Dirt Track Racings Best Kept Secrets
I’m Kevin Katzenberg and I have something pretty special in store for you.
I’ve taken a slice of what I have learned over the past twenty five years as a mechanic and car builder in the dirt track racing industry and put it inside this easy to read easy to understand book.
The focus is mainly the dirt late model and dirt modified race cars, but the general principles I illustrate can be easily supplied to any type of dirt race car or any race car in general.
Here is just a little hint of what is inside:
Why softening the right front spring will add side bite as well as forward bite to your car. (Chapter 23, page 84)
How to determine the amount of wedge you need to bring your car to life. (Chapter 21, page 77)
The common misinterpretation about how the panhard bar actually works and how to properly adjust it for your driving style. (Chapter 5, page 28)
Why lowering the right side four link (instead of raising them) adds side bite and traction. (Chapter 22, page )
The three core factors which make your car fast … everything else builds off of these three. (Chapter 1)
Real world examples of on track tuning and how to strategize like a winning driver. (Chapter 24)
The most overlooked factor on a dirt race car which probably will make the biggest difference in the handling of your car. (Chapter 2)
If your getting frustrated with poor or inconsistent results this will be one of the best investments you can make in your racing program.
I will not only show you the best way to run your car, but will teach you the foundational principles so you will have the ability to sort your car out on your own.
Do any of these apply to you?
– Have won features in the past, but struggle to consistantly run up front.
– Have come close, but just can’t find that “magic” of your first feature win.
– Spend all week working on your car and still go to the track with that little voice in the back of your head telling you something just isn’t right.
If one of these sounds like what you are going through … this book will set you back on track.
To grab this book now, follow the link below to Amazon
Table of Contents
This book is a culmination of twenty plus years of blood, sweat and tears while in the trenches working on race cars. I’ve actually been around racing my entire life, but the first half I spent as a grandstand dweller, always looking for a way to get into the action. I began working on cars in 1987 while still in high school. That’s usually how it starts, going in the pits as a fan to help someone scrape mud or change tires. Then, there is usually a split that takes place. Some grow weary of the huge amount of work that is involved in racing and head back to the stands. Others get bitten by the bug or hooked on the racing drug and are pulled in deeper and deeper.
For me it was hooked by the drug. I always had an interest in all things technical. I just never got into working on cars. The drug for me was learning about making cars handle better, go faster, and win more races.
Even as I sat in the stands as a kid I could pick up on chassis attitude and could often pick winners against my dads friends who where keenly focused on drinking beer and betting on who would win. It was a good feeling at twelve years old going home with a couple extra bucks when you managed to pick a winner from the last row.
That was a time of qualifying, full field inverts, and weak drunk driving laws. My dads friends would go home with a nice buzz and little lighter in the wallet. But let’s get back on track.
Many times the attitude of the car is a dead giveaway to how fast the car is going to be. There is so much to be said about the attitude of the car. Many times you can just tell when a car is going to be fast just by how it looks in the first half of a lap.
After an initial introduction to the very basics on the car, I tore into everything I could find to read and listened keenly to advise from some of the fastest guys at the track. I learned to separate when people were pulling your leg from when they had something actually useful to say. I figured out pretty early on the core secret that will make your car fast and get it back if you ever get off base. I’m going to give it to you here in three simple words. It is what drove me to write this book and it is what drives the best chassis gurus and engineers in the business. It was mentioned to me by a former Formula one engineer as the most important aspect in racing.
Always Know Why!
The Formula One engineer was a guy named Claude Rouelle. He held an intensive chassis dynamics class I attended in 2005, I think. At the beginning of the class he made a statement that I took as my motto and guiding light to keep me plugging away and learning.
“ It’s better to finish second and know why than win and not know how or why.”
If you know why you can always make improvements to win. If you don’t know why you may fall and never figure out how to get up and win.?
At First I spent years working on cars as a hobby. I studied everything from sprint cars to modifieds and eventually late models. I even had a brief stint at driving until I quickly ran out of money and realized it really wasn’t for me anyway.
In the fall of 2002 I got a call from a friend of mine who was starting a car building business with a partner and they were looking for a welder.
I jumped at the opportunity. Think of it, getting paid to build race cars. What a dream come true. Well the partnership broke up and my friend ended up leaving the company. I took over running the race car shop at Wild Incorporated.
In 2008, when former World 100 winner Dan Schlieper started running our cars, I decided to begin another project. I started a blog to get some of my ideas out in the public in an attempt to help up and coming racers speed up their learning curves.
Many of the topics I brought up in my blog were things I could see happening with cars that no one else was talking about. Things I think the pros had in the back of their mind, but never put down in words for the rest of the racing community to use and help build their racing programs. Things that not only made their cars better, but ideas that made them better as a team.
This book focuses on those principles only pertaining to the car. Maybe there will be future books on different topics, but for now this is the only book I plan on creating.
Well, moving forward, I will continue to explore ideas and blog about them from time to time. I’m sure someday I will come up with thoughts that will rebut what is written here. For now this is what I have to offer the racing world.
Chapter 1 The Big Three Factors
Through years of looking at and trying to figure these cars out, I narrowed everything we do into three distinct areas of tuning.
