Respect For Racers


I have participated in a few types of motorsports in my life, Dirtbike Hare Scrambles, Dirt track circle track car racing, autocross, drag racing.
It is easy to watch and criticize the racers thinking “I could do better.”
This is especially true when someone is spinning out, causing wrecks etc.
Racing has been a humbling experience for me.
It’s easy sitting in the stands critiquing someone, it’s a lot tougher stepping up to the line.
Have you taken the challenge? Have you done any racing?

The Scramble!

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 new hartford

hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 New Hartford (this was last year’s hare scramble)

I participated in my 2nd Hare Scramble on 9-7-2014 in New Hartford, IA. For those of you who don’t know, a Hare Scramble is a dirtbike race that goes through woods, over beaches, over obstacles etc. It is a 2 hour long race, for the class I ran. They are a ton of fun. Unfortunately I jumped in way over my head! There are multiple classes for Hare Scrambles, AA (really really really fast), A (really really fast), B (still pretty fast), C (novice), the main classes are for riders 30 and under. There are also all the same classes with vet and Sr. on the end of the name, these are for older riders. I have a good number of friends who ride and we all rode this same race last year (it’s 10 miles from our city.) We all rode C class which is a 1.5 hr race. I finished about middle of the pack and was pretty satisfied with that. It was my first race on a dirtbike ever. The C class also rides by itself so you aren’t getting passed by faster riders to often. The AA, A, A Vet, A Sr, B, B Vet, B Sr all ride the race together. They start in that order with 1 minute between each class start, to space the groups out some.

This year only one friend rode and he said we should ride B class. Thoughts were

  1. Our friends were riding B class. (I’m not sure how they are doing, never watched).
  2. We’d get more riding time 2 hrs vs. 1.5 in C (for the same entry cost).
  3. We’d get the chance to ride with faster guys and learn from them.

So we started the race. I was immediately behind due to a bad kick start. (You still kick start your bike when the horn goes off, which is cool, vintage LeMans style).

Eventually I was passed by a some of the B Sr. riders and a while later some AA and A riders started to lap me. By the last lap I was wishing the race to be over. I finished 17 of 19 overall, and one of the guys behind me was a friend who had buried his bike in a mud hole so he was laps behind.Here are the results for the Hare Scramble I was in this year.

My brother's race car, before I smashed it....

My brother’s race car, before I smashed it….

Another type of racing I’ve participated in was dirt track car racing. Here is the unfortunate proof of that endeavor. My brother who races pure stock circle track let me race his car one time. I made it through the heat race, in last place, without spinning out, but rather slowly. The next race, the feature, I spun out 2x, while in the back of the pack, and the second time a fellow competitor crashed into me, basically wrecking the car. I’m definitely not upset (although my brother might be) with the other driver. While he could have avoided me, I also could have not been spun out in the track….

I have also drag raced, which seems easy when you look at it, go straight, mash the gas. Not easy once you try to get traction, shifting, etc all right. Check my write up about drag racing for more on that. And the last type of racing I was part of was autocross, again, harder than it looks.

drag racing 2013

drag racing 2013

Now that I’ve put all my embarrassing show of racing on display for the world what is my point in all of this? Like I mentioned at the start, racing is harder than it looks! Every time I race anything I become humbled. I remember that the race is not really against the other competitors but against myself (at least that’s what slow people say). You also usually can gain a lot of camaraderie with fellow riders drivers, at least at the smaller events like I’ve participated in.. Fellow drivers or riders are willing to give you pointers to make you faster and safer.

Overall, it has been great every time I have raced. I have learned a lot and met a lot of great people.
Hopefully you remember how hard racing is next time you are watching it and start to want to criticize the drivers.
Of course when you get to professional drivers, there is a higher expectation, but the difficulty it takes to drive those cars is incredible. Just try driving a slow car or bike and you’ll learn.

The point of this is not to dissuade anyone from participating in racing. Of note is that I’m obviously not an expert. Part of some of my poor finishes have to do with lack of experience. The general thought is that 10,000 hours makes you an expert, if that’s really accurate or not there’s no argument that more time practicing any skill makes you better. And even for dirt bike riding, which I’ve been doing for years, I have done very little riding this year (10 hours about) and very little racing, 2 total, so I am currently considering if putting more time to getting better at hare scrambles is something I want to do or not, I only have 5 years until I’m considered a senior. In the end, you have to do something for your love of it, not for the glory.

