This was the final points race in the ASCS season but because of the URC/ESS/ASCS race the next night, many teams from the other series came a day early to run this $2000 to win race as well. With 48 really good cars in the pits, the draw was everything. At the ASCS trailer they cranked the bingo ball drum and out rolled a 50 out of 50 numbers in the drum. Only thing left to know was what heat I would start last in. Turned out to be the first heat.
Now weather would not be an issue at this race. The unusual forecast was, for this huge mass of high pressure to provide clear skies and temps in the mid 70's during the day for the whole weekend. Absolutely perfect weather. The track surface was a cushion comb-over that they watered and ran in with the packers. Under that was the icy glaze from the previous night's racing. There were two other small car classes running with us, but nothing that would move any dirt.
When the sprints hit the track, that loose cushion dirt that they had watered and packed into the groove, that 3 inches of heavy wet clay that didn't bond to the hard pan underneath, started peeling up in big clumps. One and two had these irregular lumps that rolled up out of the tacky surface, just up off the bottom groove. This stuff takes out radiators and oil lines if you hit it wrong. Three and four had a field of choppy lumps that covered most of the turn. You had to either run really tight on the bottom or way out around the rough spots. Some would go right through the rough stuff but it was hard on equipment.
With this tacky track, the heat provided little opportunity to pass but I finished 7th after a couple of cars dropped out, and I got by another.
Two B mains were next and we started 7th in the first one with 3 to qualify. The car had been pushy, despite 15" of stagger so we didn't make any changes, expecting the track to come to us. The track was a little better but still really rough in three and four. About mid way in the race, as I entered three on the throttle and adding brakes, the car suddenly turned sideways. I lifted to collect it but the car wasn't steering right. Then another car drove over the left rear, but left me undamaged as I drove forward and was able to get the car into the infield without tearing up anything else.
I got out of the car and looked over the damage to find the LF radius rod bent and broken, the axle moved back and the LF torsion arm had dropped off the axle so the frame was on the ground. The LF shock eye had pulled out and the LR shock mounting stud was sheared off. All that and I hadn't hit anything with the LF. Really not too much damage, considering that three cars behind me were all towed in also.
We looked over the car and what apparently happened was that when I applied the brakes, the LF jerked over the rough track, it overloaded the LF radius rod which bent and broke and then I lost steering when the axle moved back and it turned the car sideways. I was lucky that the cars behind didn't run over me any worse than they did. It was the end of our night, so we made the few repairs and loaded up.
Our tow job was only one of a continuous parade of tow trucks that dragged or suspended damaged race cars back to the pits. Every race had crashes. It was a tough night on equipment.
Rolling Wheels 10-11-08
The previous night's racing here, left us with a smooth track that was watered and packed in early. The moisture usually doesn't hold at this track, but the long straights and wide corners provide plenty of room to race when it gets slick. It's fast and fun to run this big 5/8 mile. Hot laps were flat out for everyone as a nice cushion came in early. The car was neutral and seemed pretty good.
At the URC trailer I drew for a starting spot... 24. Not bad out of 100, that would put us near the front of a heat and give us a chance to make the show. When the lineup was posted I looked to see who else was in the heat. It was a frickin all-star heat... Current URC champion along with ASCS second in points, and other strong ESS and URC cars, AND last year's URC championship car with a driver from Florida, a champion of several series, nationally known for dominating the south.
We started 4th in the first heat. As we came out of four at the green the pack took off and the car inside of me got a good bite and pulled a half car length on me and then immediately moved out to the wall. The boys from Jersey don't cut you any slack. I checked up to avoid getting pinched into the wall and disaster as he chopped me off. When I backed out, I then got passed by the Florida champion. So now I was fifth, and probably headed to the B-main unless something happened ahead of me.
I had a good gap back to the next cars and kept that gap for half the race but then the red came out for a tangle behind me. As they cleared the track, the cold night air cooled my tires but the pressures didn't drop. On the restart, the car was not the same. Three and four were like ice to me. I tried top, bottom and middle, either on the brakes or drive in hard..., the tires would not stick and I dropped back several spots. We just didn't need that red. Maybe it's time to go to bleeders for more consistent tire pressures.
It was another "parade of tow trucks night", as they carried cars back to the pits by the cage in every race. They tore up a bunch of cars. There were three B-mains coming up, with 18 cars each and two to qualify from each. Lots of strong cars to battle and no more than tow money to run the B and not make it. We would have started far enough back that we were only putting ourselves at risk of someone else's problems and more laps on the motor so we decided to save the race ready car for the winter rebuild instead of taking a chance, on this destructive night.
We watched a good race and left with a car in one piece which was more than about a quarter or more of the total 106 teams there, could claim. Yeah, full moon... Time to think about next season.
The ASCS Patriot group put together a good schedule which included a number of high paying shows. The big money brought in many top teams and if you are not on top of your game, those nights are just losers so we didn't plan to go to a few races where even good teams struggle to qualify. The luck of the draw means so much that it can make or break you right there. With the price of gas and tolls, there wasn't much lure to head for an event where you wouldn't get to race. After all the reason we do this is for the fun of racing and enough money to keep things going.
