Photo Courtesy NASCAR
In 15 short years, Trevor Bayne went from racing karts at the age of 5, to becoming by far the youngest winner of the Daytona 500. In doing so, he may well have launched another Jeff Gordon-style phenomenon whereby many youngsters would aspire to be where Trevor is and their parents would wish the same success on their children. It happened before, it can happen again.
I would be willing to bet that a majority of short track racers don't follow Cup racing. That being said, all are aware of it and it's the dream of many young drivers to become highly paid and recognized Cup drivers. Heck, we all aspire to be something when we grow up and many now realize this career path is not an impossible dream.
Some 15 years or so ago, another young driver's rise to fame drove a multitude of youngsters and their families to pursue the dream of one day becoming a NASCAR "insert major sponsor du jour" Cup driver. Jeff Gordon worked his way into a top ride coming from much the same early start as 20-year-old Trevor.
Jeff had jumped into a Quarter Midget at age 5 and when he was 6 had won 35 main events and set five track records. In 1997, at the age of 25, Jeff won his first Daytona 500. Trevor also started racing at age 5 and coincidentally was born on February 19, 1991, just two days after the running of that year's Daytona 500 race. The winner of that race, Ernie Irvan, also started his racing career in karts at age 9 in California.
Trevor first raced the karts for eight years taking home three World Championships, won more than 300 feature events and 18 State and Track Championships. At the ripe old age of 13, he moved on to racing 3/4-scale stock cars in the Allison Legacy Race Series. In 2005 he became the National Champion of that series.
His professional career began with a call from the folks at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. where he became a development driver going on to race in the NASCAR Camping World East Series. There he won his first race at Thompson International Speedway.
So, the progression was from karts, to Allison 3/4-scale stock cars, to the East Series, to Nationwide Series, to Cup cars. And, in only his second start in the top series, he won the most coveted race, one that Dale Sr. took many years and tears to win.
The minimum age for racing in the very fast Allison cars is 12. In my opinion, if a driver of any age has eight years of racing under his driving suit, and 300 wins, I would suggest he/she is ready to take on the stock cars—and a series like the one the Allisons started is ideal.
We feel that the rate of progression and the type of racing youngsters are involved in are important in both proper development and in the area of safety. A person under 12 isn't developed enough in his/her bone structure and muscles to survive high impacts without injury, so say most experts. That's a physiological fact that none of us can get around, like it or not.
We intend to present a series on how to bring up, or raise would be a better word, a race driver from a young age through several forms of motorsports and into larger stock cars. Trevor definitely was on a very good track and I applaud his parents for making him take his time. After experiencing so many wins in his career, he was both surprised and comfortable taking the checkered flag at Daytona.
There is a right way and somewhat of a wrong way to do the progression into racing stock cars. Maybe if we can make some suggestions and offer an outline that can be used as a guideline to help racing families chart the best course for their child, it may well enhance the experience while helping to keep our youngsters safer.
From the Circle Track Archives
Smokey's Chevelle and Open Road Racing
Great article on Smokey's '66 Chevelle in the Oct. '10 issue. Of course, it's a '66 not a '67 as the article title states. But it does state further in the article that it's a '66. I still have a '66 Malibu that I bought new in 1966. It currently has a 383 and a Tremec five-speed. I think it's time for a suspension and brake upgrade.
Although I'm not a circle track racer, Circle Track magazine is among the many automotive magazines that I receive because of the great tech content. There's always something new to learn.
I'm involved in Open Road Racing (ORR). My ride is a '65 Corvair (yes, Corvair) that I have "slightly modified." I have made some aero improvements (chopped top, laid back windshield, air dam, rear spoiler, add-on front sheetmetal) to help the top end. I've used a Porsche 930 transaxle and the front and rear suspension, brakes, and steering parts are from a '94 Vette.
The engine is a mid-mounted, all aluminum 404ci small-block Chevy. It also has a Dart block, Brodix heads, an Eagle forged rotating assembly, 12:1 compression, a Comp solid roller, an 850 Holley, a Victor Jr. manifold, fabricated headers from a Hedman kit, and an MSD ignition using a crank trigger.
The car has all of the required safety improvements for the ORR Unlimited class: a full 'cage, a Kirkey seat, a Simpson five-point harness and a head-and-neck restraint, a Fuel Safe fuel cell, a fire suppression system, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 tires, and so on. The car weighs 2,700 pounds and is pretty fast. I top out at more than 200 mph on the straights.
I think our reference in the title was more to the year he raced the car rather than the year of the car itself. Most of the cars of that day were aged as to the year the frame was built as much as the body parts, but substitutions did take place. Anyway, if you noticed he didn't run a stock frame, he built a special Smokey 1967 frame.
I have some knowledge of Open Road Racing and I think you guys are insane! For those of you who don't know, it's the sport of legally racing (as opposed to street racing) on public roads that have been closed for the event. These races are run over a measured course where in some classes, the speeds reach as fast as the car will go.
Most of the classes will try to hit a preset average speed over a measured course so that going too fast or too slow will not meet the goal. The winner is the one whose average speed matches the set goal for the class which could be from as low as 80 up to 150 mph.
