At Salem Speedway, cars, trucks,...
At Salem Speedway, cars, trucks, haulers, or other vehicles are not allowed in the infield. The teams must drive the pit boxes, and so on, into the track and then leave. This makes for a very clean scene and a clear field of vision for the race fans, as well as the teams. Heck, the spotter doesn't have to leave the pits.
I had been to Salem Speedway about 10 years ago for an ARCA race because I was in the area and I had a couple of friends racing there. What I saw amazed me and still does. Salem is just over a full half-mile track with high banks. But that doesn't tell the whole story. To drive Salem is to learn how to get up on the wheel each and every lap.
Turns 1 and 2 are fairly normal with the banking around 14 degrees, but Turns 3 and 4 are a little different. Half way up the turn, the banking is like 1 and 2, but from there on up it goes to more than 20 degrees and it's about one lane wide too. Entering Turn 3, most stock cars go straight up to the wall and turn left.
What is amazing is that the car sticks with so violent a maneuver. Once you learn that, the rest is easy, or so they say. And the history at Salem is storied. Great names such as AJ Foyt, Troy Ruttman, Parnelli Jones, Bobby and Al Unser Sr., Curtis Turner, Benny Parsons, Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart, and Jeff Gordon all came here and won.
This night we had Sprint Cars running. The AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series with its non-wing Sprint Cars ran along with the MSR Xtreme Sprints (Must See Racing) winged Sprint Cars.
Handling was the key, as usual, in both series, but one interesting thing presented itself. We published an article about race car aero in the Aug. '09 issue, that in part made comments about Sprint Car wing angles and how many teams run much too much angle in their wings. That article, hopefully, had an influence on what we saw at this race. What we saw at Salem told us that there are many different ways to run a winged Sprint Car.
When will someone come up...
When will someone come up with another design for a Sprint Car steering system? There is so much bumpsteer in these cars that when going down the straights and hitting bumps, the front wheels wobble back and forth like they were not attached to the steering link. I have seen Quarter Midgets with rack-and-pinion systems mounted on the straight axle that worked to eliminate bumpsteer. Come on guys, let's get creative.
We expected to see about the same wing angle on all of the cars, but not so. Some angles were very low, seemingly appropriate for this fast, high-banked track and in line with suggestions made in the article, and some were high like we're used to seeing in the past. Interestingly, the front runners all had lower wing angles.
These races were considered some of the more significant events run at Salem. Along with Sprint Cars, the schedule shows ARCA cars-twice, the Frank Kimmel Street Stocks Nationals, and the International Outlaw Figure Eight Series all have races scheduled for 2010 at Salem.
One thing that interested me was the high level of safety showed at this track. The safety crew for Salem is on par with many large traveling series whereby it has a dedicated fire response truck staffed with suited professional fire fighters. For this event, probably due to the USAC involvement, there was a medi-vac helicopter present in the infield the whole time, ready if needed.
I got an email from Jake Luker, one of the firefighters who was working this race and he said that both Indiana and Illinois have motorsports safety certification for firefighters. He is also working on developing a Power-Point training program for use by the local level safety crews at racetracks. We are very interested in that and will be following his progress. It might be something we could provide to tracks through our website.
Another interesting thing to note about Salem, and this is like a few others we've seen, is that no race haulers or trailers are allowed in the infield. The teams must move their pit equipment and tires to pit road and then exit the speedway infield. The USAC teams have come up with an innovative way to transport their toolboxes. They build the boxes into/onto a motorized cart, such as a Rhino or similar, and then drive from the hauler to the pit and back.
A solution to the problem...
A solution to the problem of not being allowed to have your race trailer in the pits is mounting the toolbox onto a motorized cart. This Tony Stewart-based team put all of the necessary tools into a custom pit box mounted to the cart. The team just drives it into the track and back to the hauler in minutes.
The track configuration at...
The track configuration at Salem is unique. Turns 1 and 2 are fairly normal with about 14 degrees of banking. Turns 3 and 4 are different. Down low, half the track is about 14 degrees while the upper half or less is upwards of 20 degrees and that is where you must run, up against the wall, in order to be fast. The Sprints are especially fun to watch do this because they are so fast through the turns anyhow and then to have them run up that high is exciting to watch. For those of you who haven't run here, go down the back straight, drive straight up the Turn 3 banking until you get to the wall and then turn left and stand on the throttle.
The safety crew at Salem is...
The safety crew at Salem is second to none. The guy in the red fire suit is a Captain for a volunteer fire department in Indiana and works this track as well as IRP and Indy. He emailed us about a presentation program he is putting together to instruct and teach racetrack safety crews.
We are going to be very busy in the coming weeks and months. Next stop is the Topless 100 in Batesville, Arkansas, and then on to Paducah, Kentucky; Crossville, Tennessee; and then to Eldora for the World 100 Dirt Late Model event. After a short break and vacation, we will be moving through Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and finally to Rockingham for the final of the ARCA series.
We hope we can provide some interesting accounts and information during all of our travels. We are compiling critical facts and figures that may give us a unique insight into the health of short track racing today and what is in store for our sport in the future. As always, stay tuned and let us hear from you if you have any thoughts or suggestions about our Tour.