Our last race at Stateline was an improvement over the earlier part of the season. We found that the changes we made, substantially helped make the car more competitive and driveable. Replacing the torsion bars completed the equipment changes that were needed. Then we had to start over with setup because we had gotten way off track trying to compensate for the bars that didn't work.
One other thing that we changed was the front brake pads. A seeming simple item, apparently the pads I had been using had too much bite and would nearly lock up the LF getting into the corner. This would make the car push. The harder pads are now more balanced with the rear brakes and slow the LF, while the rear is braking harder. It helps loosen the rear getting in, a little bit and now the LF pulls the car to the left, helping it turn in. It was a small change in parts but made a big difference in handling. That entry push, was the big problem that ruined a good start in the heat race at Brewerton.
It's tough to work through problems when there is so much time between races. When I raced weekly in PA, the number of races we've run this season would have been completed in a few weeks.
Of course the other major change was getting our good motor back in the car. We wasted Fulton and Canandiagua races to motor troubles and then ran the spare. The spare did surprisingly well on slick tracks but wasted another race night when it blew up at Weedsport. The autopsy of that motor left few organs to transplant. Efforts to rebuild it revealed that two cylinder bores were cracked (junk the block) along with the junk crank and two junk rods and pistons. It turns out that it is more cost effective to go with new rods and pistons, than it would be to buy replacements to the set and adapt them to what remained. The heads on the motor were freshened at the engine shop and will be sold along with the rods and pistons.
So the spare will be a new bottom end matched up with a new set of ASCS heads, the injectors from the blown up motor, a new cam, new oil pump and pan and use the lifters and rockers from the blown motor. Not much left from a motor that only finished a few races for us. The replacement motor will be done by Jimmy D and will be solid, simple and competitive.
In the shop there has been some progress as we have put together some spare front axle assemblies, cleaned up parts to sell and worked on odds and ends.
What remains this season is races at Weedsport on Friday 10/10 and Rolling Wheels on 10/11.
For more great pictures of the event from Jay Fish, visit the link below and view the slide show...
Tomorrow night we're scheduled for Humberstone Speedway.
Black Rock 8-8-08
Jay is a great photographer and loves the sprint cars. He makes it to most of the sprint races around Central New York and posts them on the luvracin.com site. Check out his coverage of other events. He brings the human side to the event with driver portraits along with track action. One of the nicest guys I've met, he's become a good friend at the races.
Weedsport Speedway 7-28-08
Anyway, Weedsport is almost identical to Brewerton (or the other way around) and we were so bad at Brewerton that we had to do something to fix the handling. The only thing in the handling department that we haven't replaced is the torsion bars. The ones we have been using were new last year but... well torsion bars are a mystery.
There's lots of companies making sprint bars and if you talk to 10 racers you get 10 answers about what brand is best or worst and what a bad bar in a car does. I've also talked to several bar manufacturers and a couple manufacturers of torsion bar dynos. A year ago I took all of my torsion bars to a friends race shop that had a torsion bar dyno and after getting some erroneous results found that the expensive dyno would flex and what I was actually reading was the spring rate of the bar plus the spring rate of the dyno frame. To make a long story short, I put all the bars we have on the shelf and bought new ones. There were about three brands that I felt I could trust based on discussions with some teams that are consistently successful. Corky at National Parts Peddler came through and got a good deal for us and dropped the bars off during the week.
So now everything should be a known quantity about the suspension... new frame, new bars, measured shocks... Ok, I have to tell you about the new shock we got. We ordered a couple of new shocks last spring and one of them was screwed up inside when we dyno'd it. It was lucky that we found that problem because when you buy a new anything, you expect it to operate as expected and we would have been so screwed up if we had put it on the car.... So that shock was sent back to the manufacturer and they fixed it, sent it back this week and tried to charge us for the repair. After some discussion, they reluctantly accepted that it had a manufacturing defect when we got it.
They send a dyno sheet with the shock but this adjustable shock has 6 settings and they only checked it on the two lowest settings. Well that sucks, if you don't have a dyno. Fortunately, my friends in PA do have a dyno and checked it for me. The results were marginal. It is adjustable from a "6" rate to "11" rate (these are arbitrary numbers used by shock mfgrs to denote the stiffness).
This shock rated correctly as a 6 when adjusted to 6 but each setting beyond that was about 50% or more higher than it should have been so that by the time you got to setting 11 it was more like 18 and that's stiff enough for a loaded dump truck, not a 1300 lb sprint car. What we ended up with is a shock that is over twice as stiff as it should be at the high end and although linear, it is hugely stiff. So knowing this, the real 6 to 11 range is covered by adjusting from the 6 to 8 setting, but it's even more screwed up than that because at each setting, the 1 inch per second rate increases normally but the 3 inch per second rate increases nearly exponentially. That just makes things more complicated. We can use the shock in the low settings and I think it will do what we want it to do but I'm so fed up with expensive new stuff being junk that I'm probably going to get rid of all our shocks and buy a few of the ridiculously expensive custom shocks because that's the only way I can be sure of getting something that is what it should be. The fast guys have all migrated to the high end shocks and I guess we will have to also. The proliferation of shock dyno's will hopefully make the shock manufacturers honest or go out of business. I would stay with the simple, standard, shock if they were usable but out of the 37 shocks we have, there are only a handful that come close to being right or anything that we can use... including brand new ones!