In the upper classes, purpose-built race cars are used, and with a few modifications, a circle track car built and/or set up for road racing would do well. Most of these races are held in the Southwest portion of the country and involve curved roads with steep drop-offs. It's not for the faint of heart, or those with a wife and kids maybe. It can get quite crazy going down a two-lane county road at 200-plus mph.
Discussion About Class Structure
In response to Bob Bolles' editorial in the Apr. '11 issue, I would challenge the theory of moving from the four-cylinder junkyard car into the multi-thousand-dollar Late Model. This would leave a chasm that low-dollar operations would never attempt to span. Many of those who try will fail and never return to racing.
The metric "Sportsman" platform has provided a bridge to allow teams to learn how to move up while they build their teams. It often ends up as a home for many.
The metric platform properly policed with a conservative set of rules is excellent for preparing a driver for the Late Model. Without dispute, the metric car is a handful to drive. Those who have crossed back and forth between higher end metric and Late Model racing will tell you, metric racing tutors driver talent by driving a race car that inherently doesn't like to turn. This learned talent enhances their skills in the better handling Late Model.
The spec, clone, metric fab frame could keep this transition class of cars on the racetrack for years to come. Spec the DCA or Johnson frame and with everything else being the same, it won't obsolete the current OEM metric cars.
If frame specs are metric clone and suspension component costs kept at the Sportsman level, this option is far more economical than the Late Model route. Compare "crash" parts costs between the two classes and the metric Sportsman looks good. Then compare restubbing the OEM metric to the fab metric and the season starts looking even better.
Tracks and series that allow the spec fab frame effectively enable teams upgrading to a new car to "recycle" their OEM frame car back into the system at a more affordable cost to others coming up. Sounds like a winner to me. Thanks for listening.
- Doug Strasburg
President/Owner Mid-American Stock Car Series celebrating 19 years
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree with you. I don't think having a large cost gap in class structure is a good thing. My concern is that the cost of spec fab frame replacement parts will be equal to the cost of Late Model parts. I frankly don't see how they could be much different.
If I were to fab build a lower control arm out of tubular steel, I would spend as much time on a Late Model lower arm as I'd spend on a metric fab frame lower control arm. So, the cost to the racer would necessarily be the same. This is true for spindles, and so on.
It's the same comparison for the front clips. My hope is that there will be a difference with the metric fab parts being less expensive, but, only time will tell. For sure the engine and drivetrain for the metric fab cars are much more affordable than the Late Model, so overall the cost to race this class is more attractive to a race team with less cash flow.
Track Width Question
I've enjoyed your articles for years, and have read and re-read your chassis book many times. It always gets me thinking. In your book, the only reference I see to track width is a suggestion to have your right-side tires in line with each other. Does this also apply to a road race car?
In other words, are you recommending equal track widths front and rear? In some GT cars, slightly wider tires are run on the rear. Again, should track widths remain equal? In one of Carrol Smiths' books, Tune To Win, he seems to recommend a wider front track, for less understeer.
My car was built many years ago with a rear track that's about 2 inches wider than the front. I suspect it was done because the builder used a junkyard 9-inch Ford rearend with disc brakes from a Lincoln (about 65 inches rotor to rotor). The builder has passed so I can't ask him!
I use this car on road courses and once in a while in a hill climb. The only easy way to widen the front track would be with wheel spacers or offsetting the wheels. I don't think this is a good idea because the scrub radius is more than 2 inches now, due to the splindles he used. The car has never been very stable under heavy braking.
In your opinion, would I have a car that turned better if I ran a rear track width equal to or less than the front? If you've covered this in the magazine let me know and I'll look for a back issue. Hope to hear from you soon.
- George Harrelson
Track width differences do make some difference, although not as much as you might think. In the rear of a straight axle car, or one with the solid rear axle, the car rides on the top of the springs and doesn't know how wide the track is.
There is a slight amount of unsprung component load transfer change due to the wider track in the rear, but not enough to really affect the handling. Because on circle tracks most of the load ends up on the right-side tires in the turns, it's important for those tires to track inline. It's less important where the left-side tires end up as far as alignment goes. So, track width is less important for circle track racing.
If you take that thinking to road racing, if the track widths are different, then for every turn, right or left, the outside tracks are not inline with the rear tire and end up either inside or outside the front tire. So, for that type of racing you might want equal track widths.
I would try to shorten the axle tubes if that's possible rather than use different offset wheels at the front for the exact reason you stated, the center of the wheel ends up too far outside the scrub line. That does affect the driver's feel when braking while the car is turning or driving over bumps such as curbs at the apex of the turns.
If your problem is a tight car that won't turn well, try looking at the front moment center design. I've worked with a few road racing cars and we always design the front geometry first. If that's not right, the car won't turn well.
I really enjoyed the small bar big spring article. And I got the gist of it. But you guys left out what general range of shock valvings you were using with this setup. Thanks for the great magazine and articles.
- Jeff Partington
For shocks, we basically had what used to be referred to as 6s on the front and 4s on the rear. If you run adjustable shocks, you can tune from there. We usually run less rebound on the left rear to help entry. For hard entry tracks you might run a slightly stiffer shock on the right front or a 5 left front and 6 right front.
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.