You should participate in anything you think you can for the experience. Just make sure you have some idea of what you are getting into. It’s always best to talk to a friend who does it, but if you can’t or don’t know anyone, you can still go. Participate!

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What racing or competition have you taken part in?
Did you do good? Bad?
What are you doing next?

13. What is drag racing?

What is drag racing and a little on how to attend your first drag race.

Awesome Barracuda pulling a wheelie at the drag strip.

Awesome Barracuda pulling a wheelie at the drag strip.

Perhaps you’ve wondered why I use the term “quartermile” for my short synopsis at the beginning of my posts (above).
This term comes from drag racing, which is probably the quickest form of vehicular competition, hence why I use it for my short intros.
Drag racing is the original “go fast” sport.
The first drag race took place in 1900 between a Mercedes and a horse. The horse won.
Skip to the end for tips for your first track day if you don’t want to read everything, but I’d read it if I were you!
If your car is faster than 11.5 seconds in the quartermile
1. You probably shouldn’t start racing with that car!
2. You will need a roll cage (and a SNELL approved) race helmet or you will get kicked out…
Generally at slower speeds you don’t need a helmet up to a certain speed, that varies by track. It has to be SNELL approved also, ask ahead of race day.

The Flying Mile

2 Funny cars drag racing. Funny cars are purpose built drag cars that go very fast.

2 Funny cars drag racing.
Funny cars are purpose built drag cars that go very fast.

If you are reading this you are probably a car person and you probably enjoy driving your car fast. Unfortunately, Uncle Sam frowns on you going much about 70 in most of the country and often over 55 mph is a no-no. Luckily there is an option for you Speedy Gonzalez. Drag Racing!

Speedy Gonzales

Speedy Gonzales

There is so much to say about drag racing so I’ll just start. Drag racing is a race between 2 vehicles (usually). It measures how quickly each vehicle can cover a set distance (usually a quarter of a mile (1320 feet). You have probably been exposed to drag racing from the Fast and Furious movies, or just about any other car tv movie or show when people ask “What will she do?” She being the car. It’s sort of like the bench press of the automotive world. It’s a great number to impress people, but using a few simple tricks you can make a car a lot faster for the quartermile but that will make it less potent in other forms of racing. Drag slicks and skinnies aren’t really the best for autocross or other racing that doesn’t involve going straight! That being said, I like drag racing for this sole reason, it’s the easiest performance benchmark to replicate. You can pay $40 (or $70 or more) to go to a local drag strip, race your car a few times and you know how quick it is. Then you can compare it to friends. This is much harder in autocross unless you are at the same track, and often those tracks get changed each week also. Same for times around a larger set race track. So, drag racing it is.

woman prepping her husbands drag car. Does she have a granddaughter?

woman prepping her husbands drag car. Does she have a granddaughter?

The ultimate goal of drag racing is getting the car to cover the distance in the shortest time possible, because faster is better right? Drag racing sure sounds easy you are thinking right? Well yes and no. In principle yes, but have you tried accelerating fast and in control? In all likelihood, no, you haven’t, and definitely not with 300 or more horsepower. Everyone wants to do burnouts in their high horse power car, which look cool, but that is actually the opposite of what you want to do when drag racing. Burning out = no traction. Which means not moving forward which means you lose the race. Now you’re a loser. Bummer.

At the end of a drag race you will get a time slip which will show you the time it took you to cover 60 feet, 330 feet, ⅛ mile, and a quartermile. It will also tell you your MPH at the ⅛ and quartermile points on the track which is important. I will help you decipher all these numbers to help you go quicker below.

