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Author Topic:   New guy with a few questions
Dirt Roller

Total posts: 5
posted August 10, 2005 12:30 PM  
I'm a nube here on the forum, I've been racing my street car, which happens to be a 84 monte, for a while now. Iím into mostly auto-x and drag racing. I'm pretty familiar with the metric chassis and how to make it handle on the street. I'm thinking about building a dirt track car but, I'm not very familiar with how to make it handle on dirt. After reading the interesting topics on the first 16 pages, I've noticed a few things that go against what I was thinking.

1. You guys run crazy stiff spring rates! I run 700 lb/in on my street car, and thought you would run softer on a dirt track car.

2. You donít run sway bars. I figured any race car would have them.

3. You run weight high in the chassis

4. Your not all that concerned about keeping your center of gravity low

I would ASSume that you would want a soft spring to absorb bumps and a stiff sway bar to fight body roll and help to cover up for the soft springs. I would also ASSume that you would try to get the car as low as possible and to putt all ballast on the left side of the car.

I donít doubt for a second that these strategies work, Iím just trying to understand WHY they work, so I can make an informed decision on how to build my car.

Hereís my parts list as of right now.

Pick up a metric chassis or possibly 3rd gen camaro if legal
I know where I can get a Saginaw 3 speed
Iím going to try to run the stock rear for now using second gear
bilstein or afco shocks (need to figure out good dampening settings)
I need to decide on what offsets for the rims
Iím just gonna run a cammed 350 for a few races till I get up to speed
Steering quickenerÖ.whats your guys suggestions on this
Iím gonna pick up a caster camber guage and do my own alignments (I already have a toe guage)

Any suggestions or comments?

Dirt Maniac

Total posts: 111
posted August 10, 2005 05:17 PM  
Alot of those are based on how the driver likes the car to feel, and how they are comfortable driving and their driving style. I havent really seen soft springs work well, its very rare. Sway bars are one of the driver preference items, some run them some dont. They seem to restrict how much up and down movement the right front has going through the turns, which is also effected by banking. There is no right or wrong setup on paper, it can only be right or wrong by settin in the seat. Some people start with a common "baseline" setup and keep changing parts and tuning from there. You are going to change things no matter how your setup starts, just depends on where you want to start and how it matches your driving style. Yeah, I know there probably wasnt any answers to your questions in that but I dont expect anyone to give you a definate yes or no on anything, just suggestions from past experiences, which sometimes can be worth alot.

Dirt Forum Champ
Total posts: 5390
posted August 10, 2005 05:37 PM  
I will qualify what I am about to say by saying that I have raced in one form or another on dirt for 13 years, and have worked in a performance/racing related business for 7 1/2 years.
"bmmontess" -
1. You are already about a million steps ahead of the competition because you have taken the time to "think" about things. You didn't just buy a junker, throw a cage in it, and think you can win right away.
2. As previously posted, most of what you already know about turing left and right on pavement will be useless. I say mostly though, because the basics of traction, sidebite, and forward bite can all be used to better your handling on a dirt car.
3. Spring rates. Talk to 10 fast racecar drivers, and you will get 10 different answers. In my part of the woods the soft spring / stiff shock combo is gaining momentum on street/super/pro/supertrucks. Guys are putting 125lb springs in the back with a 96 shock and winning. Front springs have ranged from 500lbs to 1400lbs in any given racecar on any given night. Most (I use that term loosely) street stock cars that are limited to stock suspension end up around LF 900, RF 1000, LR 250, RR 225 (assuming a 3000lb car, 50% or more rear). Depending on track conditions (holes, ruts, dry, wet, banking, etc) most street stock drivers elect to carry 3 or 4 rear spring rates with them at the track and change as necessary. Changing the front springs during a night of racing is usually out of the question unless you have weight jacks installed. Why do we use stiffer springs? It seems to be what works, but it sure isn't set in stone...
4. Swaybars. This is a pandora's box that will make some racers foam at the mouth about why you should or shouldn't run them. From my personal experience with sway bars I will never build a car without one. Why? Because if I don't need it that night I will disconnect one side (making it useless and it won't affect the suspension) or take it off (eight bolts) all together. I still want the option on using it on a super SMOOTH dryslick track. Granted, those tracks happen only 4-6 times a year, but at least my gun is loaded and ready while the other guys are still picking there nose. If you determine your driving style likes a tight racecar, then you will love a front swaybar. If the track is rough, super tacky, or you are a racer that likes to "hook the berm", release the swaybar off the left control arm and go race, no harm no foul.
5. Quickners. Don't build a racecar without it, period. I have seen too many racers try and get a way with a "quick box" from a z28 camaro. It ain't enough on a tight bullring track, or where you have to do ALOT of passing.
Hope some of this helps, I will comment on some of you other issues after I eat dinner!

