The Staging Light: The Reality of Racing Math

The Reality of Racing Math

In the beginning, there was drag racing. Then, one day, a racer won money.

While it's easy to get lost in cost of living comparisons to a time when gas $.87 per gallon, it's fair to say that the early days of drag racing were typically low entry fee, low payout affairs. How long did it take for promoters to offer higher stakes, or the racers to demand them?

In the northeast, the rapid escalation of entry fees and payouts came in the early-mid '90s. The Footbrake category of the time, "Heavy Eliminator", was a no-electronics, 12.00 and slower class. For a $25 entry fee, racers vied for a top prize of $300, and second round winners earned round money equal to their entry fee.

Soon enough though, the phrase was uttered, "I can't run my car for only $300 dollars!"

The owner/operator of Beaver Springs Dragway, "Beaver Bob" McCardle, put it in the racer's hands at a driver's meeting.

We were provided a sheet with different payout structures, and given the opportunity to vote on them. Everyone wanted to race for the most money possible, but the big money came with some combination of higher entry fees, less round money, or the introduction of buybacks.

Just like building a race car, each component works with another. A change in one variable affects another. We voted for a small entry fee increase for a small payout increase, and happily returned to racing. E.T. breaks were lowered, racers spent more money on their cars, and the once healthy sum of money didn't seem quite as healthy as it once did.

Like many racers, I knew there had to be a better way. Once again, Beaver Bob challenged the racers to design the perfect race. "Not a problem. Show me how to do it. Put a pencil to it," he said. "The only stipulation is I need $10 per car. Other than that, set it up any way you want."

Eager to show off those basic math skills and show how easy it would be to pay out all the money we dreamed about, I sat down with pencil and paper: a lot of paper. I started scribbling, and laid out my race. Well, that way doesn't work... maybe if I... no. It was like encountering a Rubik's Cube for the first time, but this one had too many colored squares.

For two days, I crunched numbers.

Finally, I called Beaver Bob back, exasperated, and stammered, "It can't be done!"

Crunching numbers wasn't the last lesson Beaver Bob taught me. I still dreamed big, and he backed me when I brought special event ideas to him that actually worked on paper. $5,000 No-Box Nationals? Fail. $1,000 Stock/Super Stock Shootout? Fail. While crunching the numbers right is critical, as it turns out, there's a lot more to promoting a successful event than just a set of numbers of a pretty flyer -- but that's a whole 'nuther story.

Almost two decades later I still hear racers say, "They should just..." That telltale "just" is usually followed by "raise the purse", "guarantee the purse", "change the rules", and any number of creative "solutions" that too often ignore the realities of running a race track.

That's not to say that their hearts aren't in the right place! Mine always has been as well, but experience now tempers big dreams, and has forced me to look at the much broader picture. I've learned a great deal from working at or with many tracks, sanctioning bodies, promoters, and having become a promoter myself in recent years.

Are your valve springs and pushrods ready for next season?

Are your valve springs and pushrods ready for next season?

Words and photos by Jok Nicholson

 

If you race on a regular basis, you're aware of the importance of having good valve springs. The majority of you probably bought the valve springs recommended by the cam manufacturer or your engine builder/machinist, right? That has been my procedure for years and years.

The other thing I do every weekend is to visually check the springs when I check valve lash. If everything looks good I pretty much left it at that and went racing. Once in a while I would put my Moroso valve spring checker on the rocker arms and make sure the seat pressure was in the "ballpark" of what the valve springs were the week before. Here is where it gets interesting.

I have used the same springs for four racing seasons and about 450 runs. I decided to check the seat pressure at the end of the season, before we put the engine in the shop for storage. They checked about 250 psi (pounds per square inch) on the seat and were very consistent and showed an open pressure of 699-lbs at .763" lift.

I called Comp Cams and asked their Tech Line what the seat pressure should be with the Comp Cams roller cam I was using. They said I should have a minimum seat pressure of 325 psi and if I could get closer to 375 psi on the seat and over 800 psi at about 1.350" spring height that is even better. My valves are stainless steel and the 2.300" intake is not a lightweight.

Well, I didn't want to take the heads off to change valve springs and then have to buy two more $110.00 Cometic Head Gaskets so we decided to make a valve spring compressor tool that would let us use the rocker arm shafts as a pivot for the tool. I had a DRC tool from when I had a Mopar with shaft rockers and it ended up that with a little grinding and 5/8" to 1/2" rod end bushing, we were ready to give it a try.

I called Comp Cams and got a set of the valve springs they recommended, part #26082-16. I also had to get the proper titanium retainers and spring cups from them as well. Make sure you double-check that your retainers are the correct ones for your new springs!

