Tim McCreadie discusses the differences between dirt and pavement racing

McCreadie discusses dirt racing alliances, driver differences, data sharing and dirt track characteristics

Below is an interview with Tim McCreadie from Golden Isles Speedway. We opened up with a conversation about race team alliances. There’s three drivers in a Longhorn Chassis on the Lucas Oil Late Model tour. Will the Longhorn camp be working together in 2018?

The conversation turned into a very enlightening comparison between pavement and dirt tracks. Not just the tracks but the drivers as well.

Why is dirt racing so awesome? We discuss that below.

Last year, I saw you talking to Earl Pearson Jr quite a bit. I think that was two Longhorn guys getting together to share information. This year, Earl Pearson Jr isn’t in a Longhorn. But, you have two new guys, Kyle Bronson and Jonathan Davenport. Is there a plan ahead of time to work together, for the betterment of all the Longhorn touring guys?

“No. I mean, I don’t know. We haven’t all sat down and said anything like that,” Tim McCreadie explains to RacingNews.co. “Anytime you’re in racing, you find a niche of the people you’ve always worked with. Then, the new people that are hired to work here.”

“Hopefully, some of the stuff we learn can transfer to the customers. You know what I mean? It trickles down to the Longhorn racers. Whether it comes from Jonathan, Kyle or any of them guys.”

“It’s nice to be able to share. But, I don’t know. You’d have to ask them if they want to share,” McCreadie says with a laugh. “We haven’t really preached any of that stuff yet.”

I would think that kind of thing would work great in dirt racing. The fans are going to hate that I use NASCAR as an example. But, it’s a good example. Over there, they’re not expanding to 4 car teams anymore. If anything, they’re cutting down the size of the teams. Then, they form alliances with other small teams. So, your team brings two cars to the race track. But, 6 or more share information at the track. It’s a modern super team, without drastically expanding the in-house expenses and supplying another car or two to do it. It’s a much cheaper way of assembling the exact same thing. 

“If it saves them each money, I guess. I don’t know. They’re so different.”

“What works for Jonathan, might not work for me. We could have two guys driving these cars, the data will show that we travel these cars totally different. The spring rate that I might like on my right front for instance — If you put it on his car. We might got to the same place and I travel entirely different than he does. Based on how I work the gas and the throttle.”

“I think when you get to pavement. The differences are so much less because first of all, pavement — You’re not spinning your back tires, I’m going to guess, 60 mph more than the front tires like you are on dirt. You can probably spin these back tires severely faster than the fronts.”

“Then, how you control your braking, how you control your lift point and the physical crank on the wheel. We can load these cars way different as drivers. So some times it might take something a little different [on the setup for each driver].”

“Comparable to even 3-4 years ago, when we didn’t have some electrical data to point us in the direction. To let us know why we’re traveling that far.”

Tim McCreadie at the dirt track 6913
Tim McCreadie at the dirt track

You’re saying that in dirt racing, there’s more differences between each driver comparable to pavement?

“I think the drivers are all different on pavement. But, I think the surface makes them all get in a smaller box. You’re not going to go to Bristol and have one guy travel 20 foot further into the corner, flat on the deck — at the last minute, turn it sideways and hit the cushion, almost backwards. You can’t get that on pavement.”

“What you get on pavement, when I’ve seen the data and looked at it — Everybody’s almost within 5-6 foot on the same lift point, in each corner. It’s really just the surface. If you can drive a pavement car like you can a dirt car, as yawed out as we are, touching a foot high lip to keep you in the race track, you’d see how the driver differences would show up. You just don’t have that in pavement, that’s all.”

Do you think that’s what makes dirt racing so great? How many options you have with the track itself and the setups?

“I’m not saying a lot of guys don’t end up on the same spring packages. Because when you’re in trouble and you’re struggling, the first move you want to do is somebody you might know or somebody that’s fast who you’ve shared with in the past, to help them out when they’re down.”

“You hope that if you just put the same springs on that the driver and adapt under throttle and braking where it’s a couple tenths. That’s what you hope for on dirt.”

“But, to really get you a notch today and to get to winnin’ there might be some things that you gotta do, that you figure out on your own. Whether it’s testing or whatever it is, that doesn’t help other people.”

“There was stuff that I was winning on last year that other guys hated, guys that we were working with. They just didn’t like it. They weren’t fast on it. Every time I migrated, we ended back in that same spot again and we were winning.”

“Things are getting a little more technical. The thing with the pavement side, those guys are so sharp at being technical, their note taking and their ability to read the data. It’s turned around and trickled down to us.”

“Well, now we’re realizing that even a 180 pound driver versus a 250 pound driver, makes a subtle difference on dirt — They can maybe account for that on pavement because of the way they add their lead. We have trouble accounting for that just because of the sheer time it takes to build a car and how much we race.”

