In Motorsports it doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned veteran or a total “Green Horn” newbie to get the good consistent results or repair results that have deteriorated over time, checking these five things and committing to doing them faithfully is the difference between consistently good results or results that suck consistently.
Before going any further it should be pointed out that to be really good at ANYTHING, especially Motorsports, it takes work and a lot of it. So before you go setting unrealistic goals for yourself (Because I don’t care how fast you used to race your Mom’s car on gravel roads, or how you took a 55 mile an hour corner at 85…NONE of that means anything) you need to ask yourself if your willing to do what it takes.
If you don’t love working in the shop, finding ways to go faster, and spending hours educating yourself, and I mean if you really don’t absolutely love the way it makes you feel…STOP reading this, and do yourself a favor and go find something else to do…because…oh wait for it….FAST isn’t easy, there are NO shortcuts, and there is only one way to do it…Correctly and meticulously.
Typically if your racing and you are not seeing good results (and I don’t mean INSTANT results) giving an honest look at the following five items SHOULD help you find where your program is lacking…I say should because it’s all about being honest with yourself and the rest of your team, You do have a team don’t you? At least one at the bare minimum trying to go racing by yourself in these days is almost next to impossible…I’m not saying it can’t be done but it recommended that you have at least one other teammate on your team…and like you, they need to be committed they aren’t going to be if you’re not.
There is no way you will achieve any kind of decent results if you are not committed to the cause, like anything you have to put the time in, it can’t be a once in while thing…well it can, but if your reading this then your already at least getting started in the vital step to Motorsports success. All in, and it means exactly what it says…by being All In it means that you will do whatever it takes to achieve the type of results that you want.
A quick note…Everybody has their own reasons for going racing and your level of measure for the results that you want may be different from the someone else’s, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as you have made that clear to both yourself and the rest of your team…as long as you’re not wanting “On the road to” name your type of racing here, with the effort of a local hit a race here and hit race there racer, your results will come in both speed and quality in direct proportion to the quality of effort put in.
It’s pretty simple, 0 in =0 out and this formula does not and will not change so learn it, live it, and refer to it often…”In order to sip the wine, you gotta be willing to put in the time”
Every race team has to have a race routine…without a routine you are pretty much insured inconsistent and not so good results. During the week what is your routine? How to do attack getting your machine ready for the next race? If you’ve been around racing for any length of time you have heard the old saying “The race is won in the shop” and people can say what they will, but if you don’t remember another racing cliché remember this one because it has been proven time and again. Every racer has tried to disprove it at one time or another with results being the same.
So on your shop white board write your pre-race routine down to the letter from what you do after unloading your ride in the shop after a race, to loading and unloading…mother is the repetition of all skill so once you have your routine written out follow it to the letter and watch the pre-race stress slowly start diminishing as you start habitually doing the routine…It’s going to be a little tough at first, but make yourself stick to it and make sure that the rest of your team does to, it’s all for not if you’re doing things one way and your teammate is doing things the other.
As much as it bonding and getting to really know your equipment inside out and upside down, it’s a great way to get you and your team working together and you really get to know how your teammates think, which in and of itself is a priceless advantage and it also helps the speed and quality of your results. You might get away with every now and then, but you will not be consistently fast putting your machine together on the way to or at the race track, and racers do it all the time…if you aren’t race ready when you leave the shop, don’t leave the shop it’s as simple as that.
If you didn’t have the time during the week to properly prepare, then you don’t REALLY have the time to go racing either. It’s stressful, it adds variables, and it’s unsafe…Don’t add more work than you’ve already got, haste makes waste and when your racing you can’t afford to waste anything…So check your routine, update it if necessary and if you don’t have one WRITTEN down, then “Just Do It” because thorough preparation makes it’s own luck.
As far as Motorsports goes this is Motorsports 101 and it has as much to do with pride as it does making sure the race car stays together. This possibly could go under the #2 No Race Routine banner, but considering the importance of this facet felt this needed to be its own entity. I cant’ stress enough the importance maintenance…I don’t care what it cost you, buying racing parts is expensive and part of the learning curve is knowing what you can and cannot save a few bucks on when buying you precious items of speed. Common sense goes a looooong way here so keep that in mind when your asking yourself should I spend $50 or $100 bucks more or can I get away with using the less expensive item. If it’s safety DO NOT SKIMP, just man up and pay the bill most don’t think about how many other things get affected if they were to get hurt being a “Weekend Warrior”…it affects your job, which in turn affects your family, your marriage, the kids, it’s just not worth it…If I really have to explain this in anymore detail odds are you’re not going to understand it anyway so…NEVER pinch pennies in the name of safety EVER.
Clean your ride for crying out loud, there is quite an investment of your hard-earned cash. I’m not one to judge, but I just don’t understand how someone can just throw something together and show up to the track with the thing looking a 2nd grader put it together, nothing clean, square, neat, or tidy…no thought at all just Slammed and Jammed…Now let me ask you, how sympathetic is anyone going to be when they hear someone complaining about not being fast, why the wheel fell off, or why it doesn’t handle or better yet how sympathetic are YOU going to be? That’s right you’re not, nor is anyone else…cleaning, checking nuts and bolts, inspecting, and taking pride in your workmanship DOES NOT cost money…it costs time and it takes pride, and it earns respect…remember in #1?…if you want to sip the wine, you gotta be willing to put in the time.