The #26082 spring is a triple spring with the following specs: 382-lbs seat pressure at 2.100" installed height. 1067-lbs open pressure at 1.20". We do not rev the Project 632" BBC much over 7000 RPM so this much spring pressure was a bit overkill. After talking to Comp Cams and engine builder, Jay Roeder, we tested the springs with the inner spring removed. We got a reading of 387-lbs on the seat at 2.040 (my spring height w/cup) and 869-lbs at .763" lift. We were satisfied with these numbers and felt these pressures would not be excessive or cause unnecessary wear on the EZ-Roll lifters.

One item that has been in need of an upgrade is our pushrods; we currently use Comp Cams 3/8" 9.850" and 9.050"long - .080" wall, one-piece pushrods. With no failures, you might ask yourself why should you change what works. Well, according to Comp Cams, when you install valve springs with these pressures a thinner wall pushrod like we had are going to flex and jump around a bit. Stiffer pushrods are required.

Smith Brothers Pushrods to the rescue. They have been making custom pushrods for a long time and their reputation is solid enough that Comp Cams referred them to me. I talked to Pierre at Smith Brothers and told him I needed a thicker wall pushrods and the lengths I was currently using. His recommendation was their .145" wall 3/8 chrome-moly pushrod. He said they stocked those exact pushrods lengths and they would ship out the next day.

OK, I'm not used to that and want to thank them in this article for great service. I had Pierre send me some photos of the tools used to make pushrods as I was curious how they could make them so strong. I think you will find the pictures from Smith Brothers interesting to see the "journey" a pushrod makes from tubing to your engine.

Changing the valve springs on the engine actually was a lot easier than I thought it would be, thanks in most part to the spring compressor we re-invented.

Dynos: Use your time wisely to get the best value

Time is a valuable commodity at both the racetrack and in the dyno room. Time spent preparing the engine beforehand can mean more time available to perform tests.

I want to focus on preparation and time management primarily and limit the discussion to engine dynamometers only. Most shops charge a flat rate for a day of testing; you are basically purchasing a block of time. Do yourself a favor and arrive prepared. Too many times over the years I have spent valuable hours chasing down a laundry list of minor details before the day’s testing can begin.

Approach the dyno session as you would an actual race. Imagine arriving at the track and having to fabricate water pump drives, temperature sensor fittings and fuel connections before making your first run. Chances are you would miss the first and likely the second round of time trials, putting you at a disadvantage for the day’s racing.

Getting connected: sweating the small stuff “off the clock”

Words by Dave Iwaniki
Photos courtesy Moroso

 

If at all possible, pay a visit to the facility prior to the test date in order to see for yourself what is involved in mounting the engine and connecting its related support systems. For example, if your engine is carbureted, find out what size and type of fuel line the dyno shop has. Is your engine fuel injected? You will need to know the sizes of the feed and return lines. Do they have a pump capable of supporting your combination? Can you test with your own?

Most facilities are equipped to handle the common setups but it is always best to find out ahead of time. I always encourage ur customers to drop off the motor and fuel the day before; this gives me a chance to get a head start on the installation and if there are any items I need, a quick phone message usually takes care of things.

Nearly all engine dynamometers require a standard flywheel to mount the drive adapter to. If you only have an automatic flex-plate, find out if the shop has a compatible flywheel you can use. Ask about the drive adapter used for coupling the engines flywheel to the dyno’s input shaft. They are not all created equal. Some are a solid steel flange with a heavy duty CV joint in the center that accepts a driveshaft, connected to the absorber. Others resemble a clutch disc with springs in the center and a splined hub to engage the dyno’s shaft. This latter type requires a drive adapter able to cope with the engines full torque.

If the shop you use spends the bulk of their time testing 400 HP circle track motors and you show up with an 1100HP 632 Big Block, you both may be in for a surprise after the first pull. Find out what size and type the oil pressure and water temperature fittings are. Depending on the configuration, you may want to test with the exhaust system that you race with. Bring along a tape rule to find out if this is possible. 

Putting the fuel in front of the fuel pump

Putting the fuel in front of the fuel pump

Words and photos by Tom Roschen

 

When I decided to install a front-mount fuel cell on my '74 Plymouth Duster drag car, I chose the two gallon capacity to conserve space. I run race gas, so this is plenty of fuel for my purposes. One of the reasons for installing a front mounted fuel cell is I use a belt-drive fuel pump. It also would provide better flow to my electric pump. All the pro stockers can’t be wrong!  

