Race car drivers compete head to head and the race could be compared to an organized fight, as opposed to a street fight. Note that I'm not encouraging fighting on the track or in the pits. On the contrary, I'm going to explain how this comparison could be good for the mentality of the drivers and the future of the sport.
There are, in my observations, two scenarios for the attitudes of the participants of racing and fighting. One is where each has a certain amount of disdain for each other, sees the other as the "enemy" and would never associate with the opponent. I call this group the Boxer group.
The second group can be compared to mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters. They are trained to respect and honor the skills of their opponents and even associate and train with them off the mat. This group I'll call the Grapplers.
With the first group of Boxers, we see dirty racing, lack of respect, on- and off-track incidents, fighting, and a general tension at the races. Each team in this group stays to itself, never speaks to its opponents, and would never think of respecting anything about the other teams.
This way of going racing is very lonely, creates animosity, and promotes a clan or gang existence for each of the teams. I see this way of living and racing as not only immature, but displaying a negative image to the youth who are observers of the racing between these teams. We should be providing a positive example to the youngsters.
The second team of Grapplers is one whom we can all learn from. I'm always impressed when watching the MMA fights on TV where the combatants bow to each other before the contest, beat the crap out of each other for 15 minutes, and then hug and congratulate each other no matter the winner. That's called respect and it takes a very mature and confident person to live that way.
Why do they do that? Because they feel comfortable in their own skin; they're confident people who train hard, become very good at what they do, appreciate their sport, and are happy to compete and even happier to win. The primary driving force is respect for the other "team," and in racing that would be the entire team they are competing against.
The winners in racing and MMA are the ones who put a lot of effort into their games. They're more disciplined, better equipped, and more focused than the other teams. So, as in any sport, you've got to appreciate those qualities and hope for the same to come to your team. Meanwhile, why not be big and appreciate when others have finally achieved their hard earned success? It takes nothing away from your effort.
If your team exhibits the traits of the Boxer team, why not take the lead and reach out to the competitors? I always believed that all racetracks and sanctions for touring events should have a podium ceremony where the top three teams are recognized. That way, the drivers are brought together to share the success of all, much like Grand Am racing and Formula 1.
Bringing the teams closer together strengthens the sport; while keeping them isolated is bad for the sport. When was the last time anyone on your team congratulated the winner in your division after the race? It takes a real man/woman to put your own ego aside and recognize the accomplishments of another team. Start this week. It'll make you feel good and will bring much needed brotherhood to short track racing. It'll never be seen as negative, trust me.
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.
Learning From Smokey
You didn't learn a thing from Smokey, did you? Racing has evolved so the young racer who can't build an engine or run a bead can go out and buy a race car and run heads up with 30 year vets!
We teach them that they can do anything and do not need to pay their dues. Why do you think NASCAR is so boring? All the same cars, too many rules. On the other hand, why are the Outlaw dirt guys so much fun?
There are so many ridiculous rules. Heaven forbid some guy or gal has creativity and still wants to enjoy trying something new! All you rule-ridden, brain dead old farts, as Smokey called them, are the ones ruining short track racing. Not the cheaters.
The better term would be the real racer. IMCA, NASCAR, and the Street Stock class with a big-block on the hood (what a dumbass-looking car) are all designed to slow folks down!
All the research and development just to put a leash on cars is ass-backwards to begin with! At my track, dirt guys get to race and we leave the crate engine-type rules for the tracks that have a bunch of candy asses racing there, and mommy wipes her son's nose after each race!
P.S.—feel free to call me and I can train (at a small fee) promoters to run a successful racetrack.
Head Flagman/El Paso County Speedway
Thanks for your commentary. I have long argued for fewer rules. All in all, I think we mostly agree. I mentioned restrictive rules as one reason for the decline in racing, and if the rules were less restrictive, then racers could be more creative without incurring any penalty.
Smokey felt that racing should be a creative venture where the racer invented technology that spilled over to the automotive engineers. When racing got too restrictive, Smokey quit. It just wasn't fun anymore. And we're now seeing others take that course.
As far as cheating goes, remove the rules and there will be less cheating because with fewer rules, the racer will become inventive again and start to enjoy the experience. It has been shown that more restrictive rules and sealed motors promote cheating, not the other way around.
Your type of racing, dirt, has historically been a place where innovation is respected and allowed. Other forms of racing could learn something from the success of dirt tracks in this day and age.
More of Why Racing Is In Decline
I'm glad to see someone finally figured it out. We race in a small community where there are a lot of other things to do for fun. No one wants to pay to watch the same person win by a mile. However, people will cheer for that very person when he or she is coming down the finish line three wide.
I blame the promoter for this—he/she should be aware of what is going on with his/her people. If you're going to bend the rules for one then why have any rules at all? At the same time, the promoter must stand by the decision his/her techs make when someone is caught cheating.
We have fines for drivers who cheat, why not for techs and promoters who look the other way? Have the people who sanction that track make unannounced visits to see how things are done. There are all kinds of cheaters in our world today. I don't know about other tracks but ours seems a little too hometown, and that keeps drivers from surrounding areas from wanting to come and play.
Promoters need to understand local boys can't support a track by themselves. This is what is killing racing, I feel. Even in the depression era people had money for recreation, look at horse racing in that era.
Well said. There is a wide line between hard work and innovation causing winning and cheating. We all appreciate a winner who honestly defeats his/her opponents. We have no respect for those who cheat to get there. If we're sure a winning team is legal, we can all cheer for it each week, no matter the margin of the win.
