There is no such thing as a safe racecar. Racecars are designed to go as fast as possible within the limits of the applicable sanctioning rules and the laws of nature. There will certainly be safety problems that come with that whole scenario. What we can do is try to make our cars as safe as possible and hope for the best. We can always have a safe-er racecar. Some of the material presented here you might have seen before, but as in many aspects of racing technology, we need to be reminded often about areas of special concern, and safety is a very special area. We will concern ourselves with the higher priority items, ones that can be fatal. While there have always been fatal accidents in racing, there are certain periods that stand out. The ’80s in Northeast modified racing saw quite a few fatalities until someone caught on that the framerails were way too stiff. Although I don’t know the exact cause of death in each instance, one can assume that Basal Skull fracture was … [Read more...] about Stock Car Safety – A Refresher Course
Stock car auto racing
We first presented this material in CIRCLE TRACK in early 2003. Since that time we have made reference to bits and pieces of it to illustrate other discussions. The technology presented here represents the greatest leap forward in basic automotive dynamics technology in the last 20 years or so. The basic principles that represent the foundation of this technology were developed some 60 years ago, and what you will read here is a refinement of much of what came later. When most of us think of the development of racecar dynamics, we may immediately think of the major innovations coming from Indy car racing and/or Formula One. That is a natural conclusion given that they appear to be more sophisticated in design, but the true story is much different. In this particular field of science, stock car racing today is at the head of the class. The historical record of the evolution of the knowledge of vehicle dynamics runs directly parallel to the development of the passenger cars and trucks … [Read more...] about Racing Suspension – Stock Car Dynamics, Part One
When F1 driver Felipe Massa got hit in the head with an errant spring from another car in August, his helmet, along with his skull, got seriously damaged. Massa was wearing a top-of-the-line carbon-fiber/composite helmet-which meant, despite almost a couple of weeks in the hospital, he survived with few after effects. The same could easily happen to one of us in the short track world. Recently, I was at a racetrack where I saw a teen sitting behind the wheel of a Street Stock wearing a DOT BMX helmet. When I questioned the teen about his choice of head protection he thought it was no big deal since the track rules only said he had to wear “a helmet.” By the letter of the rulebook he was legal, but in actuality he was taking a serious risk with his life. The Snell Foundation, the non-profit group that tests and certifies all types of helmets, has standards for every brain bucket you can think of including bike, motorcycle, and auto racing. Its tests and resulting … [Read more...] about Auto Racing Helmet – Brain Buckets – Safety
1958. What a weird one! Today’s casual researcher might look no further than published accounts of bans enforced at major events this season before concluding that American auto racing surely had been mortally wounded by noisy do-gooders, bureaucrats, and opportunistic politicians since the tragic 1955 LeMans Grand Prix. Nitromethane, the lifeblood of drag racing, was now forbidden by most SoCal strips and many others elsewhere. Speeds had been down at NHRA’s Nationals since president Wally Parks went “gas-only” a year earlier, running off hardcore fuel stars such as Don Garlits and Art Chrisman. The superchargers, fuel injectors, and multiple carburetors now available to new-car buyers were no longer legal on NASCAR or USAC stockers. Factory engineers and PR guys were conspicuously absent in pit areas from Daytona and Indianapolis to Pikes Peak and Riverside. Detroit automakers maintained their heavy advertising presence in newspapers and magazines, while … [Read more...] about Fatal Indy 500 Crash Mars 1958 American Auto Racing
Welcome to the season that saw auto racing explode, for better and worse. Detroit devoted bigger R&D budgets to favored racers—NASCAR teams, in particular—then spent unprecedented ad dollars tying track performance to identical-looking ’56 models in showrooms. Pikes Peak was suddenly crawling with factory folks. Drag racing continued evolving from a deviant, participant-driven fad into a semirespectable spectator sport whose young-male demographic made ad agencies drool. Staging lanes coast to coast swelled with ’55 and ’56 Chevys. Nitromethane was in the air everywhere. Ironically, the timing that seemed so right this year was all wrong for seasons to follow. The elephant in the room was death. Bill Vukovich’s fatal Indy 500 crash was followed two weeks later by the fiery, filmed LeMans disaster that killed 84 and shocked millions. Drag-racing casualties were all too common. Major publications and networks that never covered a race never seemed … [Read more...] about Mayhem at Daytona, the AMA Racing Ban, and More High- (and Low-) lights from Auto Racing in 1956