I chose to locate it centered in front of the radiator, which is where I had the most space. I welded tabs to the cross-member across the front of the engine compartment under the radiator to locate the Chassis Engineering front fuel cell mount. The tubes on the mount slide onto the tubular tabs and are bolted in place. I made my mount removable to aid in engine removal and installation. I had to bend the tubes for the mount to clear the front of my car. Your application may be different, but, as always seems to be the case with race parts, some modification is required!

The fuel cell is from JAZ and comes with all the fittings installed for your application. I chose to turn the fuel cell 90 degrees in the mount to better facilitate the plumbing of the fuel lines (more modifications). My fuel cell is the natural color instead of black so that the fuel level can be seen from the outside. I ran all my fuel lines using Fragola woven lines instead of the braided stainless. They are easier to work with (less bloody fingers), lighter, and are NHRA approved. The Fragola fittings are very good quality and they have some fittings that aren’t available from other manufacturers.

As with most racecar modifications, there was lots of test fitting. Some welding and fabrication skills were required, but all in all, it was a fairly simple project completed in less than two days.

I would like to thank Clayton Murphy of Chassis Engineering, Darren Gunnell of JAZ Products, and Jeff Stacey of Fragola for all their help with this project.

Racing is Pure Madne$$ for this team

JoelPapineau-SuperComp-dragster

Pure Madne$$ Racing, based in Erie, Ill., 12 miles from Cordova Dragway, will be competing this season in partnership with Competition Products, Howards Cams, B+B Industrial Coatings and MVP Trophies.

The Danny Nelson Racecraft dragster is powered by a 500″ Chevy engine, Sloan transmission, and BLP Fuel System. The dragster is fully equipped with Racepack electronics, K&R delay box/T-stop, MSD Ignition, Strange rear end and Hoosier tires.

Owner Chris Murphy will serve as crew chief with Joel Papineau driving. Plans are to run Super Comp in NHRA Divisions 3 and 5 along with select bracket races.

IHRA Summit Pro-Am Tour opener to be broadcast live

The Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL season opener at Immokalee Regional Raceway will be broadcast live the weekend of February 1-3.

Thanks to a unique partnership between Immokalee’s legendary owner Ralph Hester and the Seminole Casino and John Taylor of Taylor Elevators, Motor Mania TV will provide complete coverage of the event from the first pair of cars down the track to the last in both qualifying and eliminations – a first in the history of the Summit Pro-Am Tour.

The 2013 Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL season opener at Immokalee Regional Raceway is unique in that it is one of two Wild Card events on the schedule. The event is open to racers of all divisions and will count as an in-division claim no matter what division the racer claims. The event will also feature two point paying races in one weekend making it an attractive option for northern racers looking to get a little track time.

JEGS SPORTSnationals dates are set

The NHRA has released the 2013 JEGS SPORTSnationals schedule that will feature events at three facilities during the coming year.

“We are really excited about the 2013 NHRA season. There are three great JEGS SPORTSnationals events on the schedule again in 2013,” said Scott Woodruff, JEGS director of media and motorsports. “All three events have their own character and personality. If you haven’t been to one of the JEGS SPORTSnationals events you are missing out and owe it to yourself to add one or more to your NHRA racing schedule this year. You will not be disappointed. The events are a lot of fun on and off the track.”

The JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals will celebrate its 10th anniversary at No Problem Raceway; the JEGS Northern SPORTSnationals returns to National Trail Raceway for the ninth time; and the JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals returns to The Strip at LVMS for the second year.

Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Sportsman, and Top Dragster will be the featured categories at each of these races.

March 22-24: JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals, No Problem Raceway, Belle Rose, La.
Sept. 20-22: JEGS Northern SPORTSnationals, National Trail Raceway, Columbus, Ohio
Oct. 11-13: JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals, The Strip at LVMS, Las Vegas

ATI to sponsor Maple Grove Raceway’s Stock/Super Stock Series

DC_GlenHartzlerAfter a successful first season, Maple Grove Raceway’s Stock/Super Stock Series will be returning with a new sponsor: ATI Performance Products. Featuring some of the best doorslammers from the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the ATI Stock/Super Stock Series will once again feature a four-race schedule on June 8-9 and Aug. 24-25.

“ATI Performance Products and Maple Grove Raceway have been serving racers for over 50 years,” said J.C. Beattie Jr., chief operating officer for the Baltimore-based company. “Over the past half-century, ATI has always supported Maple Grove and its racers – especially in the Stock and Super Stock categories. ATI has always been dedicated to bracket racers and those racers are still an integral part to our continued success.

