Mark Martin is still winning races at a very advanced age for upper-tier drivers because he knows how to, and instinctually does, drive each lap as fast as the car will allow
Winning in racing means you traveled a defined distance in less time than all of the other competitors, period. Less time means you went faster for longer. In all of the discussion about setups and fast race cars, we sometimes loose the truth that a driver has to take that car and produce the win. It won't do it by itself.
I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to make up for lack of talent or drive in a driver by making changes to the race car. Granted, the car did need a few things, or many, to make it capable of winning, but my job stops when the green flag drops.
I've been "forced" numerous times, through monetary considerations, to work with teams where on closer examination, realized they didn't believe they could win. And that's an important thing to think about if you're part of a team, be it crew, driver, or owner.
Winning starts in your head. Mohammad Ali never once believed he could lose. Richard Petty started every race firmly believing he was going to be the winner, even the last race he won at Daytona, his 200th, against the very best super speedway driver of the day, Cale Yarborough, when he hadn't won in some time and most thought would never win again.
I once designed and set up a car for the owner's kid and we went testing. The driver, a girl who could drive well, was passed by a multi-time champion of the series she raced in and she picked up the pace and stayed with him for a few laps.
Then she dropped off that pace and he pulled away. In the garage after the practice was over, I told her that if she expected to win in this very competitive series, she would have to learn to drive that fast the entire race. That's because that's what winners do.
Mark Martin is still winning races at a very advanced age for upper-tier drivers because he knows how to, and instinctually does, drive each lap as fast as the car will allow. If that's faster than all of the others over the course of the race, he gets the checkered flag first.
Why do Kyle Bush or Jimmie Johnson win so many Cup races? It's because they drive the wheels off the car each and every lap. A great driver can't stand to have anyone in front of him. He races for 10th just like it's for the win. As more cars get picked off, sooner or later, there are no more cars to pass, just distance to put on the field.
So, you might not be there yet, but knowing what it takes to do anything helps you to train yourself. And for racing, you can work on becoming the right kind of driver to be able to win. If you're not winning from lack of desire or stamina, you darn well know it.
The other thing is the progression for winning. I have said this before in past discussions, but it's true. For young and new drivers, winning is a learned experience. Start out learning to finish a race. Then try for a Top 15, then Top 10, then Top 5, and so on. One of the hardest steps is learning to lead a race. There's no one to follow and you must finally set the pace for the field yourself. It'll surprise you how weird that feels.
Progress in your racing in measured and calculated steps. Some of you will be able to move up faster than others, but only you'll know what speed of progression is right for your comfort level. And some tracks/classes/series will be harder to advance in than others. Take that into consideration and don't get frustrated. A Top 5 in the touring Super Late Model divisions is harder than a Top 5 at a local track.
Treat each progression as a win. In that way, you can enjoy success, at least in your own mind and in the thoughts of the entire team if they can take the same approach. When that first race win comes, you'll already have won many times before.
Beach Ridge Young Racers
I've been reading your comments and readers' feedback on young drivers. I agree with the safety concerns, but we can't protect children from any and all dangers. All we can do is try to make their environment safe and teach them how to be as safe as possible. In my opinion, allowing a minor to drive a 3,000-pound vehicle with 300 horsepower, unsupervised, is insane, even on a racetrack.
Beach Ridge Speedway in Scarborough, Maine, has a division called Whiz Kids for drivers between the ages of 8 and 15. I think it has a program that has a good balance between safety, driver training, cost, and fun.
There are no points, no purse, no trophies, and currently the policy is the driver and one parent get in free. The race vehicles are four-cylinder compact cars with rollcages, racing seats, fuel cells, and carburetor restrictors that limit their speed to 50 mph.
The race director of this division monitors the speed at the end of the back stretch during practice with a radar gun. If a car exceeds 50 mph it's given a smaller restrictor for its carburetor and if their speed is slower they're given a larger restrictor.
Practice day is Monday. When a car and driver show up for the first time, the car is checked for safety. There's a driver orientation, then the driver is allowed on the track, without any other cars, and with the adult as a passenger who helps the driver with any questions he or she might have. When the officials are satisfied with the progress of the driver, a few cars are allowed on the track and finally they can practice and race with all the cars.