Chapter 2 Wheel Alignment
The first of the factors is wheel alignment. This section is where I go through identifying how your wheels are aligned and how tuning this will effect your car.
Chapter 3 The Panhard Bar and Wheel Alignment
This section describes how your pan hard bar effects your wheel alignment. It’s not always as obvious as it seems.
Chapter 4 Weight Transfer
This is the second section of the big three factors. Predicting weight transfer by using static weight settings can be difficult. I’ll show you how I go through it in my mind.
Chapter 5 Rear Weight Transfer
This section describes how weight transfers in the rear of the car. It shows how the roll center interacts with the center of gravity of the car. I believe this is where a lot of people get it wrong.
Chapter 6 Traction
This is the third area of the big three factors. Everything else you will change in the car all lead back to these big three factors. If you keep these three principles in mind it will make tuning your car much easier.
Chapter 7 Slip Angle
Understanding slip angle will help you understand how your car turns and break down the adjustments to help your car turn better.
Chapter 8 Slip Ratio
This is basically the same as slip ratio except this is the term we use to describe how the rear of the car gains and holds traction.
Here is my list and advise on what will need to get looked at between race days.
- Making sure it won’t fall apart
- A bolt run
- Crash Repair
- Steering gears
- Ball joints and spindles
- Checking out the rear end
- Quick change problems
- Ford 9″ problems
- Hubs and axles
- Greasing your car
- Weekly motor maintenance
- Lights and electrical
- Hauler and trailer maintenance
- Body work and cosmetic crash damage
- Shock maintenance
- Washing everything up
- Additional must do’s
Chapter 9 Traction Circle
The traction circle is basically all theory, but understanding is essential in understanding the trade off between having a loose car and a tight car. It helps you understand that there is only so much traction in each tire.
Chapter 10 Front End Traction
This is where we begin our understanding of traction in the front end.
Chapter 11 Camber
Camber is one of the most basic of front end settings. Here I go through how it works and how you can use it to tune your car.
Chapter 12 Camber Gain
Camber gain has been a hot topic in recent years. This describes what it is and how to use it to tune your car.
Chapter 13 Caster
No, this isn’t the bankruptcy section. This is where I introduce Caster and how you can use it to tune your front end.
Chapter 14 Caster Gain
Caster gain is still important to front end settings, but is ofter overlooked when building a proper front end.
Chapter 15 Toe
Toe is another of the important front end settings. Toe is sometimes used effectively as a crutch to fix some front end problems. It will be one of the go to checks when you wreck the front end.
Chapter 16 Bump Steer
Years ago dirt racers never even considered bump steer as important. Now, I don’t think there is any who will dispute that it is absolutely needed to get your car handling properly.
Chapter 17 Ackerman Steering
Ackerman steering is one of the best kept secrets to securing traction in the front as well as in the rear of the car. Another one of those things most people overlooked years ago, but some pay attention to now.
Chapter 18 Weight Balance and Distribution
This is the foundation to the weight transfer equation. This is where your car will scale.
Chapter 19 Left Side Percentage
This will need to be right to get the proper dynamic distribution when your car turns left.
Chapter 20 Rear Weight Percentage
This is the other half of the static weight distribution when measured on scales.
Chapter 21 Wedge
This is how we measure the distribution between the left rear and right front tires. It defines the combined weight transfer as the car travels around the track; turning four corners.
Chapter 22 Right Rear De-Wedging
This is one of the major considerations when trying to get side bite going into the corner.
Chapter 23 Soft Right Front Spring
This is one of the major tuning tools used on dirt cars today. You’ll need to understand how this whole system works.
Chapter 24 Track Example
This is where I go through a little track tuning example. This is the process I use to determine what to do with a car.
Chapter 25 Some Swing Arm Notes
Swing arm suspensions aren’t as popular as they used to be, but understanding them is still kind of important.
Chapter 26 Conclusion
Well, we could actually go on just about forever on the topic of race car set up and how to go fast, but I really need to put a cap on
I really have to acknowledge some references that I used to build this book. These are not copied or plagiarized, but the
concepts came from them and they deserve a plug.
The bump steer chart I drew up as an example came from Tony Woodward’s steering catalog. I’ve been using this for years, so I
decided to add it in here. Also if you have a chance to pick up one of his catalogs, do so. It is full of useful steering diagrams and information.
Second I would like to thank Claude Rouelle. I took his three day intensive workshop back in, I believe 2005. It was by far the best and most comprehensive course about race car dynamics I’ve taken. It is very technical and not slanted toward the dirt racing market, but I believe all race cars are created equal … at least in principle.
Third I would like to reference some good books to continue your education. Some of these aren’t cheap, but these are what I
reference when I run into a problem I’m really stumped on.
Any of the Milliken books on vehicle dynamics
The Rowley Race Car Engineering book. This book coincides with the use of the Bill Mitchell geometry software … also a great investment to figure out how your car works. I have it and love it.
I’d also like to thank Karl Kirschbaum of Shryock Racing for his editing and letting me know where more clarification is needed.
Chapter 27 Stringing a Car
Stringing a car is one of the most basic ways to start understanding your car. There aren’t many who do it anymore, but it is still something that should be done if your car seems to be off and you don’t understand where it went.