Cleaning the race car is one of those tasks that is almost universally despised by racers. And we've even heard more than a few dedicated dirt track racers contemplate making the switch to asphalt while trying to complete the drudgery of getting all the clay off their car and out of their race hauler. But no matter whether you're racing on dirt or asphalt, if you are going to have the fun on Friday or Saturday night, you will need to pay the price on Monday or Tuesday. Or, at least you should. That's because there's a lot more to it than simply throwing on some dish soap and washing it back off. There's no doubt that you can sometimes get away without cleaning your car between races--heck, racers all over the country prove that fact to be true by showing up to the racetrack with dirty cars every week--but it's also true that a rigorous maintenance routine, which includes cleaning, can help improve practically any racing program.
Keeping a clean and shiny race car has benefits beyond making your mother proud. Cleaning components can help reduce wear and ensure everything is moving as smoothly as possible. Plus, the act of thoroughly cleaning your race car means you're also putting your hands on everything, which helps you spot problems and inspect areas you might otherwise miss. And we all know that finding that component on your race car that's in the process of failing before it actually breaks can prevent not only a poor finish but also an expensive (and bruising) crash.
Of course, simply wiping down your car isn't going to have the effect we're talking about. Instead, what we're suggesting is a maintenance cleaning program. And whether you're racing dirt or asphalt, if you aren't already using your wash and wipe-down time as an opportunity to inspect your race car part-by-part, there's a benefit here for you. Hopefully, you'll be able to keep parts functioning properly longer, spot problems that may be adversely affecting the car's handling, and discover components that need repair or replacing before they cause a DNF or wreck. Overall, the results of your time and attention should be better finishes over the long term. In other words, you may not win next week because you spent an extra hour or two cleaning your car, but it can be a huge help for that track championship you've been gunning for.
To give you an idea how you can make such a maintenance cleaning program work for you, we spent several hours in the race shops of Hargett Racing while the team went through the car after a hard weekend of racing on dirt. There are also several important precautions you should take to make sure your cleaning program doesn't do more harm than good--water and electricity don't work so well together, after all. Some of these steps you may find unnecessary or too time-consuming to do every week. Or you may think of areas of your race car that require attention that we missed. That's fine, the idea is to give you an outline of a maintenance cleaning program that you can customize and make your own.
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