So you go to your local race track. You sit up in the stands on a hot Saturday night thinking, “This looks so easy. I can do this! I know how to drive! That guy sucks; I know I can do better than him!”
You have dreams of standing in victory lane kissing the trophy girl while one of your crew members standing next to you holds a Happy Gilmore sized big check with your name on it posing for photos. Fans screaming your name, kids lining up to get your autograph, and your other crew members are having a hard time seeing because they’re spraying each other with ice cold beer.
So before you start thinking about which room in your house is going to be your trophy room, consider these 6 essential topics about starting your own race team first.
1. WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO WORK ON YOUR SPRINTER, MOD OR HORNET?
Yep, gotta have a shop. Gotta store the car inside someplace to build your car, build spare parts, store spare parts, and your tools. All of your prep work is done here before even thinking about leaving for the track.
2. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO WORK ON THE CAR?
You’ve got to have tools and a tool box. And I mean more than just what a normal person would have in their garage. Wrenches, screwdrivers, and the 113 piece socket set you got from your mother-in-law for Christmas just isn’t going to cut it.
I’m talking about a 60 gallon air compressor, welder, torque wrench, jack, air/electric impact wrenches, tap/die set, grinder, and a torch just to name a few.
And we haven’t even gotten to the specialty tools yet: a bead breaker, tire groover, glow in the dark psi gauge, dzus button tool, oil filter cutter, radius rod gauge, valve lash torque wrench, stagger tape measure, and a weather station, just to name a few….. Not all of this will fit in your tool box either, so see #1 above.
3. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GET TO THE TRACK?
Got to get that car from the shop with all your tools, spare parts, fuel, extra tires, and beer cooler to the track. Open trailer, enclosed trailer, or the ultimate 53 footer. Just remember you need something to pull it too…
4. WHO IS GOING TO HELP YOU OUT?
You need crew members at the track. Somebody has to pull your seat belts tight before you roll out of the pits. Have a flat tire and you gotta pit? Somebody has to change it.
Need help to load/unload the car and all your tools onto the trailer? Maybe you can con your friends into doing it, your relatives, or even your neighbor. But if they aren’t mechanically inclined or haven’t helped you out at the shop working on the car, can you really trust them when you ask, “You tightened all the wheels, right?”
Not everyone likes the view from the pits, or would rather sit in the stands and drink beer and watch rather than get greasy and dirty with you, no matter your relationship with them.
5. YOUR LEVEL OF MECHANICAL EXPERIENCE.
What do you know about cars? Can you build a roll cage? Can you run the valves? Mount tires? Weld? Camber/caster? Offset rims? Square the rear end to within a 16th of an inch? And I’m just talking about building the car, not racing it.
At the track on race night, you’ve got to fine tune your ride to changing track conditions (heavy/dry slick).
You’ve got to be able to adjust the car with shocks, stagger, air pressure, torsion bar stops, aerodynamics (wing angle), gears, fueling, just to name a few.
How does the car feel on corner entry, mid corner, exiting the corner? Are you tight or loose entering? Are you tight or loose in mid corner? On exit? Do I have the right stagger to run the bottom grove? Or should I run the cushion? How do I make these adjustments? Do I change everything? One thing at a time? Things to consider that will drive you nuts.
You already knew this one right? Somebody in racing with much wisdom was once asked, “How do you make a million dollars in racing?” He replied, “Start with 2 million.”
Racing is expensive, even for the local weekend warrior. Whether you’re racing a hornet, enduro car, sprinter, street stock, it all adds up. See #’s 1, 2, and 3. And we haven’t even talked about buying the car, chassis, engine, tires, etc.
Well, hopefully I didn’t change your mind about starting your own race team. We need all the race teams we can get at our local race tracks. And every race team brings about 5-10 people in the stands with them. Those 5-10 people have to pay their entrance fee, maybe buy a hotdog, nachos, popcorn, pop, or beer, so it adds up.
Those same fans pay the purse money whether you finish first or last. So the next time you think, “I can do better than that guy!” Remember the sacrifices he or she is going through just to get that car ONTO the racetrack for your viewing pleasure.
Maybe after the races, you can bring him one of your ice cold beers……