Greg and I spent an evening putting the new torsion bars in the car with a setup that we think will work for the hard 90 degree turn at the end of the front straight, to eliminate the corner entry push we had at Brewerton.
I picked up our good motor from Jimmy D but didn't have time to put it in the car and we decided to run the backup motor one more race. With the slick track that usually develops at Weedsport, we thought the softer motor might actually work better, like taking gear out to keep the tires hooked up.
At the track, the moisture was holding to make a sticky surface for the heats. The car had worked good in hot laps and we were ready for the pole starting position we had in heat #2, thanks to a pill draw of 4. The eventual feature winner started outside of me and when we both got on it coming out of four, he pulled 4 car lengths on me... it was all motor (note: soft motor not so good on tacky track).
I stayed in second until a caution and then on the restart I got into one a little to hard and skated up off the bottom. I had to wait for the car to hook up as I drifted up into the slick groove and watched the third place car work the tacky bottom under me. I raced in to the third turn in third and finished there. That put us in the dash. The Patriot format takes the top 8 in passing points and has them draw for feature starting position. 9th through 14th run a dash for some extra money, to get a chance to try out some setup changes and race for starting positions 9 to 14.
In the 4 lap dash we stared 5th of 6 with a bunch of good cars that had bad draws from the heats. I ran 5th for three laps and then coming out of two the car lost power and started shaking in a way you only recognize if you have had a motor come apart before. It's a feeling I haven't felt since the late 80's. We've been very lucky with motors and this is the first real blown motor since I started racing again.
This motor had not felt very crisp all night but that wasn't the cause of the trouble. I've never had the pan off since I bought it used, but from the times I've run it, it was clear that the pan didn't have very good oil control. Sometimes on braking at corner entry I would see the oil light flash. I would glance at the oil pressure and see that it was around 30 lbs. On this night I saw it happen a couple of times in the heat race as the car loaded into the sweeping, closing radius, third turn. I added some oil before the dash, to raise the level in the pan, but the damage must have already been done. The track was fast in the heat and I could get around three and four, almost without lifting. Either the oil was all up in the top of the engine and didn't drain back fast enough or it was sloshing forward over the baffles, and the pick up sucked some air with the motor under full load at high RPM.
When I rolled to a stop in the infield, Greg picked me up with the 4-wheeler and pushed me back to the trailer. I could tell by the smell that we had burned a bearing... all that was left was to look for the hole. Greg had the hood off but I knew the problem was down below. I got the flashlight... it was either #3 or #4 rod that came apart... you could tell by where the finger sized hole was in the side of the pan, next to the bottom of the block.
Monday morning update: The inside looked just like I expected... #4 rod was cut off at the knees up in the piston and the rest of it was in the pan. The crank had hammered the pieces enough that the crank was scrap. Without taking it completely apart yet, it looks like two rods, two pistons and the crank are the major losses.
As I took a wider look I noticed that the oil pick up on the wet sump pump was flopping around. The bolt that holds it in place had backed out of the oil pump and the bolt was laying in the pan along with the remains of the rod. Another weird part was the angle bolt from a main bearing cap had come out and was in the pan but not the cap next to the damage, it was the next one back. The other bolt on that cap was loose but the two studs were tight. So what was that about? The bolt was perfect and had not been hit so it looks like it just fell out.
The real killer here I think is the bolt that came out of the bracket that held the oil pump pick up in place. Without the bolt, that pick up could swing around and the tube could slide forward in the inlet hole in the pump. It looks like the loose pickup allowed the pump to suck air, either at the pickup inlet or at the pump inlet. Or maybe the pickup would suck down to the bottom of the pan and restrict the amount of oil flow. Either way, that looks like the reason for the oil pressure light and the oil starvation that caused the bearing to burn up. Then the crank hammered the loose rod apart and when the rod finally came off the crank, the cylinder fires and the piston is pushed down into the crank and that let the crank wack the side of the remainder of the rod, knocking out a section of the bottom of the cylinder in the block and slamming the piston back up the cylinder in to the valves and head. I'll take a look at the heads and valve train later.
The opposite cylinder always gets beat up with these failures as parts are kicked around by the crankshaft blender for a few seconds. At 6000 rpm, it's rotating at 100 times per second so the explosive damage cycle doesn't give much warning or last very long. The damage appears to be isolated to cylinders 3 and 4. I screwed the bolt, that was in the pan, back into the oil pump and found that it was short and only engaged a couple of threads. There was no room for a lock washer and the assembler had not used loctite or safety wired the bolt. It appears that the root cause of the failure is the loose pickup caused by poor assembly. I bought this motor complete and used it as I got it.
So at this point, I have a fresh strong motor to drop in a car that seems to be handling better. The spare motor did get us through a few races but was in need of a power upgrade. I'll salvage the pieces from the bottom end and have Jimmy D put another motor together with what's left of this spare and use the new ASCS heads that I picked up last fall. When we're done we will have a good strong second motor.