But first! How does a drag race start? A smoking hot girl throws a hankie in the air right? Not so fast Dom (inic Toretto, Fast and Furious reference for you uninitiated).20140426_151648
Before you start the drag race you have to do a few things. First, you should usually do a burnout. This will clean the debris off your tires. It will also make them warm and sticky. This will help you accelerate and not spin your tires off the line. Then drag race starts with the “Christmas tree”. It’s a set of 7 lights. The top 2 tell you when you are at the starting line (when you are staged).
Detail of Christmas Tree Lights
The top one will blink when you break a laser beam, and you will roll an inch or 2 forward and the second one will light up (from your tire breaking another beam). You are now ready to race! Once the other driver has also staged the 3 yellow lights (below the staging lights), will blink off in .5 second intervals (for normal racing, all at once for professionals). Then the green light will light up and you should start going now! Actually in all likelihood you or your car will not be as fast to react as you think, therefore the slower your car the sooner you should start engaging the clutch/removing your foot from the brake, and pushing the gas. If you leave from the line before the green light goes you will “break out” which means you have lost the race before you started, because you started too early. Not a big deal on your first day. On the other hand, the tree also measures your “reaction time” how close your car left the starting line in relation to the green light. Depending on what type of racing you are doing you might have to pay attention to this number. If you are just doing it to see what your car can do, that is fine, but if you are actually racing, the reaction time gets factored into your overall time. If you and the other car run the same time but his reaction time is .000 (perfect) and yours is .500 seconds you lose, even though your cars were equal. You can actually lose if you have a faster car even! If you run 14.00 with a .5 reaction time, and the other guy runs a 14.1 with a .000 R.T. you still lose.

Now that you know about starting, lets break down my time slip below and try to understand what all the numbers mean starting with the 60’ time which is one of the most important numbers in drag racing. This tells you how good your car is sticking to the ground and how much traction you are getting. If your 60’ time is high that means you are spinning your tires, which means you are going slow. See my time slip below.

1998 Super Taco vs 2007 Musatng

1998 Super Taco vs 2007 Musatng

This is my 2007 Mustang GT vs a 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup (not a performance vehicle in most peoples mind!) Our Mph was the same at the end of the track (100Mph) but his 60’ times are better and his over all time is lower by .821 seconds! That’s huge in drag racing. Why is he faster? He sticks to the track and uses his power while I was taking off, spinning tires, sometimes getting “wheel hop” etc. Who wants to take their mustang to the track and get smoked by a Toyota Taco? No one! How do we fix this? It (should be) easy. Basically you want to take off slowly enough, roll on the throttle to prevent wheel spin. You can also let air out of your tires to get better traction. Finally if you can, install drag slicks on your car. There are tons of other, more involved suspension mods you can do if you get fast enough, but that’s not the aim of this article.

Next we will compare the times of 2 cars that I raced separately and copy pasted their times together for a comparison of what the sticking to the track will do for you.

Super Taco vs. Some burnout

Super Taco vs. Some burnout


Burnout vs. Super taco

Burnout vs. Super taco

You will notice on the right is our friend the fast Taco vs some burnout car that I didn’t bother to document. You see again the Taco had the faster overall quartermile time 13.567 seconds vs. 13.757 for the burnout. But wait! The taco has a slower MPH at both the 1/8th and quarter miles. How is that? If you look at the 60’ times you will see. The Burnout had a time of 2.174 seconds vs. the Speed Taco at 1.892 seconds. This is showing that the Taco was accelerating very good and converting all his power into forward momentum vs the Burnout was spinning tires or had a bad start. So that brings us to the MPH. How was Burnout going faster at the end and still lost? The Burnout definitely had a bad start, spinning tires etc, which put it way behind. You see at the 330’ marker the Speed Taco had a lead of .337 seconds. This was cut down to .19 seconds at the end of the race. Therefor the Burnout had more horsepower and was accelerating faster once it finally got hooked up (probably 2nd or 3rd gear) whereas the Taco was always hooked but not quite as much power. So while power is good being able to transfer that power to the ground is also extremely important for your times and your ego! Don’t get smoked in your new bazillion HP car by some guy who knows how to race! Do burnouts, don’t be a burnout!

