Ray Cook: “It’s got a whole list of positives that goes along with it, after the safety aspect.”
A few weeks ago, Ray Cook introduced the droop rule to dirt late model racing. It’s a way of limiting the lift on the rear suspension.
With a simple piece of chain, he’s going to keep these cars on the ground. The chain will hook from the rear end to the chassis. With the chain, it limits the amount of left rear extension.
After the race, the cars will be jacked up. Once the left rear can freely spin, Cook will measure from the ground to the deck. The maximum amount is set at 47 inches with a 1/2 tolerance. Teams will use the chain to stay within the limit.
The main reason for this new dirt late model rule is safety. It’s about pulling the center of gravity back toward earth. With less weight in the air, there should be less rollovers. That sounds simple enough.
I love this rule. But, from your video, you only mentioned the safety aspect. To me, a very important side of this new rule is that it’s going to pull the spoiler out of the air. I think, with this rule, it’s going to take some of the motor game out of the sport. Did that angle play any role as you applied the new rule?
“Well, it’s gunna do that,” Ray Cook explains to RacingNews.co. “It’s got a whole list of positives that goes along with it, after the safety aspect.”
“It’s not like something that you do, that has one gain and five or six drawbacks. It’s actually one gain, with several more gains to go with it.”
“There for a little while, every phone call I got, people was telling me how it was going to help. It was different things that I haven’t even thought of.”
So it wasn’t really something that you considered as you implemented the rule? It was brought to your attention after the fact?
“Well, my biggest reason for doing it was to get cars back down on the ground. They keep getting higher and higher. Our whole sport is just on a ragged edge.”
Our shows are as good as they’ve ever been.
“I mean, our racing’s great. Our shows are as good as they’ve ever been. The cars look good to me. I don’t have any complaints about nothin'”
“Other than the fact that when the track gets a little bit rough then we’re all sittin’ there in panic mode. Or if we get a little rain shower 30 minutes before the drivers meetin’. Then, everybody’s loading up and wanting to go home.”
“We’re just too fragile.”
“I think I had three cars turn over this past year. Out of 30 races, that’s what? 1%? That ain’t like it’s a huge amount. But, that’s just in my races, that’s not counting everybody.”
“If you just look at the sport in general, of the drivers that are getting hurt in the last couple years. This year wasn’t as bad.”
“2016, was probably the worst year we’ve ever had as far as driver injury. Well, that’s when this stuff first started coming about. I feel like it’s the cause.”
“Last year, everybody sorta got wiser and adapted to it. So, that’s why I don’t think it was as bad as it was in 2016. There’s some argument to be made that it might get better this year. But, I don’t really see it because the guys are still pushing the envelope.”
“They’re continuing to get higher and higher with their cars.”
I’m a photographer. I see a lot of photos from various series. I notice in a lot of them that the spoilers are now higher than the roof.
“Yeah. Here’s the thing. The real experienced drivers, they pretty much know where that point is. I had Josh Richards tell me he had to back his corner up this year vs. last year.”
“What’s no good is when you get these regional racers or even weekly racers that buy these cars — They don’t know where that point is. They spend $30-40,000 on a car, or more. Then, they just destroy the car. Well, that’s not doing us any good as a sport.”
I feel like I need to jump in an help explain what Ray is trying to say. These newer cars have more extension in the left rear than the older ones. There’s more lift, if you want it to be there.
Ray has been told that some of the national guys have figured out the need to dial back the left rear lift. Yet, now these newer cars are trickling into the local side. The local or regional guys haven’t figured out the need to dial it back. They figure it out after they roll it in the heat race while the track is tacky.
“There’s just not a stopping point. We’re going to continue to get higher and higher. I’ve been trying to come up with a way to bring it down a little bit.”
Guys in the industry haven’t been able to punch a hole in it.
“This is the only thing I’ve come up with that I felt good about the next day. A lot of guys in the industry haven’t been able to punch a hole in it.”
“In the past, when I came up with something. I’d get a call and they’d say, ‘If you do that then we’re going to do this and get around the rule.’ ”
“This is the only thing I’ve come up with that nobody’s found a way around. At least, not yet. If we get running and need to make some changes, we will. I think it’s the best starting point that we could start with. We’ll go from there.”
Just to go back to my original question for a second. Do you think that taking some of the rear spoiler out will level the playing field as far as motor costs?
“Yes, I do. Is that why I done it? No. But, yes it will.”
“It’s going to do some other things too. It’s going to make a car that’s about 2 years old, that won’t compete. Right now, everybody feels they gotta go out and spend $45,000 on a new one, that will get this high.”
“Within a week of when I announced this — I had a guy call me from down in Georgia. He said, ‘Man, I got a 2015 car that I can’t use anymore. If this rule goes into effect, it will make it competitive again.”
I love it.
“This is a 2 year old car that he gave a bunch of money for in 2015. Now, he’s got a crate motor sittin’ in it because it won’t keep up with his Super.”
You’re saying the newer cars have been designed to get higher in the air on the rear end under throttle?
“The biggest difference between a new car and an old car — Every time, somebody built a new car they’d build it to where it would travel more and go higher.”
Yeah, they figured out that 1 inch is 500 counts of downforce. I still don’t know what a count is. But, that’s what I’m told.
“Well, that’s what I was told too by Harold Holly and he’s a very smart individual. Someone else told me it was 800.”
“If I can stop ’em at 48 inches or 47 1/2 and they’re at 55 now. That’s over 3500 lbs of downforce we just took off the back of the car.”
These guys are able to just drink ’em a RedBull and run wide open around the race track.
“It’s gunna make it to where guys will have to drive again too. These guys are able to just drink ’em a RedBull and run wide open around the race track. To me, those ain’t real drivers.”
“To me, the real drivers — The guys that are real drivers, they have to let off. They gotta finesse and manage their foot. Like Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, Ronnie Johnson and those guys. When I was growing up those guys would come by and you could just barely hear their engine. Because, they couldn’t run wide open.”
“Now, we got so much grip that you could mash a 4.30 in the slick.”
And, now they’re running out of fuel at Knoxville.
Well, I hope it works. I think it will.
“I do too. The biggest thing is, everybody just give it a chance. They just need to know that we got a clean sheet of paper here. If we need to adapt to something or make some kind of little change, we will.”
“I’m very open. I just want to do something. I don’t care if they come back and tell me it needs to be 50 inches. Right now, everybody’s in a race to 60 inches high. Some of them are pretty close to it too. The higher we get, the worse we are.”
“Like you said, you can use all the motor you can get.”
“Everybody pitches a fit over the steel head guys running 4 inches more spoiler than they do. Well, now everybody’s got 7 inches more and they don’t even realize it.”
The rule will go into effect first on Ray Cook’s Schaeffer’s Southern Nationals Tours. The first race for the Bonus Series is scheduled for March 16th at the Tri-County Race Track in Brasstown, North Carolina. Ray Cook doubles as the promoter of the Tri-County Race Track in addition to the series.
This race has the attention of the entire industry.
Related: Droop rule introduced to dirt late model racing (video)
Ray Cook | Southern Nationals | Tri-County Race Track | Shane Walters