For the heavy track we put fifteen inches of stagger on the car and loosened up the chassis as much as we could. I went out in the second set of hot laps and was surprised how smooth the track was and how little was being scuffed off. The track was sticky but the cushion was loose and not very deep. Even with everything we did to loosen up the car, it was still too tight. Going into one, the car pushed straight on and wouldn't turn in. I tried the cushion and the front end pushed up over the cushion and trying to come off the corner in the loose stuff was not fast. We expected that the track would loosen up some for the heat. There wasn't much we could do to loosen the car getting in so we didn't change the car.
I drew a 16 and that put us outside of the second row in heat one. I felt that I had a good chance to finish first or second. At the green I charge into one on the cushion and the car pushes bad and I loose a couple spots. Next lap, when I drive into one and turn, the car goes straight up the banking and over the cushion. It went straight for so long that I thought it wasn't going to turn at all! I had to get it slowed way down to get it to turn above the cushion and by then everyone had gone by. I went to the bottom and tried some things but couldn't get back past anyone.
Greg, Whip and I discussed what to do. We'd have to run the B main and do something to make the car better. The track was getting drier and the cushion was at the top of the track and very loose. The track was coming to us but still had lots of bite. There wasn't much we could do to loosen the car more than it was. We had a bunch of stagger and had the car tied down with shocks to help the car turn in. That corner entry push was a real puzzle. So after a lot of head scratching, we decided to not take a chance on being too loose because the track was going to get looser. So we left the setup alone but went to a lower gear to get off the corner better. 10 cars in the B and 6 qualify. We started 5th.
Into the first turn I raced side by side with the car on the outside but as the front end started to push up off the bottom, I had to back out to keep from getting into the outside car and he pulled ahead. The rest of the race I could get under the car in front but couldn't get by. We finished 6th and would start last in the feature.
Greg, Whip and I scratched our heads some more but didn't have a good answer or much time. We made a few small changes, but left the setup the same because we didn't want to make it any tighter. This setup _should_ make the car loose getting in and so far it had not been a problem coming out so all we could do was hope the track would come to us.
Starting last in the feature, you have to make sure that you dodge any problems that happen in front of you. In the first turn of the first lap a couple of cars got together and after the clean up we had a clean restart. The car was still tight-in and so I had to either go in really slow to stay on the bottom or throw it in... neither way was fast. I was a little better than some of the cars in front of me and passed some cars but we weren't as fast as the leaders, we got lapped and finished 15th. I had fun running the track and felt good about driving hard, racing and passing cars but we still have to get a combination that works better than this, to run up front.
Our primary motor will be back from Jimmy D's shop in a week.
After washing the car, we make some changes to the motor and check the chassis set up. We find a like new tire in their dead tire pile that they won't use because it has a pin hole in it. I can fix that... we've run patched tires before without problems. One more tire choice to put on the trailer.
The forecast remains 50/50 and radar shows storm cells heading for the track but we're here to race and head further west to Eriez Speedway. We ran this track at the end of May and had a good race except for a push that was caused by a rough ridge in the groove and what we think was a chassis setup that allowed the RF shock to bottom out in the ruts. The resulting RF bounding and push cost us a lot of positions. We changed the setup for this race with extra attention to the RF shock travel.
At the pit gate, it was sprinkling and dark clouds were at our back. We waited outside until the last minute and then decided that the clearing skies might give us a chance to race. The promoter was going to get us on the track as soon as possible and gave us a hot lap session on the freshly packed track. The surface was in very good shape and scuffed off to a smooth wide surface. I drew a 19 but ended up in a difficult heat.
I started third but couldn't hold off two very strong cars that took the cushion past in one and two. I could stay with them but on a track with good bite, everyone was fast and the fast guys didn't even make any more progress.
The weather cleared and at feature time, the track was smooth and dry but still had good bite. I would start 15th. At the drop of the green we charged into turn one... I was on the lookout for trouble, as the outside row had to deal with a dry loose cushion. I planned an escape route off the bottom. There was some wheel banging but everyone made it through.
Down the backstretch I got together with the car beside me. We were both lucky that neither of us got over the other's tire. The nerf bar did its job but took a beating. In the row in front of me was the squirrel from the night before and he drove this track the same as he had, the last... high on the squirrel meter (see Stateline below) . I went to the top and could get a run at him going in, but the top of two and four had nothing to match the bite he got off the bottom. I was a bit faster than him but not enough to make a charge that would get fully beside him enough to make him change his line. Again I had to wait for a mistake as we ran nose to tail.
This motor was definitely different from the other motor and needed more gear. We had gone one set lower and debated going one more set lower but didn't really know how the motor would work out in the feature. We decided that the track would slick off and that the higher gear might be better. As it turned out, the track did slick off, coming out of the corners, but we still could have used more gear. I tried top, bottom and middle but never found a faster line.
On the last lap, turn four, the squirrel made a mistake and got out of shape coming to the checker. I drove up beside him and passed him as we crossed the line. At least that's how it looked to me but in the end, I was about a foot short. If that had happened a lap sooner, I would have cleared him in turn one and had the satisfaction of finishing ahead of him but ... We finished 13th.