1998 Speed Taco 13.5 seconds in the quarter mile. Super Taco!

1998 Speed Taco 13.5 seconds in the quarter mile. Super Taco!

A few quick tips for your first track day.
1. You will need to go through tech inspection before they will let you drag race. Make sure all loose stuff is out of your car! Maps, shoes, kleenex, empty pop cans, etc. You don’t want that stuff flying around your car when you take off.
2. They will check some simple things like if your battery is tied down. Make sure it’s secured by something, at least the stock battery tie down!
3. Start accelerating when the 3rd yellow light is on. If you wait til it’s green you are already behind.
4. Do a burnout, if you have an AWD car this probably doesn’t apply.

burnout before drag racing to clean tires, get them hot, and help you stick to the track

burnout before drag racing to clean tires, get them hot, and help you stick to the track

5. Take off slowly. Don’t try to launch your car at 5000 rpm the first time. Ease onto the throttle, see how your car sticks. If you stick good, then try a little more gas next time.
6. If you do eventually start spinning on take off let some air out of your tires. Maybe to about 10 PSI. This completely depends on what type of tire you have, how far from home you are, etc. Don’t let all the air out of your tires and then be mad at me when you can’t get home! But even down to 15 psi you can drive a little bit safely. Air your tires up again ASAP!
7. Talk with other racers! They will give you tons of help. They are generally a super helpful bunch, but maybe don’t ask the guy with a top fuel dragster to help you drive your stock 2000 Honda Civic… He’s probably pretty busy and has a lot of money tied up in his car and he’s probably pretty serious. Maybe ask the guy who’s just a few seconds faster.
8. If you want to start modding your car once you have the technique down, but don’t have any money, removing weight also makes your car faster. Remove the spare tire, passenger seat, rear seat (those are the 3 easiest things to remove. A general rule of thumb is every 100 lbs removed from your car = .1 second faster in the quartermile. Don’t forget you need to reinstall these things sometime…
9. Have FUN!

Now that you know all about drag racing how do you start? It’s pretty simple to drag race. You can literally drag race any vehicle. I’ve seen Dodge Caravans, pickup trucks, Buick Century’s as well as the normal car’s you’d expect like muscle cars, import tuners and purpose built drag cars. A normal one day of drag racing test and tune will cost you between $25 and $75 dollars to run as many runs as you can get in, base on how many people are there. So get to the track! What are you waiting for?!?!?!?

Per usual please share this if you enjoyed it! Like “My Wheel Life” on Facebook, etc.

Here’s a great (non-traditional) drag race staged by Motortrend magazine between a ton of cars!
Motortrend Greatest Drag race 2. This is my favorite of the 3 “worlds greatest drag race” videos.

3. My Wheel Life – The Illusion of Speed

Quartermile: The short story
Cars, dirtbikes, motorcycles, trucks, they are made for having fun!
If you aren’t having fun you’re probably doing something wrong.
Off roading/mudding a truck, jeep, ATV can be fun too! (I have friends who do this, I haven’t, yet)
Sometimes the quartermile section can have something that is not mentioned in the full article. Sometimes the message strays from the title?
Who’s steering this ship? (Car?)

How car guys park....
Why do I spend time working on cars? The reason is two fold. First I enjoy the satisfaction of taking something apart that is not working and restoring it to working order. Second, and really the part I enjoy more, is the fun of showing and driving my car. I prefer to have my car together and utilizing it than having it sit in the garage. Cars are art but part of their art is their performance. What good is a 800hp (insert super car model here) if it sits in your garage? I’d rather have a 1999 Honda Civic with a loud cannon, a huge wing and a short shifter and a cold air intake that I drive everyday.

The above brings me to the thesis of this post,The Illusion of Speed. Have you ever driven a geo metro, with a fallen off exhaust down a dirt road in 2nd gear at 30 mph? You feel like you are going 100 mph! Have you ever drag raced a 2007 Mustang GT a quarter mile in 14.22 seconds at 100 mph? That felt more like going 55mph down the road. Launching is probably the most fun part of drag racing. A 1987 Monte Carlo SS going 15.12 at 89 mph felt even slower…. My point here, besides I need a faster car, is that speed is relative. You don’t have to go 150 miles an hour to have a good time.