“The ‘Grove’ might be just under 100 miles away, but for ATI it has always been considered a home track!  We are pleased to be a associated with Maple Grove and to support its faithful racers for another successful season of racing.”

A point system will be maintained and a points fund will be created paying the top five finishers in the series. Awards will be presented as part of the Money Trail Awards Banquet in February 2014. Points will be awarded based on the current Money Trail ET point structure.

The guaranteed purses and the entry fees for the series were also announced: $1,000 (Winner): $400 (Runner up); $200 (Semifinalists): $100 (Quarterfinalists).

Glen Hartzler (shown) won the 2012 championship in his 1972 Barracuda. Rounding out the top five were Byron Worner, James Perrone, Patric Fox, Marty Rinehart Jr. and Jeff Tripp. Rinehart and Tripp were tied for the fifth in points.

Entry fee to race is $75 for one day and $140 for both days on a weekend. There is also a $25 Money Trail membership fee. Crew and spectators are $15 per day, while children 12 and under are free.  (Don Carrick photo)

‘Uncle Buck’ Memorial .90 Nationals and more scheduled for September

The Nitroplate Ronnie “Uncle Buck” Memorial .90 Nationals and Nitroplate Stock/SS Shootout presented by AutoMeter will be held on September 13-14, once again at Numidia Dragway in Catawissa, Pa.

Coming off of a successful inaugural event that saw Byron Worner (Stock/Super Stock Combo), Franklin DiBartolomeo (Super Comp), Al Dimino (Super Gas) and Keith Mayers (Super Street) all claim victory, this year’s event has added a  race for Super Comp and Super Street Racers on Sunday, Sept. 15.

The event will kick off on Friday, Sept. 13, with a free Test & Tune and a Stock Super Stock Combo Race and a .90 Shootout at night.
On Saturday a guaranteed $3,000 winner’s purse and a new Weber grill will welcome racers in all five classes. There will also be special Racers Appreciation Prizes awarded per round by such sponsors as Nitroplate, AutoMeter, Wiesco, Crane Cams and ATI. For more information please visit http://www.dot90nationals.com
JEGS SPORTSnationals dates are set
The NHRA has released the 2013 JEGS SPORTSnationals schedule which will feature events at three facilities during the coming year.

“We are really excited about the 2013 NHRA season. There are three great JEGS SPORTSnationals events on the schedule again in 2013,” said Scott Woodruff, JEGS director of media and motorsports. “All three events have their own character and personality. If you haven’t been to one of the JEGS SPORTSnationals events you are missing out and owe it to yourself to add one or more to your NHRA racing schedule this year. You will not be disappointed. The events are a lot of fun on and off the track.”

The JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals will celebrate its 10th anniversary at No Problem Raceway; the JEGS Northern SPORTSnationals returns to National Trail Raceway for the ninth time; and the JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals returns to The Strip at LVMS for the second year.

Comp, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Sportsman, and Top Dragster will be the featured categories at each of these races.

March 22-24: JEGS Cajun SPORTSnationals, No Problem Raceway, Belle Rose, La.
Sept. 20-22: JEGS Northern SPORTSnationals, National Trail Raceway, Columbus, Ohio
Oct. 11-13: JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals, The Strip at LVMS, Las Vegas

Summit Racing Equipment, IHRA make changes to Pro-Am Tour

IHRA-Pro-Am-logo

The very backbone of the International Hot Rod Association is the sportsman racer and nowhere are those racers featured more prominently than within the battleground of the Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL.

Already one of the most prestigious programs within the IHRA, thanks to Summit Racing Equipment, who have renewed their commitment to sportsman racers by signing a multiyear deal to return as sponsor of the program, the Pro-Am Tour just got a whole lot more exciting.

In 2013 the IHRA and Summit Racing Equipment are adding more cash and more exclusivity to the program by increasing the payout to win a Pro-Am championship, adding payout through third place in each division and making the Pro-Am Tour the only path through which to earn a berth in the Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL.

Now the only way a driver can earn a spot in the Tournament of Champions is by finishing in the top three in their respective division on the Summit Pro-Am Tour. Individual race winners will no longer earn an automatic tournament bid, instead focusing all championship aspirations on those racers that chase points on the Pro-Am Tour and enjoy season-long success essentially making every Pro-Am event a TOC qualifier.

Most all Nitro Jam national events will continue to feature double Pro-Ams with increased contingency, payout and a national event Ironman available on the final day of Nitro Jam, but only those chasing points on the Pro-Am Tour will be eligible for the year-end championship tournament. All divisions will continue to feature double Pro-Ams with the exception of the Raiders Division, however a few races within that division will experiment with the extremely popular double format.

