A view of the cockpit from...
A view of the cockpit from overhead reveals the location of the driver seat, nearer the center of the car. An interesting aspect of the cockpit is that the floor is fabricated from 1/8-inch-thick steel. The sturdy rollcage uses 1 1/2-inch steel tubing. There is also a cross bar across the top for added stiffness. The cockpit is a neat and functional. Note the beefy window bars and the 15-inch steering wheel.
The challenge of keeping track of the action extends from the scoring tower to the competitors themselves. It's entirely different from oval track racing where everybody is either ahead or behind you. "With Figure 8, when you are in the middle of Turns 1 and 2, you look across at who is in 3 and 4," says Hargraves. "That way, you can figure whether you will be there ahead of them or behind them, but hopefully not at the same time!"
Last year's champion, Doug Greig (who also builds these cars) seconded those feelings about this type of racing. "It sure is a lot different from oval track racing where you are looking to only pass the guy ahead of you. When I tell people this is a very precise sport, they think I'm crazy. It's all in the timing and my mind is figuring all the time when I will have clear sailing through the intersection. One thing I never want to do is stop on the course. Slow down a little, but never stop. I am playing with speed all the time."
You can clearly see the huge...
You can clearly see the huge lexan sail panels, reminiscent of the record breaking Outlaw Super Late Model cars on Danny Smith's bright yellow No. 23. The panels assist in keeping speeds up in the corners. There are panels on both sides because Figure 8 cars turn right and left.
That brings up the concept of safety. In oval track racing, every attempt is made to avoid crashes on the racetrack. But with Figure 8 racing, no matter how lucky or skilled the driver, some serious impacts will occur. To that end, safety is paramount in the construction of these 2,400-pound, sheetmetal-bodied cars. First of all, there is no offset with these cars since there are equal numbers of left and right turns. Along the same line, the driver seat is located more in the center of the car for safety reasons. Many of these cars are built by several manufacturers including (besides Greig), Fenwick Racecars and NASA Chassis, all being in the greater Indianapolis area.
Some of the features found in a Figure 8 chassis include hand-fabricated A-frames and spindles designed for greater strength; four door bars on both the left and right side of the car and a floor fabricated from 1/8-inch-thick steel. But perhaps the most defining feature of these cars are the huge vertical Lexan wings that adorn the sides of the cars.
Don't have the skill or funding...
Don't have the skill or funding for a full on Outlaw Figure 8 car? Well the IOFS also sanctions a four-cylinder division designed to get new drivers into the sport.
Reminiscent of the sail panels on those outlandish Super Late Models that have set track speed records in the past, these side wings greatly increase the cars' handling in the turns. Handling or not, one thing is for sure, they certainly provide wide spaces for potential sponsors. Their configuration sometimes depends on the particular driving style of the driver. Some appear to reach up a couple times taller than the car itself, while others are more subtle and remain closer to the body. In some cases the cars also utilize a normal-style rear-deck spoiler. It's all in the name of getting around the track faster.
Power for these cars comes from small-block carbureted Chevy powerplants burning race gas. "A torquey engine is very beneficial to this type of racing. But that doesn't mean that you have to break the bank to compete," Greig says. "My small-block Chevy engine is capable of making 648 horsepower. Most of the cars out there are worth about $30,000, but I have only $7,000 in mine since I did all the labor myself."
Charlie Hargraves leads a...
Charlie Hargraves leads a pack through the intersection at Plymouth Speedway.
Sink explained that the feature races are normally 50 lappers which take about 20-25 minutes, depending on the number of mishaps that occur. There have been times that as many as 30 cars start the feature making for continuous action at the crossroads.
Since not every driver has the skills, experience, and money to immediately run with these potent Outlaw cars, there is a learning group called the IOFS Winged FWD Series. These cars are basically the gaining-in-popularity front-wheel-drive cars equipped with wings and safety additions. Sink explained, "We hope to have them run in several races this season."
There is certainly still a "run what you brung" approach in the IOFS, and minimal rules with a focus on economical competition help deliver some serious on-track excitement.
Figure 8 racing-maybe you once looked at it as a carny sideshow. Well, with IOFS you better look again in 2010.