Motorcycles are a great toy to have for fun. They generally have great power to weight ratios which makes them speedy. The lightness makes them nimble, which is also fun. Although I can tell you from experience that swerving around inside your own lane is apparenlty “suspicious” enough for Johnny Law to pull you over and give you a ticket for a “hard to see” license plate. Motorcycles are also cheap. A 1970’s or 80’s Japanese motorcycle can be bought for anywhere between $500 and $1000. I personally have a 1981 Honda CM400C that I have turned into a bobber (with a little help from my brother). Stripped down, solo seat, no rear fender (yet, it’s in process). This is my around town bike. It is loud, I beat on the thing and I’m not worried if it blows up because I have so little money in it. If the engine blows up a replacement is CHEAP! And if you don’t want to replace an engine you could always Frankenstein a 600cc new rocket engine into it. I think that’d be an awesome project also. Did I mention how cheap old motorcycles are?
1981 Honda CM400C Spring 2013
Another way to have fun is on a dirtbike. I have been dirtbiking since I my father bought my brother and I a Honda XR80 for Christmas around 2003. I upgraded to a (1993) CR125 around 2006, you don’t need the newest toys to have fun! That’s a 2 stroke for those unfamiliar with dirtbikes. This is the bike I still have today. The most fun I have had on a dirtbike (and perhaps one of the most fun things I’ve ever done) was the hare scramble I participated in last year.
Follow the link below and change to New Hartford, IA – September 15, 2013 race.
Apparently I finished 77/115. There are a ton of classes represented in there. I was sure I finished higher…

The appeal of the hare scramble is you get to ride for 1:30-2 hours. The time is great, compared to drag racing/autocross where you get to drive a total of between 11 seconds and 10 minutes in a whole day. You are riding changing terrain with a bunch of other riders. Also there is minimal damage done to your bike or your body (if you aren’t some of my friends, you know who you are 🙂 Overall if you want to have fun, I recommend a dirtbike.
hare scramble Sept. 15 2013 new hartford
Onto street cars. How do you have fun there? Like I mentioned earlier, I can find pleasure in simple things. A 1995 Honda Civic stock with 100 Hp, give it a tune, an exhaust, and air intake and cool rims and sticker it up and drive it like you stole it. The great thing is it’s probably pushing 140 hp as this point so you will likely not be able to speed even. But really, Honda Civics can be fun. Remember, no haters welcome here.
On the topic of air intakes. You might find it interesting how Ford worked to develop a “performance feel” for the Focus ST ““active sound symposer” in order to provide the car with a fitting aural soundtrack. The symposer is similar to a sound tube that’s been used in the past on cars like the Mustang in the sense that it pumps sound from engine into the interior, but the Focus ST system is more advanced. It’s attached directly to the intake manifold and pipes in a specific frequency range – 200 to 450 Hz – into the cabin” – Taken directly from Motor Trend, Read more:
How fun is that?!?!?!

Of course my personal vehicles are American muscle cars, a 2007 Mustang GT and a 1987 Monte Carlo SS Aerocoupe. Lots of torque and hp. Unlike the Honda you can get in lots of trouble speed wise with these cars. The most fun I’ve had with a street car,on the street, has been Hot Rod Power Tour. It’s a humongous, week long, moving car show. Read more about Power Tour here:
I will be attending this year, trip goes from Charlotte, North Carolina to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. I will definitely chronicle that in a later post.
Other great ways to have fun on a smaller scale are local car shows. Check out the events section of my site to find events local to the Cedar Valley.

"Replica" Monte I made for a contest

“Replica” Monte I made for a contest

One final way to have fun with your street car is to race it! On the track!
Drag racing and Autocross are 2 great ways that let you put the pedal to the floor without losing your license. You just might find that you aren’t as “bad” of a dude as you thought. There will be many great drivers and fast cars at both of these events. The great part of these events is learning from others who have been in your place. Everyone had a first trip to the race track. If you go alone you will be sure to find someone who will talk to you. Don’t worry if your car is slow or not a race car even! I have seen 1998 Buick Centuries at the drag strip and 1984 Mercedes station wagons at autocross events! It’s all for fun!
(Again, find links on the events page.)

What’s your favorite way to have fun with an engine and some wheels?

So I hope you are now overly anxious to get out and start participating!
Keep the wheel side down and enjoy the ride.