Discussing the ‘Aero Push’ in Dirt Late Model Racing with the former World of Outlaws Late Model Series Champion
Below is an interview I did with Josh Richard ahead of the weekend’s ‘Clash at the Mag’ event at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
Read the Q&A with Josh Richards below as we discuss aerodynamics and dirt late model racing.
Starting basic… Have you experienced an aero push in a dirt late model?
Josh Richards responds quickly, “Yeah, I’d say everyone has.”
I feel like the aero push has evaded dirt racing as a whole. Though in recent years I’m hearing it discussed more and more?
Josh Richards, “Yeah, see I don’t know. I disagree with that. I remember when I first started racing we would still experience it but I think the cars were just a little more forgiving back then, versus now.
“Back then, you know you’d run with the nose 3-4 feet (exaggerated) off the ground. You’d definitely push but it didn’t seem to matter as much. Now, it’s like when you push, the cars are more aerodynamic dependent.”
“I mean, it’s always been there. I remember experiencing that at an early age.”
So it’s a little bit like NASCAR? Where they’ve sealed off the nose and the rest of the car to the racetrack.
Josh Richards responds, “Yeah, it’s just like anything. Everyone’s taking advantage of whatever we can, for grip. Obviously, aero is given to us. So, we try to maximize as much as we can. Therefore, it makes it more dependent.”
“So, when you do get that taken away you definitely notice it more.”
Over the course of the last 10-15 years I’ve noticed a lot of changes to the dirt late model bodies. Something that really stands out to me now is the actual width of the front nose.
These days, most teams have the front track sticking way out to the side, in stark comparison to the rear width. I’m pretty sure this has a lot more to do with teams wanting a larger surface area on the front nose than it does the front track width between front tires. More front surface area = more front end downforce.
Do you think that play’s a part of it?
Josh Richards explains, “It’s just the whole car. The whole car in general. We just try to take advantage of everything we can. The nose is a huge part of it.”
“Now, when you race you don’t necessarily feel an aero push as much you feel like you have less grip [overall].”
“So, when you catch a guy, it’s not like you just take off and push [up the race track]. You just feel the car un-hook out of the racetrack as a whole, now that we’re more balanced.”
“We have shocks to hold the noses down and everything else. So, yeah you push but a lot of it’s more of just a 4 wheel drift. More than just a flat out push.
The ‘aero push’ is a problem in all forms of motorsports. Would you like to see any kind of rule change to help curb the aerodynamic effect in dirt late model racing? Or just roll with it?
I think the racing is better
Josh Richards, “I don’t think so. Because to me I think the racing is better.”
At this point, my mind exploded. I didn’t expect that answer or anything in the ballpark of that reply. As drivers in all other forms of motorsports complain about the aerodynamic effects of racing, Josh Richards is here telling me the exact opposite.
I was perplexed. I needed more information but my brain was too scrambled to come up with anything other than a short question…
Josh continues, “I certainly, 100%, feel that way. Because now that we have grip, to me, we are able to move around more, to parts of the racetrack which we couldn’t before.”
“Before, we were only using whatever mechanical grip that we have. A lot of times that limited us. So, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
I like that! I was really surprised by that answer. I never thought of it that way, nor have I heard anyone say that before. More grip would certainly allows these cars to move around to new areas of the racing surface. Areas that in the past, cars didn’t have the grip to run.
That aspect is fairly unique and exclusive to dirt racing. Most other forms of racing, there’s a single and strict, preferred groove. In dirt racing, the preferred groove is only an option. Having more downforce creates additional options. Options create varying racing grooves, which creates side-by-side racing.
The term ‘aerodynamics’ is often used as dreadful terminology in most forms of motorsports. Meanwhile, in dirt late model racing, teams and drivers are using it to explore new areas of the racetrack, making the racing better.
That night at Magnolia Motor Speedway, Josh finished 2nd in his heat race. He then followed is up with a 6th place run in the feature. He now sits 3rd in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points, 55 points behind 2nd place runner McCreadie.
Author: Shane Walters