I didn't make much headway during the feature but no one ahead of me did either. The race went mostly without incident. Except for a late caution, the leaders were only 1/2 lap ahead all race which wasn't much further to the front than a single file restart. The track was good and everyone was fast, but for us, a little more gear might have helped get by the squirrel and maybe the next car. This chassis is now working pretty good and now that we know what our shocks really are, we are able to actually make adjustments that do what we think they should do. With this car I can run different lines without wondering where the car is going to go.
This would be the first outing for the spare motor. It has been sitting "in waiting" for a couple of years. We've been lucky to not have motor trouble since we had Jimmy D build the primary motor for us. This spare is an unknown, however, but based on the parts it has in it, we expect it to be acceptable. We've been to this track a number of times and realize that the tight turns and long straights could be a competitive challenge for the motor. But it's better than nothing and we'll adjust to it's ability.
At the track the weather is threatening. The track had been tore up and watered and is rough as a corn field. The plan is to hustle our races through before it rains. We hit the raw track in hot laps and peel back some of the clumps in the turns and rattle down the lumpy straights. The motor is really pretty good. It's a little soft coming off the corners but that might work out ok, as this track usually gets slick at corner exits later on.
The sky is black and there is lightening in a storm that passes close-by but misses us. The promoter runs two classes of heats and then sends us out. My draw of 45 puts us last in the heat. On the start I pass one car on the outside and chase the next car in line. He's a rookie with us but has a lot of experience in mini sprints. His young aggression is either geared to block me or is just wild driving. Either way, he he's pushing the needle high, on the squirrel meter.
When I get a run on the outside coming out, he goes to the wall and I have to back out. He swings wide into the corners and then cuts across the bottom cutting me off when I dive in low. The only safe way is to drive in on the top and try to beat him through the corner. The bottom is very tacky and he always gets a good bite coming out. I could drive in deep, very low but if I don't get in deep enough to make him stay high, he'll just chop me in the middle.
On top of all of this is the rough track that is throwing the cars off their line as they push and twitch and dart in the corners. Unless this guy makes a mistake and leaves a hole, it's not worth tangling with him as everyone will make the feature. Our effort in the heat will start us 12th in the feature. Officials come around and tell us that we are up in 15 minutes following the third heat. Greg and I discuss the car and the track and make some changes.
Huge, billowing clouds, tower over the grandstands as the temperature drops and the wind shifts toward us. The big drops start coming and Greg and I finish getting everything out of the weather. In ten minutes the track is lost and everyone is heading out. The promoter agreed to bring us back next week for the feature and a new complete show. We head to Zimbardi's where we will sleep and work on the car the next day.
We looked at the weather all week and saw a forecast of rain for the Friday night show. We already towed 3 hrs to one rain out this season so as the weekend approached, the threat of rain continued to be forecast, and Greg and I decided not to take a chance on this one. As it turned out, a storm came through on Friday afternoon and they pulled the plug early. Score one for us.
This week we headed to Canadaigua, only a couple of hours to the west for us. This was day two of sauna room weather with temps in the 90's and humidity not far behind. The AC works in the truck so it was comfortable on the road (actually, it works because I came up with a timer to cycle the compressor on and off in a bypass circuit to replace what isn't working on the dash). 29 cars showed up for this Sprint Car event that was supported with 3 other classes. Putting the ASCS Patriots on top of the card with some support classes is a major endorsement of the series as Canadaigua is a track that is leased and promoted by WRGI (World Racing Group Inc., formerly DIRT, Inc., etc), the owners of The World of Outlaws, etc. It was a warm, clear night and the stands were 80% full. It was a good crowd and they had come to see sprint cars while the regular DIRT modifieds were on tour somewhere.
Without a bunch of heavy, big block modifieds to over work this big half mile, and with the high humidity, the track surface was pretty good. The water they spread doesn't soak much into the glaze from last week's race but is held in place by the inch of loose cushion that they had graded back across the glaze.
I always get my motor started and warmed up in the pits before any high speed laps but for some reason at this track they won't let you start your motor on the track and let it run in the pits. The NY tracks don't understand sprint cars and expect that three laps on the track is enough to warm up a dead cold motor. To get around this at all other tracks, I try to be the first in line for the first hot lap session, get pushed off and then pull back into the pits and wait in line, with the motor running, for the second session. By the time I get to the track for the second session, the motor is up to temp and the oil pressure has dropped indicating that the oil has warmed up too. But even with the motor warmed up, as soon as the car moves on the track, the water temp goes way down as air moves through the radiator. I set the motor up so that it will cool on cautions so it doesn't warm up much just running slow around the track.
So I was first out for the second session and tried to get some heat in the motor but even with a lean setting on the dialajet, it was colder than it should be when they dropped the green for our two quick laps. The car felt pretty good on the tacky track and we decided to not change anything for the heat.
