A dirt late model racing crown jewel

Well I just got back from Cedar Lake for the US Nationals. For those of you not familiar with this race it used to be considered one of the crown jewel races of dirt late model racing; and was usually an open competition race. Then one year it became a race sanctioned by the Hav-A-Tampa dirt racing series. I believe that was the start of the downfall of the race from the dirt racing elite. With the demise of the Hav-A-Tampa series, it became sanctioned for years by other racing series during what I considered the “division of dirt cars”. For the past several years two distinct racing series has divided the dirt racing elite into two factions; not the best for the sport, but I believe, at least, the US Nationals is on its way back to being one of dirt racing’s elite races.

Bump stops a big deal?

On the technical side I believe the next thing to be concentrating on is bump stops. Two of the three nights the track was black slick and smooth; perfect setting for a car on bump stops. There are several ways to tackle bump stops, and there is too much information to consider covering in one blog post. The first way and probably the most popular thinking is to stack a series of bump rubbers and shims so as the spring starts to collapse the bump stops starts to progressively build into a very stiff rate. The shock is usually has a high amount of rebound to hold the car usually on the right front corner, but the left front corner isn’t too farfetched. This controls the ride height in that corner and also controls the amount of wedge that is released from the left rear of the car. This also controls the ride height in the front and holds the car at a certain aerodynamic attitude.

The other methodology to the bump stop theory is to have a soft spring that will compress until it sets down onto a stiff bump rubber, similar to the coil binding that was going on in NASCAR for several years. The first system may be a little more temperamental because of the progressive nature of the bump stop setup getting the shimming correct may be time consuming. I’ve talked to several people that say that it is very inconsistent. It could be the hottest thing at one track then the next night it will be the worst thing ever. I think one of the best attributes to cars nowadays is the consistency which allows them to remain neutral throughout the duration of long races. So, bump stops may not be the answer for those hundred lap races where tack conditions change several times throughout the race; but for the short thirty lapper it may be worth looking into.

Consistency wins races

Speaking of consistency, I have to say Jimmy Mars’ car was consistent throughout the race. From a little mud, from a freshly watered track at the beginning of the race, to the black slick condition in the middle, to the latched up, rubbered up, track near the end. His car appeared to turn consistently throughout the entire race. He could turn from the slick to the rubber without missing a beat. Other cars would be good, or even come to life, on certain track conditions; then fade away as soon as they got good. Consistency is the key to winning races, and a well balanced car is the key to consistency.

Another thing I thought was really cool was the introduction for the main event. It started with the place going black. With music playing in the back ground the cars were introduced out of turn two through a wall of smoke with spot lights shining on them down the back straight away. Some drivers did burn outs; one even thrilled the fans with 800 hp doughnuts in turn three.It’s good to see some creativity outside of the plain vanilla ‘four wide salute to the fans.

Drawing the yellow flag

One thing I really disliked about the show was the drivers intentionally drawing a yellow flag just to keep from going a lap down or to change a tire; what a show killer. I think there should be a rule that if a driver causes a yellow on his own, he should automatically go a lap down. There were several times during the race that a good battle for the lead was developing, only to be slowed by a back marker stopping the race for no apparent reason. Sometimes we need lapped traffic to make a race interesting and show the skill of the front running drivers. There’s nothing like a good battle for the lead while running through the lappers. Well I think that’s enough whining, till next time, be consistently fast.

Kevin