind, any help would be greatly appreciated.
I recommend working toward a major in mechanical engineering. Everything that happens with a race car is related to the subjects you will learn in that program. Some colleges have dedicated racing programs along with that major as a base.
A Comment On
Parity in Racing
I also think parity in racing is/has killed the sport. I think it is more obvious in IndyCar racing. I remember the excitement of the turbine cars, I saw Jim Hall's ground effects Pennzoil cars run at Indy. These provided some buzz to the sport. People still talk about them and they didn't even win the first time they raced.
Now, it's all about the drivers, some of whom are as boring as bricks, and one can only take so much of Danica.
NASCAR is suffering from the same things. If you're not a Hendrick driver, or have Hendrick's power, there's not much of a chance, because you can't work harder to come up with a new innovation to knock them off the top.
Perhaps make things a little more interesting. Let Hendrick show up with his cars and then let the drivers draw numbers to see which car they will drive. Chad wouldn't know if he would have Jimmie or Jr. Let's see him handle that situation.
Very interesting. But soon (hope not) we may be seeing more of an IROC-type of car in NASCAR, remember them? They were all identically prepared cars where the driver was supposed to be the key to winning. They all ran close together and changed the lead numerous times throughout the race . . . oops, sounds like IndyCar and NASCAR in 2009.
Honestly, the Hendrick organization has done its homework and the 48 team must be holding something back from the other ones under that banner. But you have to give it to Mark Martin, the old man is kicking some serious butt.
Speaking of which, I heard from Dick Anderson last week and he is coming out of retirement and may run some races at Speedweeks at New Smyrna. Look out, if you think Mark is doing well, I don't think Dick has lost a step either.
Wrong Call On
Hi Bob, quick question.
I heard a comment made by a pit reporter in Sunday's Cup race that contradicts all that I've learned from you-I even backed up my DVR to make sure I heard it right. The 20 car pulled in on a pit stop complaining the chassis was way too loose, so we were told that one spring rubber was going to be added to the RR, and, one rubber would be removed from the LR.
Wouldn't this raise the rear MC making this a backwards adjustment? Just want to be sure I've got this straight.
First off, that change would normally make a neutral car looser. It does not change the rear moment center, it will change the rear roll angle dynamics. Yes, that change does not seem to make sense, but remember, you are hearing this from a pit reporter who may, or may not, have gotten the message wrong, or was misled, as is often the case.
Please don't set up your car based on what a pit reporter says. I think these TV people try to make the race interesting for the average fan, but are never speaking to real racers.
On the other hand, we have talked about the Tight/Loose syndrome. That is when the car is so tight that the driver has to turn the steering wheel too much to where just past mid-turn the car snaps loose.
What the driver might have thought was a loose car could have been a real tight car. Those cars are typically tight with the current design and you either are too tight or too loose, it is hard to find the middle ground.
Short or Tall
After reading the spring rubber tech article, I have a question that relates to springs. What is better to use, springs with a short free height or ones with a tall free height? My interest is especially in Asphalt Modifieds which use coilover suspension. I see many teams using the shorter springs and only a couple using the taller ones.
There is a drawback to longer coilover springs. If too long, they may tend to bend and make contact with the shocks. This is never a good situation and you should monitor your springs and the shock body to make sure the spring is always free from contact. Also, up front in a stock clip car, shorter springs are easier to change out, if the spacing is sufficient to avoid spring bind.
I was wondering if there is an advantage/difference between the shorter springs or the taller ones? Are the shorter springs more consistent because of the thicker diameter wire? Or do they set quicker when the car dives into the turn? For example, would an 8-inch 450-pound front spring be better to use than an 10-inch 450-pound front spring? What do the differences in heights affect?
Free height of the springs makes no difference as far as rate and movement. Two different length 450 pounds per inch-rated springs will move the same displacement at the same speed as load is added or removed. Adding 450 pounds to a 450 lb/in spring still moves it 1 inch no matter the free height.
What is different is the amount of travel each will endure before you start seeing spring bind. The longer springs are usually used when running softer springs because they will travel farther before we see spring bind which will increase the rate of the spring due to the reduction in the number of coils.