My draw of 19 wasn't too bad and it put me 4th in the third heat. Turn four at this track is very narrow. As you enter four, the inside wall to the peak of the shallow banking is only two cars wide at the most. Then it's flat and then it actually has negative banking toward the outside wall. The track looks really wide there until you look at turn, four from between the turns. The other thing that happens on four is that a nasty ridge builds up above the bottom groove, early, that is right in the middle of the second groove. If you hit it wrong with the RR, it turns the car toward the outside wall. Starting on the outside of row two, and behind and beside rookies, made me a bit cautious as we charged toward that ridge at the start of the heat. I laid back a bit at the start off four to make sure I had some room in case anyone got squirreled up coming out of four and ended up in a tangle in front of me.. The start went OK and I drove into one on the outside. The tacky surface gave a good run to the car on the bottom and I fell in line in fourth. A couple of laps later, the third place car spun in front of me and I went low and avoided him as he backed up the slight banking of the wide turn two. On the restart I ran a tight third and then started to see oil and smoke coming out of the hood. The engine didn't feel much different and I thought that maybe a valve cover gasket was leaking so with only had a few laps left so I decided to back off some and finish so that I'd have a shot at being qualified for the feature and deal with the engine problem in the pits. The oil got worse and when the race ended, I was out of tearoffs.
In the pits, Greg pulled the hood off and started removing spark plugs. I got my helmet off and pulled out the leak tester to find out what was going on in the cylinders. Jimmy D, the engine builder, was at the track and showed up immediately. The oil had come out of the breathers and coated every thing on the top side of the motor. I checked cylinders on the left side and none showed any serious problems but when I got to #6, on the right side, there was no compression to even find top dead center. So we burned or scuffed a piston or destroyed the rings or something in that cylinder. Could have been due to the lack of warm up before hot laps or it could have been a weakening due to the timing problems I had earlier is the season but certainly the lack of warmup didn't help. This is my first motor failure in 5 yrs and over 60 races on this motor (two Jimmy D rebuilds with rings and bearings, the only new parts needed). This has been a very good motor and I've tried to be good to it.
Greg and I loaded up and watched the feature from the stands. I didn't want to take the green for the feature and risk further motor damage, even though I was still qualified to start. The track made for a good race with a slick middle, some bite on the bottom and a nice cushion that the leaders could banzai without lifting. The fans saw a good race with lots of passing.
I pulled the motor Sunday morning and dropped it off Monday at noon for Jimmy to work on. Hopefully it's not damaged too much and we can get parts quickly.
In the meantime, I have a spare motor that we picked up from Zimbardi a couple of years ago. We had it in the spare car and have started it but never raced it so we plan to drop it into the car we've been racing and give it a try.
I drew a 2 pill and would start on the pole for the heat.
It rained before we ever got on the track. We towed home.
The test sessions run off fast and the limited time between runs makes it hard to do much broad thinking. The few times on the track don't provide many chances to try different things.
So with the motor stumbling and breaking up it sure was a weird one to diagnose. It seemed like it was really rich at low end and really lean at high end. I had pre-adjusted things ready to swap into the fuel system for the tests and we tried them all. When on the track, I swept the dial-a-jet over a wide range of pill settings.
With all the changes, I could make the engine run different, but never much better. I figured that I just couldn't hit the combination or that there was something I just didn't know about that would fix it, so after the test at Fulton I was ready for the dyno.
I called H&G and talked to Gus and he could take me in a couple of weeks. Gus is really sharp on these ASCS motors and I wanted to go back there with this motor so that I could compare the new numbers with the ones from before on this motor.
The ASCS opener would happen at Fulton before I could get to the dyno. I discussed the problem with Gus and he made some suggestions that I put in place to try at the race.
It looked like a certain rainout for days but as the time to leave for the track arrived, it was uncertain when it would rain. At the track it hadn't rained and the weather didn't look to bad. Even with all the threatening weather, 34 cars showed up.
The track was already worked in but the moisture wasn't very deep, as usual. I drew a 21 which put us 3rd in the second of four heats. I told Greg that if the motor wasn't right, I was pulling in. I buzzed a corner after I was pushed off and the motor still stumbled but I thought it might have enough power to race so I lined up third. In one lap I was last. I tried some different pill settings for a lap or two and pulled in. "We're parked", I told Greg. " I am out of ideas. We're going to have to go to the dyno".
Cousin Tommy started third in his heat and passed some stout cars to win the heat, despite several restarts. When he pulled into the pits he found the RR birdcage (axle bearing and housing) had complete come apart and was dangling on the damaged axle. He had a spare rear but no birdcages and neither did I so Greg jacked up the car and we removed ours to use, as they scrambled to get Tommy's car back together.
It's amazing that when minor adjustments seem to make a difference that a car can run as good as his did with everything screwed up.
All the qualifying races were run and as they lined up for the feature, the rain finally came and put and end to the night. Greg and I drove home, unloaded the car and pulled the motor.
Sunday morning I got up and went into the shop to get everything cleaned up and ready to load up for a trip to PA next weekend for my scheduled day long session with Gus and his dyno at H&G. Gus is a great guy to work with. You do all the work on the motor and that way you learn what your adjustments do when you see the results of a run. Gus has been at this long enough that he's seen most everything and can really guide you toward a solution without a lot of guessing and dead ends. He's one of the best engine builders I've worked with (and this isn't even his engine).
I decided to go though everything on the motor and make up a pre-dyno sheet with all the settings and specs so that Gus could look it over while I'm mounting the engine on the dyno. I pressure washed the engine and then checked the valves settings, springs, leak tested the cylinders and barrel valve, cleaned the nozzles, checked spark gap and timing and ...wait a minute... the timing was way off. I checked again and again and pondered what I found. Son of a .......