Remember slot cars? In the dark ages before simulators, video games, and even personal computers, there was hardly a boy in America who didn’t race slot cars. Set up on the living room floor, a dining room table, or in a corner of the garage, a slot car track was the closest thing to real racing available to young, aspiring champions. Car magazines featured slot car buildups and race reports alongside articles on fullsize hot rods-until the slot car craze died. In today’s brave new world of downsized economies and diminished expectations, slot car racing is making a comeback. Not that it had ever gone away completely, of course. While most commercial tracks went bust following the boom years in the ’60s, the true believers simply went underground-literally. Basements became the last refuge for slot cars, along with spare bedrooms, attics, and other off-the-radar accommodations. Internet forums became the subterranean information conduit, and eBay the enabler for … [Read more...] about Slot Car Drag Racing – Small-Scale Drag Racing
1960. American auto racing roared back to life this year, regaining momentum stalled by fallout from 1955’s LeMans inferno. As that tragedy faded from the news, publicity-craving politicians, bureaucrats, and law-enforcement leaders found other fish to fry. Performance claims were creeping back into automakers’ promotions and advertisements, violating an Automobile Manufacturers Association agreement—commonly called the AMA ban—endorsed by 35 companies in 1957 and still in effect, supposedly. Subtle signs of Detroit’s return ranged from local-dealership identification on race cars to automaker logos on pace cars and support trucks. There was nothing subtle about General Motors’ return to the battlefield. Pontiac, in particular, took the competition—including its sister divisions—by surprise and force after discreetly funding and supplying small armies on multiple fronts during the 1959-’60 offseason. That ambitious program’s … [Read more...] about Mickey Thompson’s 406 MPH and Jim Rathmann’s Indy 500 Win Highlight 1960 Auto Racing
Al Accipiter is no traditionalist. He’s far from it. In many ways he might be called an abstract artist when looking at his ’55 Chevrolet. Sure, you can tell it’s a classic upon first glance, but that’s about as far as the literal interpretation can go. Once you look deeper, under the paint on the canvas, you’ll discover you’re not looking at a classic Shoebox at all. You’re looking at what once was a full-fledged stock car, which was also used in the film Days of Thunder. When producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson teamed up with director Tony Scott to begin filming the movie along with Tom Cruise, many people in the NASCAR racing community were hoping for a hit. In some ways they got it, but what ended up as NASCAR’s gain became a huge loss for Paramount Pictures. In fact, according to published reports, the movie did so poorly that it, in part, contributed to Paramount cancelling the four remaining movies of a five-movie deal with … [Read more...] about 1955 Chevy Gets Some Handling Help From Swapped Stock Car Chassis
Humans are competitive creatures who have raced against each other in one form or another for millennia. The practice that likely evolved from hunting and the struggle to survive has adapted to advances in technology over time, moving from foot races to eventually involve vehicles such as chariots and boats until, at the end of the 19th century, the automobile was invented and a new era began. Since the first Competition for Horseless Carriages was held in 1894 – and officially won by Georges Lemaître in a Peugeot, pictured above – the activity has grown and diversified into a sport with thousands of events and many millions of fans.With the increasing awareness of the damage done to health and habitat by the burning of fossil fuels, the question arises, "Can racing ever really be green?" The answer, we think, is "yes." It may take a while and a lot of fuel may be burned in the meantime, but racing is an ever-evolving enterprise oriented towards exploring and … [Read more...] about Greenlings: Can racing really be green?
Well, clearly racing does make money for someone, at least enough to be a mini-industry. Does it though make sense for the Fords and Hondas of the world? Two students staked out roughly opposite positions on racing’s value as a technology driver; I’ll leave my thoughts to the end.Clearly there is a marketing angle. A century (or more) ago racing helped publicize this new-fangled thing, before most people had driven one. That was true in Europe, in the US, and in Japan. That need is long past. In the 21st century, how much is a good performing team worth in advertising? – does what wins on Sunday sell on Monday? Does racing disproportionately attract likely car purchasers? Is it attracting as many as in the past? And does the audience for racing in the EU or Brasil (to pick but two countries) resemble the US? Anyway, this post is not about racing as a sport.Another minor angle that I won’t argue further is that, if you are going to race, then by all means use it … [Read more...] about Does Racing Make Cents?