These kids learn safety, track rules, etiquette, sportsmanship, and have fun in a relatively safe environment.
I'm a retired engineer and I've been involved with racing for more than 35 years. When I hear someone on the team say, "We've never done it that way before." I use your technical explanations as justifications for making the change. I buy CT mostly for the technical articles. Keep writing those gems of information.
The important thing is that the track is actively working on a plan for young racers. This will build the numbers of racers in that area. What that program does is teach youngsters the mindset of racing in a slower and safer way.
I believe that kart racing and other forms of small race car events such as the Bandoleros and Mini-Cups do the same thing. They all teach the young race car driver the discipline needed to be able to race with other drivers, and that's very important to learn before climbing into a high-horsepower, larger car.
I'm all for young drivers coming into our sport and I do believe in a progression of learning. A kid at 13 or 14 who has raced for 10 years has most likely learned the discipline and if not, shouldn't continue racing.
Moment Center Question
I've read all your tech articles for a few years in the magazine and read everything I can online.
That being said, I'm still confused on a few things but will only ask one thing at a time. In all of the moment center articles it's stated that a lower moment center will produce more chassis roll as well as a more left of center MC will do the same. My question is how is this possible?
If the MC resists force or, in other words, roll, how can the longer moment arm of the low and/or left MC cause more roll when it has more leverage acting on it to resist chassis roll? Please help.
The leverage is between the center of gravity and the moment center, much like a pry bar. The longer the bar is, the more force that will be generated. It's the lateral force acting on the CG (being the top of the moment arm) that tries to roll the car.
So, for a given force on the CG, the longer the moment arm, the more roll we'll see. To help you understand this further, imagine the CG being in the same place as the MC, there would be no moment arm at all. Then we would see no roll at all.
I recreated that scenario when I was first studying moment arms and roll angles. I built a model and when the CG was above the MC, there was roll in the direction of the force. When the CG was at the MC, there was no roll and the model locked up. When the CG was below the MC, the model rolled opposite of the direction of the force.
From Across The Pond
Good to read of your interest in our racing over this side of the "pond;" and I noted your comments about how our cars are built so rigid.
Going back to the early '50s when stock racing started in the UK, most tracks were based on our speedway (bike racing) dirt tracks, which are small and tight ovals with very little, if any, banking. Initially, our cars were real heavy-duty. It changed somewhat when a team of racers came over from the USA and introduced us to your lighter weight specials.
Basically, your guys drove around our heavy weights and left us in the dirt. At one time there was the possibility of our racing having a permanent connection with NASCAR but the decision over here was to keep our racing full contact, and that's the way it has stayed.
We now have some purpose-built cars racing tarmac (asphalt) ovals but these were built to similar size and specs as the dirt speedway tracks. So, due to the size and nature of our tracks plus control on tires, maximum speeds are way down on your "big" tracks, and to us, 360 yards is a big track!
So, with tight, flat bends, our average speed is a fraction of what you get on your tracks, more like an average of 45 mph with max of 75 mph. Our rules require head-and-neck restraints in the new car I have been building. I've also included a full containment seat and we have substantial plated rollcages.
We can also run an open engine spec just restricted by CI block, two valves/cylinder, carbs only, and using pump fuel (max 101-octane) because there's no point in going too far with power as there's a limit of what the tracks and tires will take. We use a reliable 600- to 650-bhp without having to go to high revs and lightweight or exotic engine parts.
Because of the restricted speeds, our chassis are built to take the hits but bumper bracings are designed to give before damaging the chassis and can be adjusted to suit the driver. In our racing, drivers are graded on a monthly basis and a reverse grid system is used with the higher point scorers starting at the back which makes for entertaining racing. So, we don't have to devise ways to restrict engine power, we just race on small, tight tracks.
I too wait for my copy of Circle Track to arrive to keep up with things and pick out the sections that will assist in our racing. Keep up the good work.
Thanks for the information. It's always good to hear from racers in other parts of the world. When it all comes down to it, we're all racers at heart and can relate to each other on that basis. It's good to hear that the head-and-neck restraints are mandatory. You're well ahead of us in that department.