Setting the ignition timing can be tricky but it's one of the things that I can do in my sleep. I've set it in the shop for years and it's always been perfect at the track. Timing has never been an issue for me. I've shown many people my method. I'm proud of how Duval and I quickly changed mags and set the timing during a red flag at Port Royal once.
What stupidity. Double stupidity... once for screwing up and again for not checking. Apparently with all the focus and aggravation of getting this injection to fit along with the fact that I didn't have to touch a mag since last summer, I wasn't paying attention and turned the mag the wrong way to find the "points opening" position. I usually then double check the timing by turning the motor over slowly and making sure that the points open right on the timing mark. I should have checked timing when the motor didn't run right at Brewerton.
But it's easy to get focused on something and rule out other variables. If the motors doesn't run right, what changed? Well the obvious answer is... the Injectors... so that must be where the problem is... right? Well yeah, but I had the mag out too! It's not like I didn't think about the mag. I've had mags go bad just sitting in a box over the winter, but I didn't think that changing mags would solve the problem because it didn't feel like an ignition problem to me. I also thought about changing fuel pumps but everything ran ok last year and I removed all the fuel and filled the pump with Mystery Oil for the winter so I really didn't suspect it either.
Of course if I had changed mags, I probably would have set the timing correctly on the replacement and then figured the other one was bad and sent it out for rebuild. I would have either spent money on unneeded shipping and testing where they find nothing wrong or they would have replaced the coil, points and condenser, figuring that something was intermittent and charged me $500.
I know that when I have a problem where everything seems right but something is wrong that I have to take nothing for granted. That's when I have to step back and "Assume Nothing - Check Everything". Maybe I should add Change Everything too..... or not.
One thing that I did get to do was dyno all of my shocks and chart them against the standards set up by the shock companies. The results... they shouldn't bother to stamp a shock rate on the part. They were all over the place. The rates might be close at one shaft speed but way different from what it should be, at another. The differences in actual pounds of force were off by 50% to 200%. I even tested some brand new shocks and they were close at one speed but way off at others. One wasn't even close.
The shock manufacturers apparently design a shock, determine what parts it took to make the prototype and than mass produce those pieces for shock production. Apparently the problem is that when the things are assembled there are enough small differences that the manufactured ones vary. Now, some of the shocks are coming with dyno sheets but even at that, they are only close at one shaft speed. It's like a grab bag sale. You buy a shock but you don't know what you have until you open the bag and test it.
My feeling on this is that we will use what we have based on the rates that they really are instead of what they were supposed to be. I tested 33 shocks and did not find any that we wanted for LF or LR. All the rest of the shocks were combinations that we might be able to use on the right side but even there, we only had a handful that actually measured out to be what we wanted. What we did find was that the one adjustable unit we had, actually allowed us to set it to what we wanted. The team whose dyno I used had found the same thing about adjustables being much more consistent at different speeds.
The adjustables have pluses and minuses. The plus is that one adjustable can replace 4 or 5 standard shocks. The minus is that they cost twice or more what a regular shock costs. I guess you would spend less in total for a bunch of adjustables if you were starting from scratch. The other minus here is that if you crash the shock, you loose twice as much and wipe out a bunch of shock rate choices. The performance issues are really the main consideration though and having shocks that are what you expect them to be is very important. So we ordered some left side adjustables.
Another unknown for this season is the different set of injectors that we put on our primary motor. If it gets more air in the cylinder, then it should need more fuel (and make more power). But it's never that simple. There will be different amounts of air volume, but the amount of the change will vary with rpm. Setting up the fuel system is best done on the dyno but can be pretty close by the seat of your pants testing on the track.
So test day comes at Brewerton. Usually the track is dry and not fast (as it was last time we did opening day practice) so we set up for slick. Of course the track was wet and heavy.
First session on the track and the motor was way off. Nothing off the turns and crackling at the end of the short straights. I tried different dial-a-jet settings and that really didn't make it any better. I was hoping that the dialajet would give me some clues. A cushion was building in the turns and my slick setup let the car bicycle in turn one. I stayed away from the cushion after that.
Not much time in the pits but I made some changes to the barrel valve and high speed bypass valve and we loosened the car up a bit. Next session- motor was not much better so we made some more adjustments. Last session and it was still way off.
In the shop I measured the settings we had gone to on the barrel valve and bypass and got on the phone with Gus at H&G, (where we had dyno'd the engine last). He gave me some ideas of what to try so we decided to go to Fulton for their test session.
I hadn't rained for more than a week and when we got there, it was clear that they hadn't put much water on the track and after about 5 laps of the modifieds on the track, the dust was billowing so bad that you couldn't see the cars. It was ridiculous.
Fortunately there were only 3 sprints but even at that, I stayed back a half lap and still couldn't see when I got to the turn. Even with a light wind, it didn't clear the corner. The dust was as bad as the worst blinding snow storm I can remember. The picture shows the dust when you could see.
We tried a lot of fuel changes and got a lot better but never got the motor completely right and then we ran out of time and they shut down the session and everyone left.