Cleanliness is as close to Godliness as any of us are going to get, Cleaning it means COMPLETELY clean not just brushed over, thoroughly cleaning means checking the frame weld points for cracks or breaks, looking for bent or bound parts, and loose or missing fasteners. I was taught this by a legend in the NW oval track world…after getting home if it wasn’t done on the way home, the very next morning the car was taken to get washed, I always either did it by hand at the shop, or took it down to the “Splash & Dash” and pressure washed it…smaller machines like karts and Quarter Midgets a good hand washing is probably all you need. I ran on dirt so the tires were completely scrubbed clean…clean being NO DIRT AT ALL was on the tires or the wheels…A little bleach or Simple Green does a nice job of cleaning tires, the underside of the car was cleaned as well and the chassis checked for cracks or breaks. Once the car was completely cleaned and up on stands then the trailer was cleaned and checked, wheels pulled and wheel bearings inspected..I was not allowed to do ANY work on the race car until the trailer had been gone through. If the car did not hit anything then I was taught to alternate weeks for example, No hits all good then the front end came completely a part, cleaned and reassembled…if the following week was crash or hit free then the rear end of the car came completely a part, cleaned and reassembled and that alternating of front and back continued until a problem or repair took precedence…I can honestly say that I can count on one hand how many times the car broke due to something self induced…Make it habit…Think, mount it clean with safety being high on the priority list…doing it right takes only once, half ass it and you’ll being doing it at least twice…that defeats the whole purpose of nothing right?
I was told “It doesn’t do any good to have the car ready, if you don’t have a trailer to get it to the race track with” Made sense to me and still does today…Usually the only time the trailer gets looked at is when something finally breaks because it hadn’t been looked at and with Murphy’s Law is double the norm when it gets involved with Motorsports.
In between heat races it should be your goal to have your ride as clean as it was when it arrived every time it rolls up to the grid, starting line, or where ever your style race is started from..Will you always be able to? Of course not, but is should be your goal. Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance it is in-excusable for a race car to show up at any event dirty from the week before…it’s lazy, it’s wrong, and it makes you look bad..Make yourself a rule, NO MAINTENANCE means NO RACE…PERIOD.
Even though racers do a lot of testing and tuning to eliminate as many variables as possible, when making a tuning change in my opinion it’s a still a guess at best because sometimes what is supposed to work on paper or in theory does NOT work on the race track. Making continuing education as must because as everybody knows, an educated guess is better than an uneducated one any day. By you reading this blog you are continuing to educate yourself even though you made have heard this a million times, every time you read something there is possibility for you to learn something you didn’t know…a new way to do something, a different approach to tuning the chassis or engine, or just a little “Nick Knack” that you like that helps your shop be more efficient, speeds up a process. Best of all almost ALL the continuing education is FREE…A Chassis seminar is something that every racer should plan on attending at some point, and they are a great investment, but a lot of the same info can be found for free in the internet…Learning how to figure out roll centers and moment arms, Square footage of tire contact patch on the race track, checking ride heights, caster/camber gain and why its important to know.
The technology in racing these days changes by the hour almost, this new fad, that new fad…being educated or the attempt at attempting to continue to educate yourself helps you in your decision of which fad makes sense and which one doesn’t…Knowledge is power…READ, READ, READ anything and everything you get your hands on and then watch how your tuning skills increase, your maintenance program improves, your race routine becomes a little more serious, and your commitment level improves…a great racer knows and understands not how to get around the race track, but knows and understands the vehicle that is transporting them around the race track…Racing is a like a linked circle…improve one area and the all area’s improve, neglect or break the link of the circle and everything suffers…EDUCATION is something that is vital to a successful career in Motorsports and is also something that you have that NO one can ever take away from you.
Another extremely important “To Do” on ANY good racers list…You have a “Race Bible” something that has every change you made at every event that you have attended. From weighing fuel, and on scale set up notes/procedures to all the bare chassis measurements, tube lengths, and mounting points. This is the heartbeat of your baseline set up…the one set up that you know will get you pretty close everywhere…so if you do try some things you know exactly how to get the car back to a previous “Restore” point. Hey how far was the hub away from the frame rail…Ahhhh 3/8th’s….3/8th’s or was it 3/16th’s? I could have swore it was 3/16th’s…3/8th’s huh?…Are you sure?…I don’t care who says I don’t need notes, I keep it all up here…All I have to say to that is “Sull Bhit”…there is way to much going on, changes being made, and decisions ever-changing to keep a good grasp of not only what changes did what, but how long. how far, how wide, how narrow…just NO WAY, so don’t EVEN try it…write down everything….EVERY change, measurement, track surface, temperature, condition, weight, tire size, rim width, front end setting…EVERYTHING.
Leave nothing to chance…its very handy to refer back to that awesome set up, or killer spring combination when your really out to lunch and really need it. The other thing that I suggest is on your way home (if you’re not the tow rig driver too) or after you get home…look over the nights notes, and just journal about how you thought the night went, your state of mind, how the changes felt and why you did or did not like them..things that you’d like to try or hunches that you think might work…anything and everything about the night and you. You will soon find how absolutely invaluable those notes become and how many mystery problems that you cure, problems or and idea on how to cure a problem or even how far you have come as a driver by journaling after each event..I know some of you are going “Yeah right, I’m not doing all that…I’ll remember” and I promise you…you WON’T. You might remember parts, but when trying to assemble and put all the pieces together there will be that one piece that you need and don’t have because you didn’t write it down…believe me when I say, EVERYTHING, EVERY NOTE, EVERY IDEA, EVERYTHING write it down, WRITE IT DOWN, WRITE IT DOWN!…
Maybe you’ve heard all this before, maybe you already do all of this and if so great and I hope that you got a little something out of it…actually I know you did even tough you may think otherwise…like any sport, the best foundation is that of fundamentals. When problems arise or you and the team get off track, it’s getting back to the fundamentals, the keeping it simple that gets most races and their teams back on track which in turn gets the results back on track. Remember, there are very few secrets in the monkey see monkey do world of motorsports…The REAL secret?…..
IS IN THE SEAT.