I was standing there watching the New England Modifieds prepare for practice in the pits at Mahoning Valley Speedway on our Tour stop there and looking at the front ends of many of the cars. What I observed was what I believe to be a flawed design that I have alluded to many times in this magazine. It all goes back to a trip I made to Connecticut back in 2004.
That year I went up to see a well-known racer whose name I won’t say, but his initials are TC. He was running at Stafford on Friday night in his SK Modified and he asked me to come up. So, I arrived just before the first practice and watched him go through the turns. When he came in, he asked how it looked. I said it looked like crap.
Surprised, he asked me why. I said that the right front tire looked like it was going into positive camber through the middle. After a discussion with his then crew chief, a seasoned veteran of the Modified divisions and very smart man, we determined that the angle of the right upper control arm wasn’t enough to reduce camber loss from the 0.5- to 0.75-inch of dive and 2.5 to 3.0 degrees of roll the car was experiencing.
The crew chief told me that he had run the front end dimensions through a geometry software program and it looked good, but we determined he had used numbers that didn’t represent what the car was actually doing on the racetrack. He had entered 3 inches of dive and 0.5 degrees of roll. With those erroneous numbers, the RF camber change looked OK.
The car was redesigned the following week to correct the upper arm angles and at the same time maintain the moment center location. These changes were taken over to the Tour Modified TC drove and I think he won the next four races in a row. Getting a Modified to turn well is evidently a big deal.
Getting back to Mahoning, here were the same designs as I had observed not working in 2004 being used and on the track I could still observe, even from the pit grandstands, right front tires standing straight up or worse through the turns, at a very small, less than a quarter-mile track where you turn all of the way around the circuit.
As many times as I’ve gone over front end geometry and camber change in past issues of CT and as hard as I try to educate racers, we evidently still have far to go. And it all comes down to basics that were in place long before I came on the scene in the early ’90s.
Speed and setups are all about utilizing the four tires to their maximum. That means ending up with the best footprint, the most loading on all of the tires as possible, and consistent loading where the dynamics are balanced and no tire is overworked to make up for other tires that are underworked.
We have explained the methodology used to get those results in numerous projects and articles. And no matter what the setups are based on, such as spring stiffness and sway bar size, the goals remain the same.
The winners in this day and age are either of two scenarios, and this has been true for some time now. Either your “less than optimum” setup is slightly better than that of all of the other cars you race against, or your car is truly setup correctly to 95-100 percent of its potential and it just can’t get any better.
And when you get to the point of the latter of these two possibilities, you’ll stop fooling around with setup and endeavor to maintain what you have instead of experimenting. That’s exactly what most of the championship teams I’ve worked with have done to win time and time again.
Most of the past 10 years’ articles we’ve presented about chassis design and setup are available on our website and if not, you can dig through your past issues and reread them. There’s valuable information contained therein, I promise you. All you have to do is trust in what has worked for many racers before you.
Meanwhile, I plan on re-presenting most of that information for both the newer racers who never were introduced to it, and for the others who missed it the first, second, or third time. I guess what teachers do each year is re-teach knowledge that has been taught to past students who have gone on to higher grades. By now, some of you should be ready for graduation and that means checkered flags and trophies.
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.