After some more discussions with Gus with the info from the tests, I have a better idea of what to do and I think it will be right for the first race at Fulton on May 3rd. Gus's dyno is down for repairs right now but will be fixed after the Fulton race. If I can't get the motor dialed in at Fulton, then it's off to PA with the motor the next weekend (no race scheduled).
A positive note from Fulton was the handling. This and Brewerton was the first time out with the new chassis and it felt great. Even on this loose, dry surface, I could really drive it in hard and it stuck pretty good and came off pretty good. It was balanced and neutral even though we were so busy working on engine adjustments that we never had time to play with the chassis outside of dropping RR air pressure.
All in all, I was encouraged by the handling and made progress in the right direction with the engine. The handling improvements I will chalk up to the new frame and shock choices based on real measurement. I think we will be OK to race.
The main project has been putting the car together on the new frame. It is surprising how this 2008 chassis is identical to the 2002 that we used last year. It means that no one has found anything that makes the cars faster. I think that is a good thing. One of the strengths of the sprint car is it's longevity. The saturation of technology has leveled the playing field. The chassis has been refined for so long that no one has found anything better and everyone has settled on a similar configuration.
There are a few builders that will continually experiment to try to come up with something that will make the car faster but no one has built a "killer" car yet. If they did, it would be copied in a few months and then everyone who could afford to change would have one. And that's the problem that has been avoided so far. If a chassis becomes uncompetitive, it loses it's value. Teams must spend to get the latest. That may be enough for some teams to just quit racing and other teams to just remain uncompetitive. With things remaining stable (and without rules having to force the issue) teams can concentrate on racing on the track instead of in the shop or at the bank. Stability is a good thing for the sport.
On the other front, it seems that there are always gains to be made in horsepower. When ASCS began with it's spec head and 2 3/16 injector, motors were about 600 to 625 hp. Now they are up to about 710 hp while using the same spec heads. That's about where 410s were 10 years ago. Changes in the injectors have improved the efficiency on the intake side and cams have followed to take advantage of the increased air flow. Refinements continue and improvements have not hit a wall yet. So each year, motor builders are getting a little more out of the same basic motor.
What all of this means for our team is that we are making some changes in hopes of gaining the slight improvement we need to get to the front. Yes we want to be faster than the other cars and for us we feel that a fresh frame will work better for us so that our adjustments will work better. The frame we were using was perfectly straight but we couldn't make our setups work, so we are making a change. The old frame may work fine for someone else's setup and driving style.
Greg has fabricated some fresh side panels and a new radiator box, screen and guard. We've rebuilt some damaged wings and freshened up the running gear for the new car. By mid March, we're ready for the motor. We picked up a different set of injectors for the motor that should give us more power than the set we had been using. Typically putting a set of injectors on the motor is a pretty straight forward process..... but not this time.
The Kinsler injectors are different from the Hilborn injectors in many ways. There is a lot of quality in the way the Kinsler set is made. The three piece design makes installation more involved and time consuming but matches up better with the ports in the head. There is a separate injector body for the right and left bank and a cover plate that goes between them to cover the lifter valley. The cover has to be bolted to the block and the side gap to the injectors is filled with silicone.
On our motor, the bolt holes in the cover, just barely landed on the rails of the block and it took a lot of work to align the cover so that holes could be drilled and tapped in the block at the edge of those rails. Also, a slot had to be machined in each injector body for a center feed water line that comes out of the heads. It was a very involved process to set up the mill to cut that 3/4 " slot. Then with the pieces clean and on the bench, silicone is applied where the parts will meet and the parts are put on the motor and the silicone allowed to cure. Then the injectors are removed and more silicone is applied to gasket surfaces for final installation. Then the barrel valve, linkages and lines are installed. Sounds simple but there is a lot of cleaning and tinkering and it is very time consuming. Took a very long day's worth of work, over a couple of days, to finish. So now with the injectors fully installed, I drop the magneto ignition in and it wouldn't go. After looking things over, I found that the hole for the mag was misaligned with the rest of the pathway in the block. Not by much but it will probably take .050 to clear. Also, the mag hits the left bank of the injectors.
What a bummer.
Everything has to come apart, silicone scraped off all surfaces, the cover plate slotted on the mill and the injector body clearanced with a die grinder. all parts cleaned and put back together. Nothin's easy.
So work continues as we get ready for the upcoming season. Big worries ahead are the price of gas and methanol fuel. Fuel has gone from 2.30 to $4.00 per gal. The price of gas (fortunately not diesel for us) is always a big part of the cost to race for us with many races four to 5 hour tows. For now all the effort is confined to the shop but soon we'll be on the dirt.
We have been working on our equipment a step at a time. The first
Next project is putting a car together on the 2008 J&J frame we
We also dropped our trailer off for Steve Miller to straighten and
When the rear engine cars replaced the Roadster at Indy, those cars
ended up becoming supermodifieds at Oswego and other tracks around the country.
Steve has been doing this restoration work for many years and has learned the arts of the fabrication methods of the of the day from many of the original car builders that are still around. There were only a hundred or so Indy Roadsters ever built and Steve's work is an extremely important part of the history of Indy racing.