It’s an old adage is racing, preparation is key to going fast at the track with a racecar. For years teams have spent time in the shop fine-tuning setups on racecars and then heading to the racetrack in hopes that their theories would work. They would only hope that none of the suspension would bind up or drag on the racetrack when the car would enter the corner. That time is about to change.
It’s all about “attitude.” And we’re not talking about a cocky racer who thinks the fastest car out there or even the one who is pissed off that his set up didn’t work. What we are referring to is the mechanical attitude of the racecar while it is turning on the racetrack.
How many times have you heard racers talk about the word attitude? Is the nose to the ground? Is the weight transfer resting on the right front tire, or the right rear? There are numerous different ways to decipher attitude of a racecar on the track, but there is really no specific way to check the attitude in the shop.
If you have ever seen a bunch of heavy guys putting all their weight on the front end of a Late Model or Modified, it’s the front geometry attitude of the racecar that the team is checking. But there are so many variables that don’t get accounted for by doing just that.
In the big leagues of NASCAR, you’ve probably heard of some teams speak of a “Pull-Down” rig? Sounds complicated and expensive, but it’s rather simple and could actually save teams money.
The philosophy of a pull down rig is simple – it pulls the car down to where it will be riding in the turns of a particular racetrack.
But the purpose of the pull-down rig is where all the acquired knowledge is learned.
“The purpose is to look at the car as it is on the race track, so that you can see what the springs are doing; you know how much shock travel you’re getting, you’re ground clearances and so forth,” said Mark Smith, the chassis specialist at BSR in Concord, NC. “We can eliminate binding at the chassis pivot points, sway bar heims, tie rod and ball joint connections. With this machine, we are able to look at the race cars at race ride heights. This enables us to fix the springs so that they are in line and the travel of each spring is maximized.
“This machine is used on scale pads, so you are able to see what your wedge and front to rear percentages are at race ride heights. This is important because some problems may occur from too much gain in wedge as the race car goes through race travels.”
Smith points out that teams can either purchase the nearly $80,000 Mitler Bros unit or rent time by the hour with Smith’s assistance. The current rate to put your car on the machine is $100 an hour.
During a TV piece on SPEED during Preseason Thunder, upper-echelon NASCAR teams spoke about how using a pull-down rig is a good alternative to track-time. In the end, it’s more reasonable. You don’t have to rent a track and spend money on fuel and tires. You have no chance at destroying your equipment and you can climb under the car to check things such as a-arm angles, clearances and camber gain in the proper ride heights for the racetrack you are going to. That is also something you cannot do when a racecar is travelling around the track at speed.
“This is one of a few ways that you can help yourself to be more prepared when you get to the race track. You don’t have to buy a bunch of tires. Here you’re just pulling it down and seeing what changes do. You know then when you take it to the race track you’re ready. You already know what the changes are going to do; now it’s just a matter of seeing what the stopwatch does. It makes your time in practice more efficient. You already know what you have and it’s a lot cheaper (than physical testing). Some short track teams are using these types of machines and all the big NASCAR teams do.”
Hughes Motorsports in North Carolina will be competing in the new NASCAR Pro Late Model weekly series at Concord Speedway (NC). The team hasn’t even hit the track with the car and its driver Bobby Measmer Jr., but after putting a few setups on the car and taking it to use the Mitler Bros. Pull-Down unit at BSR, they feel they are already better prepared for the March 28th opener.
“It was definitely an advantage to us because it was like a test session in itself,” said Measmer. “We got to try whatever we wanted; a bunch of spring and shock packages and all in a controlled environment.
“We got a lot of information about what the springs are doing with a coil-bind or bump-stop setup. And now we can go to the track with a baseline, but still know how certain changes we might try will affect the car. It’s good because with that machine, you can work specifically on one part of the car at a time because you can pull down only one corner at a time if that’s what you want to do. We are definitely ahead of the game now.”
Going fast is what it’s all about and preparation has always been essential to that. Now teams have one more alternative to help them achieve both goals.
“Being a local small local team with a limited budget, track time comes at a premium for us,” said Hughes Motorsports team owner Kevin Hughes. “Utilizing the pull-down rig at BSR enabled us to check all our clearances and chassis angles prior to actually getting on the track. Too many times, teams find that they suffer from possible clearance issues, or chassis bind instances that severely limit the time they have on track, or worse yet, cause mechanical failures. We were able to put the chassis thru its full travel, and slightly modify our initial set-up as needed. Mark at BSR has plenty of experience, and was able to help us understand the data from the test and make the correct changes. We are now confident that our first track test will be spent working on making the car faster rather than trouble shooting chassis problems.”