Wednesday, November 17, 2010 02:37
If there's one thing that defines a high-performance car, it’s the manual transmission. That four (or five, or sometimes six)-on-the-floor says the hand on the knob belongs to a driver with the skill to meter out the horsepower in the right amount and at the right time, without the intervention of some granny-friendly slushbox, thank you very much.
But manual transmissions are disappearing. It used to be that sticks were the default transmission, and automatics the high-priced option. Now, with electronic controls determining shift points and engine rpm, and with more drivers needing their hands free to text, phone, and hold their lattes, automatics are fast becoming the only choice in many models, with manual shifting the extra-cost option—if it’s even available at all. More...
Tuesday, November 16, 2010 03:21
Sticky tires offer by far the biggest bang for your handling buck. A set of shiny new wheels (aka “rims”) can cut years from your car’s apparent age.
Done properly, new wheels and tires are an easy—though sometimes expensive—upgrade. Done improperly, they’re a very expensive way to screw up a car that did nothing to deserve such abuse.
First allow me to dispel a common misconception: Larger diameter wheels and lower profile tires do NOT necessarily improve a car’s at-the-limit handling. Here’s a for instance: A wheel/tire combo that’s heavier than stock will likely hurt ultimate grip, increase braking distance, and slow acceleration. If you’re looking for increased grip—wet or dry—go with a set of ultra-high-performance (what some call “extreme-” or “max-”) tires and leave the wheels alone. More...
Thursday, November 11, 2010 04:54
Before the 2010 AMP Energy Juice 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega, I looked at the grandstands and then at the time. My phone said it was just minutes before the green flag, but the two-thirds-full grandstands said the race was hours away. I’ve seen as many people in the stands three hours before the start of a Talladega NASCAR race than there were three minutes before the start of the 2010 fall event.
Seeing as it was Halloween, had some 60,000 fans come disguised as empty seats? Or were they in drunken blackouts in their campers? (Answers: No, and, yes, but not 60,000 of them.)
NASCAR is hurting. The television directors try to disguise it by avoiding shots of empty seats. Because of the layout of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they couldn’t help but show 100,000 vacant seats at the Brickyard 400. There were other signs for those who don’t regularly attend races. Probably the biggest: Bristol Motor Speedway used to pack in more people than does the University of Tennessee Vols when they play arch-rival Alabama in nearby Knoxville. Already, Bristol is already advertising that seats are available for its 2011 events. Used to be, the rights to Bristol seats were contentious parts of East Tennessee divorces and probate proceedings: “Okay, you get the doublewide, the dog, the kids, and the truck, but I get the rights to the Bristol NASCAR seats.” I am NOT making this up. (Lest you think I’m a NASCAR hater or redneck basher, I was born in Tennessee, live in South Carolina, Jeff Foxworthy is my idol, and I’ve raced in the NASCAR Southwest Tour. And if I win the lottery, you’ll see me behind the wheel of a NASCAR car again.) More...
Tuesday, November 9, 2010 03:54
Speaking of rolling over into the abyss, plus demolishing and flying things. You see these things … they roll in from the web like tumbleweed on a dry breeze. Lots of it is crap, with strange people behaving oddly, often for the sake of the world bearing witness to why people think they’re strange in the first place. Some of it ain’t crap, though, like this radical—there aren’t too many words that work better—wreck for Pro 5.0 racer Dennis Bailey.
You could use the near ubiquitous YouTube to dig this up, or go through Stang TV and support a non world-dominating organization. Search Dennis Bailey + rollover + drag and you’ll probably be able to dig this up through a search engine, too. (Sorry, they wouldn't let us embed the vid here.)
Trapping with sub-five second times in the quarter-mile, the Pro 5.0 class is about as fast as you can go in a Mustang—in any stock-wheel-based dragster, really. That made it even harder on Mr. Bailey, who waited until the top of the run (at well over 200 mph), to tell his wheelie bars to fold up. At least that’s what it looked like—the YouTube isn’t the best quality.
As with lots of the best wreck action (as good as something this atrocious can be), many things happen in a very short amount of time. We see Dennis Bailey’s SN-95-bodied pre-stage, bring up the turbo against the trans-brake, stage, leave (rather nicely, I might add), and only at the top of the run (it’s the car in the far lane, in case you didn’t notice) do things go bad—quickly.
At the far end of the track, the front end lifts a little, then a little more, at which point the bars probably give up the ghost and things get bad. The car lifts up and over the K-rail, and proceeds to roll for at least ten more seconds. This is serious yard-sale wreckage, folks, so dig it while you can and it’s not you. This wreck got so much mileage we heard about it on a gearhead radio show in San Diego called Hank Watson’s Garage Hour. The good stuff gets mileage.
Monday, November 8, 2010 02:10
Checklists. Lots of checklists. There was also duct tape with critical notes written in Sharpie attached to the steering wheel. That’s what it was like when I was largely a one-man-racing band. (I often had some key assistance, from my mentor, championship team owner Bob Raub, but just as often I was alone.)
The reason for all these reminders: You can lose a race because you forgot to fill the fuel tank or you can lose a race because you forgot to fill the transmission with gear oil. One’s a bit more expensive than the other. You can crash because you forgot to torque the wheels or you can crash before you forgot you’d just installed new brake pads. And you can make yourself an idiot-for-life by leaving your fishing tackle in your car’s trunk. (I didn’t do that. Pete, your secret is safe with me. Actually, no secret is safe with a journalist, so scratch that.) More...