And Then There's This One
In my opinion, cheaters and big money guys who buy results are the reason why the car counts are so low. Where we live, the oil fields are the economy, and they're booming. The car counts are good here and the fans pack the stands.
We have been a racing family for going on four generations. My grandfather raced, my dad raced, I raced when I was a kid. I raced when my kids were small and then again when my son reached high school. We raced as a family. From the beginning, the track here was lax in how it inspected and in who was inspected. The obvious cheats were mostly up front and on the tech pad, but they didn't get disqualified if the track considered them the favorites. This was one of the reasons that we quit the first time.
The track was sold just before my son and I started back into racing. I thought it would be better and they swore that it would be fair. No matter what, the tech would be the same for all. When my son and I started out we were out in the garage every night and weekends building our own car—no help, no sponsors, just for fun. For the first year we were on the tech pad most every weekend (in the Top 4), and the rules were being followed because they were being enforced for the most part. It didn't last long. They effectively changed the rules, not by the book but by what guys were allowed to get away with.
One of our greatest joys was being on that tech pad most weekends and knowing that we were completely legal. We wanted to teach and prove to our son that it could be done without cheating. We left the track and racing because we were no longer competitive. We couldn't keep up with what the track was allowing the others to do and we didn't want to be cheaters just to win.
We're rejoicing that there are others out there who feel and think the same way we do about the sport. We love everything about racing, just not those who cheat at it.
James and Angela Perry
I sure hope our readers take this letter to heart and show it to the management at their local tracks. This scenario could be playing out across the country, and in some cases, is.
If you cater to only five teams out of 20, in a few years you'll only have five teams racing. If you make it fair and tech the way it should be done, then in a few years you might see 25 teams. That's how it works.
This family won't be back to racing. Sadly, more and more teams and families will be making the same choice. It's not necessarily the economy or spending restrictions that hurt racing, it's the non-enforcement of rules and the generation of excessive rules that are hurting our sport.
Dirt Setup Contradictions
From your article on chassis setup fixes ("The Evolution of Stock Car Setups," March '11), I quote, "Change rear spring rates. Softening the right rear spring, and/or stiffening the left rear spring will increase the rear roll angle and will tighten the car, as will softening both rear springs. The inverse is true, stiffening the RR spring and/or softening the LR spring will loosen the car."
For mid-corner tuning this seems to be the opposite to what popular chassis builders post on their websites. Shaw, GRT, and Warrior say that more RF and/or LR spring loosens the car entry, but not to tune with springs for the middle. Add stagger and/or raise the J/Panhard bar, and more.
Why is this so? It seems that if the car was good in the middle but tight on entry, for example, then changing springs in the direction they suggest to loosen entry would tighten the middle by your formula. Can you explain? As I would expect, looser entry would be looser middle. Cheers.
If you look at what Warrior has to say, it's correct in that the changes for exit coincide with what we say to tighten and loosen the car—i.e., to tighten the car, decrease the RR spring rate. Yes, these changes will affect the middle, but most dirt tracks don't offer much in the way of a middle portion as we traditionally know it.
The car is either entering or exiting the turns. It's only on the longer and faster tracks where the car spends any significant time in the middle at what we refer to as steady state conditions.
The dynamics of entry are far different for dirt cars than what we see on asphalt, and in some ways similar. Hard entry on asphalt is never good and ruins the rest of the turn. Hard entry on dirt is common and many of our problems stem from rapid changes in camber in the front tires.
It's the control of camber change that concerns most manufacturers and top racers. If the car is tight on entry, it may be caused by the RF diving too quickly and the camber changing too quickly and giving up much of the contact patch. This is opposite to what we would do to correct a tight car, and we need to consider the effect of changes we make on other portions of the turns.
A stiffer spring in the RF will slow the travel down and cause less movement overall, reducing the camber change and allowing more contact patch loss. More and more dirt racers are utilizing antidive at the RF to slow the movement. Excessive antidive can serve to lock up the frontend and that's why most builders don't openly recommend that. In moderation, it helps.
Crate Motors in Street Stock Racing = Bad Idea
After reading your article in the June issue ("Track Tech Q&A") and after thinking for a week or so I decided to send my comment. I've been a grassroots dirt track competitor and fan since the mid '60s—20 years at West Memphis—and I have seen many changes.
From the beginning, I appreciated the fact that I met the rules and as a mechanic I could do all the work on my car. I know that on many occasions I was able to race because I could work on my own engine. But now we find crate engines in the Street Stock class without carb or vacuum restrictions and with a weight break.
Of course, we can continue to build our own engines, but if the crate motor is allowed into the grassroots class with obvious advantages we can expect to see a continued loss of cars. Just think about it. Everyone would like to win, but consider how disheartening it is to start out at a disadvantage. Thanks.
This division is just the place for those who like to tinker and create, and building your own engine is a prime example of that. We see your point where taking that away, or making it less attractive and competitive, is damaging to the sport.
We continually speak out in defense of those who want to do their own work on the car, be it chassis design or engine building. Those who the tracks are trying to please with these new rules would do well to be more innovative and creative.
Racing as a family endeavor fits right in with building your own engine. I can see a great father/son or daughter time spent in the garage building the race motor up from teardown to firing it up the first time. I still remember the thrill of hearing a motor that I personally helped build run for the first time.