Dirt Forum Champ
Total posts: 753
posted August 10, 2005 09:44 PM  
Let me see if I can help out here, basically OLT hit the nail on the head.

Front sway bars tighten the chassis, I know a few people running them. I run Openwheel Mods and I have tried it before. I didn't like it but thats a driver preference. I have seen plenty run them and win, when I ran stock cars I had one b/c I didn't know anything about them when I first started. I won races with the sway bar, removed it and still won.

Springs: You have to look at springs like this. Not only do they hold the chassis up but when a spring compresses it doesn't just resist upwardly. Meaning when the car dives, the springs help push down on the track, tighter springs on a given corner with normally give more traction to that corner. The metric cars run higher rates than Chevelle stubs because of the ratio arm difference created by the control arms and the spring placement. You will see some cars run unusally light springs, part of the time its a crutch for a bad placement of the front roll center.

The weight being high in the chassis and a therefore high CG is to help the car roll over and "plant" the tires. When the CG is high and the RC is low that creates a longer "moment arm" therefore creating more leaverage for the chassis and more traction. Remember dirt doesn't "bite" like asphalt. We have to make the car bite harder on dirt. So like most everyone has said...take your asphalt knowledge and put it on the back burner for now. But don't forget it, b/c it can help you later.

Steering quickener: one word (if I can spell it right LOL) DEFINATELY!!! if the rules allow it then by all means run it. You'll be glad you did.

Shocks: Bilsteins are a higher quality than most Afco shocks. If you can afford them, then run Bilsteins.

Also you stated about having soft springs with a heavy sway bar fight body dirt body roll is good!!! (to an extent)


[This message has been edited by FlyNLoIMCA17 (edited August 10, 2005).]

[This message has been edited by FlyNLoIMCA17 (edited August 11, 2005).]

Dirt Roller

Total posts: 5
posted August 11, 2005 05:49 AM  
Wow thanks for the fast and complete responses. Iím trying to get a good ďfeelĒ for whatís important on a dirt track car, and Iím finding out real quick itís not what I thought it was. Once I get a good idea of what to look for and what to ask about, Iím going to start snoopingÖ.I mean looking around the pits to get an idea of what works at the local tracks. Right now the only track close is Elkins motor speedway in central WV. I-79 speedway is closed till the owner of Rocket Chassis decides to do something with it. Iíve been up to rocket a few times and that is a first rate shop. I even talked them into sponsoring our Mini Baja buggy at my college.

Has or is anyone on here racing at either of these tracks? Iíd like to find some one local that knows their stuff and pump them for info, but all the guys I know that are racing arenít that bright and donít do that well. Surprisingly the guys at rocket donít know that much about street stock.

Iím finding quite a few cars in the local classifieds for less than 2000$ with a motor and around a 1000$ without. Iím thinking of picking up one of these cars and just fixing what the previous owner did wrong. Is this a good idea? Iím a little concerned about the quality of the welds on the cage, but everything else could be fixed pretty easily as long as the frame isnít bent beyond recognition. I guess getting a bare shell, steering quickener, fuel cell, racing seat, gauges, and springs and shocks for 1000$ isnít that bad, even if I have to strip it and put it all back together.