To further enhance the prestige of the tour each Pro-Am champion will receive an increased payout of $2,000. Champions will also receive an IHRA Ironman and an IHRA Gold Card. Pro-Am championship runners-up will continue to receive $500, while drivers that finish in third place in their division will now receive $250. All drivers that finish in the top three will also earn a ticket to the Summit Racing Equipment World Finals to compete for the World Championship.

“Since its inception over a decade ago the Summit Pro-Am Tour has grown into our preeminent sportsman championship series,” said IHRA President Aaron Polburn. “We have seen it grow from a regional racing series to a program that has multiple divisions covering nearly every corner of North America. Next year we want to continue to add even more benefit to the racers that run the series by increasing payouts and making it the exclusive path to the Tournament of Champions.

“We are excited about the changes to the series and we think these changes will benefit our Pro-Am racers and add even more incentive for new racers to find out what this program is really all about.”

All other Pro-Am rules and guidelines will continue to be in effect. For more information on the 2013 Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by AMSOIL visit www.ihra.com/SummitProAmTour.

IHRA announces major changes to Tournament of Champions

IHRA-TOC-logo

Only the best of the best will participate in the 2013 Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL. The IHRA will be narrowing the field to only include the top drivers on the prestigious Summit Pro-Am Tour making the tournament field a true cross-section of the best IHRA racers from across North America.

While past versions of the IHRA’s year-end championship tournament have included a collection of special event and big race winners in addition to Summit Pro-Am Tour regulars, beginning in 2013 the Summit Tournament of Champions will only be made up of drivers competing on the Pro-Am Tour recognizing year-round success at a multitude of different tracks.

And the entire program will be highlighted by a renewed commitment to sportsman drag racing as sponsor Summit Racing Equipment recently signed a multiyear deal to return as sponsor of the program.

This season the only way a driver can earn a spot in the Tournament of Champions (TOC) is by finishing in the top three in their division on the Summit Pro-Am Tour. Single race winners will no longer earn an automatic tournament bid, instead focusing all championship aspirations on those racers that chase points on the Pro-Am Tour and enjoy season-long success.

To further reward drivers that compete on the Summit Pro-Am Tour, Pro-Am champions will receive an increased payout and payouts will be expanded to include drivers that finish in third place in their respective division.

While automatic, one race bids have been eliminated, competition at Nitro Jams will continue to be an important part of the formula as most all Nitro Jams in 2013 will double as a Summit Pro-Am weekend. But instead of one-race qualifiers, essentially all Pro-Am races will act as a chance to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. Sportsman competitors that win on the final night of Nitro Jam will also receive an increased payout, contingency and a national event Ironman.

The narrowed tournament field, which determines the World Champion through 10th place in each of the IHRA’s seven touring classes, will award $10,000 to the World Champion in addition to a special edition Ironman and more and will be contested at the Summit Racing Equipment World Finals at Memphis International Raceway. Championship runners-up through fifth place will continue to receive a cash prize, while drivers finishing sixth through 10th in the world will receive a gift card courtesy of Summit Racing Equipment.

The new Tournament of Champions structure will continue to generate a first round ladder based on drivers that show up to compete at the IHRA World Finals and each class ladder will be generated via reaction time from the final qualifying time prior to the race.

A driver may compete in the Summit Tournament of Champions in a maximum of two different classes, but may not drive the same car in two classes during the race.

Once the field is set the best drivers in Top Sportsman, Top Dragster, Super Stock, Stock, Quick Rod, Super Rod and Hot Rod will go head-to-head against their peers with the final seven drivers left standing being named an IHRA World Champion.

“When we first designed the Tournament of Champions the idea was to reward all those drivers that had a good year by giving everyone, from the traveling pro to the guy that can only race regionally, an equal opportunity to chase a World Championship,” said IHRA President Aaron Polburn. “While the TOC has served that function well by giving us a diverse group of champions each year, we wanted to take it a step further in 2013 by limiting the field to only those that compete on the Pro-Am Tour.

“In researching the tournament field over the past few years we found that most drivers that qualify for the tournament are chasing Pro-Am points anyway, so we took the next logical step by narrowing the field to only include those that do well throughout the season as oppose to someone who does well at one race.

“With this new format we are rewarding those that compete throughout the year on the Pro-Am Tour while still giving those drivers that can’t travel an equal shot at competing for a championship.”

All other Tournament of Champions rules and guidelines will continue to be in effect. For more information on the 2013 Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL visit www.ihra.com/TournamentofChampions.