From that work they created a chart showing, for instance, that going to a 50-pound lighter spring on the right front corner requires lowering the adjuster nut on the coilover shock X number of turns to return the car to the correct ride height. Their chart also provides measurement points that they can go back and check their work. The result of all this preparation means that at the track they can confidently make spring changes and know that they haven't thrown anything else on their setup out of whack that might throw off their data.
Proper preparation also includes everything you would normally do before bringing the car to the racetrack. You want to simulate racing conditions as closely as possible. This should include tire prep, weight placement, even taping the car up the same way. As a rule, every variable that you can eliminate or otherwise account for will help eliminate those pesky "what if" questions later on.
Play it Safe
One of the side benefits of a track test is that a day spent at the racetrack beats a day spent just about anywhere else. The pace is usually a little more relaxed than race day, and it can be quite enjoyable. But if you're the driver, don't mistake the peace and quiet of being alone at the racetrack for the chance to let your guard down.
You can get hurt just as quickly by yourself on a racetrack as you can during a race. Your race car is travelling just as fast and the walls are just as hard. So make sure to take all the safety precautions your normally do for a night of racing. This includes wearing your driving gloves, shoes, head-and-neck support, and all the other protective equipment you use. Besides personal protection, changing your equipment for the test may also change your driving style and affect the accuracy of your tests.
Normally, renting a track for a test means the facility will also provide an ambulance and first responders, but that's not always the case. If you don't have first responders on the grounds, make sure you know where the local hospital or emergency room is located. Hopefully, you'll never have the need to use them, but make sure you know how to get there just in case.
Crew chief Neil Wilson makes...
Crew chief Neil Wilson makes a spring change according to the testing plan. Because Wilson and Hargett have spent time in the shop beforehand scaling out every change they planned to make, Wilson knows how much to move the coilover adjuster nut to account for the change in ride height a stiffer or softer spring will make. This saves valuable time during the test and ensures that the ride height and crossweight stays the same from one run to the next.
Be careful to make sure tire...
Be careful to make sure tire wear doesn’t throw off your data. You don’t need to swap on a new set after every run, but keeping two sets on hand that you can swap out when testing “Setup A” versus “Setup B” can help eliminate the tire wear variable.
Track tests can be expensive,...
Track tests can be expensive, so don’t be afraid to make use of every resource you have available to make the most of it. In Hargett’s case, his shock specialist, Wesley Page (right), was willing to attend the test to help develop a package of shocks (and adjustments) that will work with Hargett’s setup.
The After Report
A track test is pointless if you can't make use of the information you have gathered. The best way to do this is to write up an After Report. This should boil down all the information you've gathered and focus on what you've learned, how it affects the car, and the situations where you'll use it in the future.
The idea for the After Report is to distill down the mountains of information you've collected and create a reference that is quick and easy to use. You should be able to incorporate the After Report into your setup book or go back to it later to quickly determine how particular changes will help you in specific situations.
Sometimes you'll spend a day testing and not learn anything that makes you any faster. But that doesn't mean your test day is wasted. Knowing what doesn't work can be just as valuable as what does. If your competition starts chasing ideas or setups that you already know not to waste time on, then that puts you that much further ahead.
So hopefully, in the future you'll have the opportunity to spend a day testing at the racetrack. If you do, remember these tips to help you make your time as profitable for your racing program as possible.
We don't know how your kid is doing at school and can't help you with that. But we do have some tips when testing at the racetrack
You should be able to incorporate the After Report into your setup book or go back to it later to quickly determine how particular changes will help you in specific situations
Don’t forget to take into...
Don’t forget to take into account track conditions. Hargett will rarely race in the early afternoon sun like he is testing under, so he will need to take that into account when determining how the information he has gathered will translate into race-day setups.
Keep an eye on the details....
Keep an eye on the details. Air pressure can change from one run to the next and mask the true result of a chassis change you’ve just made.
One trick Hargett and Wilson...
One trick Hargett and Wilson use to make sure they don’t get off the mark with their setup is a set of standards they’ve cut from aluminum bar stock to keep track of ride height. By using these in specific points that they’ve pre-determined, they can quickly and easily confirm that the ride height and crossweights are correct.
Don't Let Shocks Spin You Out
Shock programs have become serious business in all forms of racing recently. And given the advancements that shock specialists have made, they can be quite helpful. But you can also just as quickly put yourself right out to lunch with a bad shock combination.
Wesley Page of WP Racing Shocks joined Hargett during his track test, and while we will respect the confidentiality Hargett would prefer when it comes to the specifics of the program Page set up for his race team, we did get the opportunity to speak with the shock specialist about the current state of shock programs for Saturday night race teams. Page works with both asphalt and dirt race teams, and has clients at all levels of the sport, including more than a few NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams.
His advice is much like we've heard from other shock specialists: Don't depend on shocks to magically cure all your other problems. Even the best shocks can't cure a bad setup, so spend time dialing in your car as well as possible before spending a lot of time and money on your shocks. Once that is right, your shocks can work with a well-handling chassis to put you over the top.
"I almost hate to say it," Page adds, "but the biggest issue I see with a lot of teams is maintenance, especially if they are racing on dirt because that requires extra attention. They don't have their suspension bars freed up and they are binding. Bars are bent or birdcages are binding up. That sort of thing.
"Guys that buy their chassis from a good manufacturer have access to setup information that they can win with. But if you are setting up your car the way your chassis builders says and it never works like it should, then that's a real good sign something is probably wrong with the car and it's not going to be right until you find it."