It was rumored that a team went to drastic measures to save weight
Dirt late model racing has come a long way in result years in terms of safety components. Beefier seats sit inside the cockpit to protect the drivers from all angles. There’s also added focus on the door bars and door plates.
Then, there’s the fire suppression system which automatically extinguishes a fire at the detection of flames. That initiative adds weight via the bottle, steel lines and two extinguisher valve points in addition to the fluid inside the entire system.
It’s fantastic stuff, all of it. These are things that have been needed for years in dirt late model racing. I applaud all corners of the industry for coming together to make it happen. Lives have or will be saved.
However, each of these items has added standard weight to the race car. This has left drivers in a situation where they have less weight to move around on the race car.
These new items and upgrades are estimated at 50-75 additional pounds. Yet, the scale weight of a race car remains 2350 lbs for aluminum blocks or 3500 for steel blocks, with a 1 lb per lap burn off.
Lead is important to the setup and thus handling of a race car. Nearly, every race car out there weighs the same. Yet, moving the weight to different areas of the car makes the car do different things.
The fun-sized racing drivers, they’re fine. In the case of a driver that weighs 270, he might only have 10 lbs to move around in terms of lead blocks.
Given that fact, rumors have begun to fly in the pit area…
In the drivers meeting at Knoxville Raceway, Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series officials announced that they were checking the weight of the fire extinguisher bottles.
At that point, it was rumored that some teams had purposefully emptied the fire suppression fluid to place the weight elsewhere. Other rumors said that the fluid was dropped and replaced by compressed air.
Schwallie stated this was a non story. It might be, in terms of any actual actions regarding fire extinguisher fluid. At this point, that’s really only a rumor. No single team has been outed as a likely case for doing that. But, the weight story is still there.
There was a car at Eldora Speedway for the World 100 (September edition) that was sent home due to metal on the door being too thin. It was a weight saving technique. Another driver was in question at the same race because his door plate might or might not have been too small. The rule was vague, so he was allowed to race.
But, all of the above items are related to the same topic…
I always thought that it was universal that you wanted lead or tungsten to be mounted as low as possible in a race car. I’ve learned in the last year or so that’s not the case in dirt racing. Can you help me understand why it’s that way over here?
“Not in dirt racing. In dirt racing, you need weight transfers,” Ronnie Stuckey, owner of the #1 dirt late model team explains.
“When you get to a real fast, high speed track like Eldora or Pittsburgh, the weight transfers in the speed of the race car.”
Meaning, the car is going fast enough that the forward momentum is going to transfer the weight on it’s own. When drivers head into a corner at high speeds and jolt left, the weight wants to keep moving forward. Thus, the car rolls over naturally.
“But, once you slow that car down and start going to some 3/8 or 1/4 mile tracks, you need to weight transfer into the right side springs, taking it out of the left, for side bite.”
“Side bite comes first. So, no matter how much forward traction he has, he needs to scotch up in the corner to be able to use it.”
“Any time you can utilize that weight, you’ve got an advantage over a guy who doesn’t have any weight to move around.”
So, on some shorter tracks, you want it to actually be as high as possible?
“Right. And there’s a rule there. The rule is it can’t be above the deck lid,” Stuckey continued.
“So, you’ll see all our batteries are against the deck. The fuel cells are mounted up against the deck. That way when you need the weight high, you fill it up.”
“Then, your motors are up as high as they need to be. To where it still compresses the right front and not over travels it.”
The compression of the right front is important too. That in turn, lifts the left rear. The higher the left rear, the more the spoiler is hanging out there in the air. That translates to rear downforce into and off of the corners.
“But, everything in the car is raised up to it’s limit.”
Ok. Because that’s a pretty drastic move to make to save 10 lbs. But, I could see why they would want to do it now.
“Well, that would be like a fragrant violation of the rules. I actually don’t know if there’s a rule in there that says you can’t do that.”
“But, to jeopardize your drivers life over 10 lbs. It could have catastrophic results.”
I’m not a scientist. But, I’m pretty sure compressed air shooting out of the extinguisher would ignite the fire.
“It definitely wouldn’t help the fire,” Ronnie Stuckey concludes.
I checked. The line is there in the rule book.
4.12 C: “Systems must be fully charged with ten pounds (10lbs.) of DuPont FE-36, 3M NOVEC 1230, or Fire Aide and display a legible and valid SFI and manufacturer label depicting fire extinguishing agent, capacity, and certification date. Cylinders that or beyond useful certification date must be inspected, serviced and re-labeled by the manufacturer.”
“We didn’t catch anything. We had heard of it and told people that they’re subject to be checked,” Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series director Rick Schwallie explained.
“We had just heard about it. It was rumored to be out there. There was really nothing to it. We didn’t find any of it.”
“We were just making sure that everyone was aware that if they were asked to have it taken off and weighed it was because we had heard that was going on.”
Did you weigh any?
“Yeah we weighed a couple of them.”
What would have been the penalty in that situation? I get why they would do it. But, that would be really bold. Thus, I would assume a stiff penalty.
“Well, you wouldn’t really know if that’s the case, if someone purposefully did it. That’s why it’s hard to tech in post race.”
“We’ve had a couple cases where somebody has lost one during the course of the night. I know for sure that Dennis Erb lost one at Sharon Speedway. He hit one of the lines. It went off and he lost all the fluid in it, while he was racing.”
“To penalize someone, you don’t know that if it happened, that it was completely accidental. I don’t know. It would be awful hard to do that in a post race thing.”
“It’s the racers responsibility to know if their fire units work before we get started. We do safety checks and look at all that stuff. But, there’s gotta be some ownership on the racer too.”
“Honestly, if there was a unit that was light then had a piece of lead mounted right next to it. Then, why would they have taken the fluid out of something that was going to protect them?”