My goal for my first car is to get something put together that is consistent so I can work on the loose nut behind the wheel. I donít want to be fighting a car thatís diabolically loose or tight, and I donít want something so slow that Iím racing in the rear view mirror. The rules they have posted on the net are pretty vague, so Iím worried this is an outlaw stock class, and that Iíll need a 400 block to be competitive.

Dirt Maniac

Total posts: 136
posted August 11, 2005 07:10 AM  
I had much more experience on a road course before I got on the dirt track.

There is very little knowledge of the overall setup from your asphalt car that will translate to dirt racing.

However, the basic concepts of car setup are the same and can help.

Most rules don't allow sway bars...thus you have to use heavier springs to compensate and you need them to help on the rough track surface.

Shock technology is not that much different, but most classes won't allow an adjustable shock.

The only thing I think I really brought from my road course experience was a feel for the settling of the suspension in the corner.

Good Luck.

JP Motorsports

36 Race Team
Dirt Full Roller

Total posts: 45
posted August 11, 2005 02:12 PM  
rumor has it elkins may close soon you are correct in your thinking on the motor deal bring all you can nothing "stock" runs in the front there too bad about I-79 it was really a nice place Ken Schrader is going to be at elkins tomorrow night would be a good night to go and check out the place and find out if the rumors are true

Dirt Roller

Total posts: 5
posted August 11, 2005 06:29 PM  
Funny you should suggest going tomarrow, the fiance and I have planed to. I hope your wrong about Elkins closing, I would really like to get into this kind of racing. It's basically the only form of racing left in central WV since Fairmont dragway, and I-79 closed. Are you from the area?

That figures about the motors, I'm guessing it would do me good to find a 400 then huh? I know where a few are, but they won't be cheap, and I don't have the heads to build one right, unless I can convince the fiance to give up the double humps that are on her street car.

[This message has been edited by bmmontess (edited August 11, 2005).]

Dirt Forum Champ
Total posts: 968
posted August 11, 2005 08:09 PM  
You're right on target there my friend----talk the fiance out of some double humps!
Man,You was too wide open to pass on that!

Tire Killer
Dirt Full Roller

Total posts: 47
posted August 11, 2005 10:08 PM  

"Fiance" Humm I hope she really likes racing!! Or ya'll might be in trouble right off the bat. Good luck with finding the car you want.

Dirt Roller

Total posts: 5
posted August 12, 2005 04:10 AM  
LOL! Yeah I guess I was open to that one. She's got the "big" chamber humps.... ahh I should stop now before I stick my foot any further in my mouth.

She is into racing, we both drag race quite a bit and it was her suggestion we start planning our dirt track car now that I have job. Only hitch is she probably wants to have her buisness as the sponsor. Of course I can't say no, but something tells me that I'm not gonna get much respect with CLIK CHIK on the side of my car [IMG] She's a photographer.[/IMG]

Dirt Roller

Total posts: 5
posted August 13, 2005 06:26 AM  
We went to Elkins last night, great night of racing. Kenny sucked.....LOL he finished mid pack, but he wasn't in his car so you can't blame the guy. There were a ton of people! I can't believe their are rumors they are going to close down. The anouncer even mentioned that the rumor that they weren't even going to finish this season wasn't true, so there has to be some substance to the track having dificulties.

Here's what I picked up from the stands. Most of these guys have their act together. The field was pretty much half and half metrics and camaros. The monte's seemed to run more offset on the rear and the camaros ran more on the front. It seemed like the camaros were pushing pretty bad early in the night, but got faster as the track go some rubber layed down on it. Smooth is fast on this track, luckily I think you can get by being down on power because of how slick this track is. The real high HP cars weren't pulling on the lower HP guys till the last 20 feet of the strait. If you can get it to hook out of the corners your good to go.

A few more things I thought of that makes more sense. You guys run high spring rates because of the banking...DUH! I don't know what I was thinking, it would be way different if the track was flat and slick. The other and more important thing is dirt is not other words if you transfer more weight to the right side tires it's going to "bite" those tires into the dirt and give you more traction, where on asphalt you would just overload those tires and slide off the track. Things are starting to make sense now, I just hope I have a place to race in the coming years.


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