As is evident in racing we see on the smaller tracks here, speed is relative. Seventy-five mph on a quarter-mile track is just as fast as 120 on a half-mile track, relatively speaking. And, because of gearing for smaller tracks, getting to the top speed happens so much faster.
I've seen video of some of your racing and it definitely creates excitement and action. Just as it is here, setup is paramount and the ones who are setup right usually are around at the end of the race to take the checkered flag.
Wissota Street Stock
I'm currently in the process of getting a WISSOTA Street Stock ready for competition. This will be my first year driving these cars but I have been around them for more than five years now and have helped win three track championships.
I'm always looking for a step ahead and like to try different things and have been looking for a different setup than we've been running. I came across the Feb. '09 article "Fine Tuning a Hobby Stock" and am very surprised at the spring rates being used. They are far lighter than we have been using. My question is what kind of numbers did you see on the scales?
The springs we use are LF 950, RF 1,100, LR 325, and RR 200. We usually run 250 pounds heavy on LR and about 52 percent rear and 53 percent cross. Is that wrong? We've been noticing that if you get the car too tight the motor won't turn any rpms. Do you want it heavy on LR, or more balance across rear?
The front spring rate stiffness is all dependent on the type of track you'll be running. A heavy track with ruts will require much heavier front spring rates. But that's not the primary concern for your setup.
The rear spring rates and the spring splits are very important. The spring split you show, 125 pounds, is, in my opinion, high. This would make the car tight and won't allow it to turn well. A car that doesn't turn will bog down in the turns and not come off the corners well. You could probably get by with a 250 or 275 LR spring rate.
If the "250 pounds heavy on the LR" means weight, you're in the high range for crossweight. The car will have a tendency to drive off the LR and that could make it tight also. You would need to drop down to less than 50 percent cross to go to the lower range of crossweight.
Run the car and see how it works. If you find you need to throw it into the turns to get it to turn, you'll need to loosen it up. Think about what I said above and make changes to free the car up. The high rear spring split works against the balanced setup we always refer to.
Asphalt Modified With Dirt Setup
I have a '97 Ellis IMCA Modified. I can get the car very fast and I've been the fastest qualifier, but the problem I've been having is my car falls off very fast by 5 to 10 laps. I can't seem to find a balanced setup that stays consistent for 30-50 laps. I usually qualify at a 15.06 and at the end of the race I'm typically running a 15.50. I race a 3⁄8-mile asphalt track, with about 8 degrees of banking. I run Goodyear Eagle Short Track Special tires.
My spring rates are: LF 500, RF 550, LR 175, RR 125. I've tried a lot of different rear springs, as much as 200 LR and as light as 100 (and the same on the right).
I run Pro Shocks and my shock rates are: LF 735, RF 75, LR 93, RR 94.
Panhard bar: left axle 14, right 15¾, roll center 3.0 inches high and 2.0 inches to the left of center, and with dive and roll moves to 0.7-inch high and 4.8 inches to the left.
My scale weights are: LF 685, RF 545, LR 815, RR 508, for a total of 2,552. This makes left 58.7 percent, cross 53.2 percent (with bar), 51.9 (without bar), sway bar (175 pounds) is preloaded seven turns from neutral, and rear is 51.8 percent.
The problem you have is that you're running a dirt setup on asphalt track. This will never work because it's badly out of balance. For starters, your spring rates, Panhard bar height, and crossweight are all wrong.
The rear spring should be matched and I would go with a pair of 175s. Lower your Panhard bar to around 12 left side and 13 right side. The crossweight is low for your higher rear percent and should be more like 56 percent.
Never preload a sway bar that much. One to three turns is plenty, even for a small thread adjuster. I wouldn't go more than two turns and usually snug it up and that's it. Adjust your crossweight with the sway bar preload in. That way you know you have the correct cross.
Look closely at your left-side tire temperatures. When the car gets balanced, they should be nearly even. Your LF should have been cool compared to the LR. The suggestions I have given are for a generic Modified and may not perfectly match your car. So, to fine-tune the setup, move the Panhard bar up or down to adjust for left-side tire temperatures and at the same time, adjust the crossweight for handling balance.
Email me and let me know what's happening and how the changes worked. I'm always curious as to the outcome of these changes. Remember that there are other considerations beyond setup that influence the car, such as front and rear wheel alignment and Ackermann.
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.