It’s spring, the smell of race gas fills the air. Engines are revving. Race suits and helmets are getting a brisk scrubbing (well, more like an airing out). It’s track time. Finally! So, are you ready for your day at the track? The Burnout has a few tips to help you make sure that you’re really ready to get out there – whether its the first time of the season or just going back from last weekend. Follow these before every track day to keep you and your vehicle safe and ready to rock.
Depending on how fast or quick your car is at the track, there are a few minimal inspections and readiness practices that you should follow EVERY TIME that you go to race. Yes, your car has passed tech. Yes, your car is equipped with the proper safety gear. But, if you don’t take the time to physically inspect everything, how will you know if it is ready to fail unless it happens at speed while on the track? That is not something that you want to have happen.
The Night Before
Instead of hanging in the garage and drinking beers with your buddies, maybe you should take the time—between beers—to at least give the car a once over.
A huge safety concern should be your tires. They should be checked every time you go to the track, and ideally between each round. Race tires come with wear indicators that will let you know when it’s time to replace them. If the indicator is gone, so the tire should follow it out the door.
If you are running tired, worn out spark plugs, you might as well not even go to the race. Ineffective spark plugs can cause a misfire, failed compression, and a slow car.
In theory, your distributor’s clamp should hold the distributor in place so it doesn’t move. But, it only takes a few seconds to check the timing and make sure. How do you think your car will run if the timing is slightly off?
Not only is tire wear important, checking the pressure in your slicks is very crucial. This should actually be done each time the car goes to the starting line, as the air pressure can vary throughout the day. Racing slicks are very soft and are easily affected by sunlight and heat. If you’re in the lanes (or the pits) for an extended period of time and the sun is beating down on the tires, chances are the pressure will increase by as much as two pounds or more. If you run with unequal tire pressure you risk the chance of reducing the overall handling of the machine. A simple tire pressure gauge solves this problem and most racing slicks operate best at 10 to 12 psi.
Ok, if the wiring in your car looks like this, there is a good chance you’re not going to the track anyway. But the wiring in your car should, at a minimum, be routinely inspected. Launching a car and the vibrations that occur during a race can shake a wire loose and allow it to come in contact with metal surfaces around it. That might not sound like a major problem, but if that wire chafes, and then sparks – you can guess what can happen.
The fluids in your car are essential to keeping it running. The night before, it is a good idea to not only check the simple fluids like the engine and transmission, but don’t forget the brakes and rear end.
After you have checked the lug nuts on your car, did you also check them on your tow vehicle and trailer?
Ok, so you and your buds have thoroughly looked the car over the night before, but what do think you might need while you’re at the track the next day? Is your car so consistent that you never even open the hood or look at it between rounds. There are not many cars that we know of that are that good, so you will probably need to bring at least some simple items with you:
- A jack and jack stands is always useful. If you need to look—or get—under your car, the scissor jack from your truck might not be the safest way to accomplish that.
- If you plan on doing any tuning – like with coilovers, changing carburetor jets, or whatever – you’ll need the appropriate tools and spare parts. You do not need to carry a complete Snap On tool set in or on your trailer, but you would be surprised how handy a simple hand-tool set can be.
- A good tire pressure gauge is also an essential item. Remember, checking tire pressure just before you go to the starting line is necessary to help with consistency and safety.
- CASH! If you are planning to use your credit or debit card at the track, be prepared to end up looking through the fence at the other people racing. Even if you don’t plan on buying a $2.00 can of soda or a $6.00 hot dog, you’re still gonna need cash. Very few tracks take plastic, so make sure you have enough cash in your wallet to pay your entry fee, plus some left over for incidentals like race gas, ice for the cooler, or surreptitious wagers with your friends. Speaking of gas…
- Although you want your car to be as light as possible, heading to the track with the needle on “E” is a fool’s move. Less fuel in the tank can reduce weight, but you run the risk of sloshing fuel away from the pump pickup when you launch. How embarrassing is it when a car stalls at the green light? Do yourself a favor and keep the fuel tank, AT A MINIMUM, quarter full, so you don’t get a surprise while you’re hot-lapping the car and unexpectedly run out.
Not only does your car need to be ready for the track, you to need to keep a few things in mind in regards to clothing. While your girlfriend might be able to pull off a pair of Daisy Dukes, and a tank top, no matter how sexy you look, you can’t! Be sure that you are wearing closed-toe shoes, long pants, and at least a T-shirt. You will probably need a long sleeve shirt or jacket, and depending on the ET of your car, other fire-proof clothing.
If this is the first time you are running the quarter (or eighth) mile, you will probably be doing it in your street car. Generally speaking, if your car is safe enough to drive to the drag strip, it should be safe enough to race, but you will still have to pass tech inspection before you run. Track safety rules are based on how quick your car is for the measured length of the track.
Under the hood, make sure that your battery is securely fastened, your throttle has two separate return springs, and that you’re not leaking anything. If you didn’t do it the night before, check your tires for bald spots or cord showing. Finally, make sure your seat belts are in good condition, and clean everything out of the inside of your car that might become a projectile in case of an accident.
Ok, so you’re ready to go. Below is a short check list of some items and procedures that will help you have a fun day at the track.
Things to bring.
- White shoe polish to write numbers on your car.
- Windex and some paper towels. To both change your dial in time if need be, and to take the shoe polish off after the race.
- Sunscreen. You will standing in the hot sun most of the time and the asphalt really reflects well.
- Food. Unless you plan to spend $6.00 on a hot dog, don’t forget to bring something to drink and eat. Just do not bring any glass containers.
- Race gas (if you use it).
Optional recommended items to bring, most likely someone will have.
- Tire pressure gauge.
- Common wrench and socket set
- Screw drivers.
- Extra engine oil.
- Timing light.