“It’s just a different world. But, I think the NASCAR teams could adapt to us really well. They know what they’re doing. It’s just a matter of understanding. When you get two different drivers out there — It’s a weird deal. They run the exact same lap time.”

“Davenport, I would pretty well assume he could carry a car further in than I do because that’s just the way he likes to drive. I’ll back my corner up and I’ll be on the throttle 20 foot before he will. At the end we have the same lap time. But, the data shows completely different numbers.”

Tim McCreadie and Don O’Neal fight for space at Magnolia Motor Speedway (2017)

But, that kinda stuff creates passing too. 

“Well yeah because when you mess stuff up, you get worse and that’s how you pass. The one beauty about dirt, it’s not just the car all the time. Sometimes, the driver will just move to a spot because the track is just tackier there and hasn’t been run on as much. It might be 3 lanes up and if he’s comfortable there, he gains 2 tenths, just by moving up the race track.”

“In pavement, it’s hard to do that. It’s hard to do that until you rubber it up. You just chase it, little by little. It’s just harder because the track doesn’t change enough. Our tracks change.”

“East Bay, next week it will go from 14.9 or 14.5’s to 19 seconds. It’s 5 seconds. The straight-away — at the beginning of the night last year it was 110 mph down the straight-away, to 50 mph at the end of the night. 50 at the exit and 50 at the end, no gain all the way down the straight.”

That doesn’t make sense to me? I’m confused.

“Well, it’s just like driving on ice. If you hit the throttle and you just don’t go anywhere it’s because there’s nothing to hold your tires into the track. That’s what dirt does.”

“That pavement — The straight-away speed never changes on pavement. It might change a little because a guy slides off the corner. But, you can always recover. They go from A to B and gain mph.”

“These tracks, on dirt, it don’t work that way. Sometimes, if you press it too much you might gain zero speed down the straight-away. And as you’re not gaining speed, your cars not in the track. So, now your cars not lifting up like it’s suppose to. It’s actually settling down.”

“When you get to the corner, you might be an inch less on the left rear and maybe an inch high on the right front, at the same time. The only way you get that back is heavy braking to load the front end down or a driver that can physically pitch it in and load it himself.”

“Some guys do it different. Some guys do it by going in really low and floating across the track. Some guys brake early and they snap it. You know, it’s just that’s what you have to do driving these cars to make them work.”

“Dirt, it’s just such a changing thing. You can see a guy that’s badass in hot laps, qualify good and then get lapped in the feature. The change, it’s either experience or feel or whatever. There’s a lot of changes in dirt.”

“That’s why you see guys start 18th and drive to the front. On pavement, they have long races. They don’t usually do it in a 30 lap stint.”

Note: Hudson O’Neal drove from 15th to 2nd at Golden Isles Speedway on Friday. Josh Richards drove from 24th to 1st last night. Both of those things happened after this interview.

They’re not in a rush to begin with on pavement with the longer races. 

“Well, they just can’t. It’s physically not usually wide enough. You know a normal pavement race. I’m not talking about the mile and a half stuff on TV. I’m talking like a 1/4 mile track, it’s hard to drive from 18th, to the lead. The track just never is wide enough to do that.”

Tim McCreadie in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event 7055
Tim McCreadie in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event

And marbles don’t help their case.

“Marbles don’t help them guys. Marbles with us help. You know, we throw a bunch of wet marbles out there, pack them in. That’s another lane! It’s tacky up there.”

“Now, the black spots dry and get slick like ice. The top part, where them wet marbles were thrown — When you’re running early, the tack was on the bottom. Well, we threw all that tack up a lane.”

“As the track gets black — We’re making it black because we’re sticking our right rear and our left rear in this good part of the race track. Then, when it gets black, we’re actually wearing it out. Making it drier, wearing it out and slowing it down.”

“All that stuff ends up further up the track a lot of times. You just move up with it. Sometimes you can run above it and it’s ever tackier. It’s just the way dirt tracks are, that’s all.”

“If we go on a dirt track and the bottom’s too wet. You can’t run down there so we run way up the track. By the end of the night, we usually end up down there. Because now it’s finally got to where you can run in it. It’s the fast part of the track, we just chase it again.”

“Always changing,” McCreadie concludes.

In 2017, Tim McCreadie finished 2nd in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points. This year, he’s on the same tour. The chase for the title began this weekend. It continues all next week at East Bay Raceway Park.


Related: Tim McCreadie releases a letter to the fans ahead of the DTWC

Related: Kyle Bronson forms an alliance with Brandon Overton

Related: Tim McCreadie talks dirt late model finances

Related: Tim McCreadie compares modern NASCAR rules to the old days

Related: Tim McCreadie has no interest in running the Eldora Dirt Derby


Tim McCreadie | Longhorn Chassis | LOLMDS | Shane Walters