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The risks of racing

At the very least, the recent "issues" with NASCAR and such have brought to light a few serious issues with racing.  As much as we would like to forget these "issues" exist ... there are a few things we can do to cut back the risk.

To all of you who have just received the latest SportsCar magazine (March 2001), please take a minute and read the article on the HANS system.  I for one have thought very seriously about getting a HANS system made up.  $900 is a VERY small price to pay for the added safety it provides.  Use it once ... and it more then paid for itself.

I have emailed a person that is making a "build it yourself" kit that does the same thing the HANS does ... but only costs $150 in parts.  I'll update the list when I get more info.  If you would like to email the person directly for more info ... his email address is:

I'd also like to take a minute and tell you all about a few important safety tips.  I know most of you already know these ... but if it helps just one person, it's worth it.  These rules, for the most part, work both on the street, and on the track.  I am
still learning myself ... so please feel free to correct, or add to, anything I type.  :-)

1.)  CHECK YOUR TIRES!!  Are they running at the right pressures for your application??  If not, your braking, turning, etc. etc. will all be affected.  Also, how much tread to you have on them??  With the cheap cost of tires, there's no reason anyone should be running bald, or near bald tires.  I for one don't want to spend thousands on my car ... just to have someone with bald tires rear end me trying to stop at a light in the rain / snow.  :-)  "Cheap tread" is better then no tread at all.  Of course ... with racing tires ... less tread is better.  ;-)  And for those of you who think that race tires are the same as street tires, only bald ... please let me know so I can stay the heck away from your car during the rally.  ;-)  Also, every other week, make sure to take a torque wrench to your lug nuts. It only takes about five minutes.  Don't assume that "good and tight" is good enough.

2.)  CHECK YOUR BRAKES!!  When's the last time you took your wheels off and inspected the brake pads, rotors, calipers, drums, shoes, lines, etc.??  In the winter time, I use regular everyday street pads / shoes on my car.  Front pads at Autozone $20, rear shoes at Autozone $15, the fact of knowing your car will stop ... priceless.  ;-)  I would suggest using a pad like the Carbotech "F Compound" for occasional track use.  Personally, I love these pads for spring, summer, and fall.  I have never had them fade on me on the street, or on the track.  With the cheap cost of rotors these days ... just go buy a new set when you do the pads.  It's not worth having them turned anymore.  Also, when's the last time you had the fluid changed??  If you don't know how, take it some where.  If you just drive on the street ... I'd suggest having this done once a year (regardless of what the dealer recommends).  With mild track / autocross use ... I'd have it done two or three times a year (this is when it's nice to be able to do it yourself).  Castrol LMA is the recommended brand to use on a stock system.  It has a higher boiling point then most stock types of fluids and won't damage the stock system.  If you take your car to the dealer, make sure to bring some bottles of this stuff with ya.  It can be purchased at your local Autozone, PepBoys, etc.  Don't use any "off the shelf" synthetic stuff.  And don't use Redline or any racing brands unless you have replaced your lines with stainless steel lines ... and even then ... why spend the cash when the Castrol LMA will do the job (for street use and occasional track use)??

3.)  SUSPENSION!!!  When's the last time you had your struts / springs checked out??  You can do a simple test to check these.  Simply push up and down on the front / rear and then let go.  If the car stops "bouncing" on the first try, your fine.  If it keeps "bouncing" up and down ... it's time to replace the struts.  Bad struts not only lead to a crummy ride, but your tires will wear out a lot faster, and you won't be able to stop and/or turn as good as you should.  Struts are one of those things (kind of like brake pads) that don't all of the sudden go bad.  They go bad over time ... so it's very very hard to tell when they need to be replaced without "testing" them.  As long as your at it, now's a great time to get some better springs put on.  ;-)  While your at it ... have the bushings, bearings, tie-rod ends, etc. checked out.  Cheap insurance!!!

4.)  CHECK YOUR LIGHTS!!  I know this is a simple one ... but it's something that a few people on the road tend to overlook.  Have a friend try the turn signals, brakes, etc. and walk around the car just to make sure they all work.  I'd suggest putting a spare high and low beam bulb in your glove compartment just in case (along with a basic first aid kit!!).

5.)  HELMET CHECK!!  For all of you who race ... when's the last time you checked your helmet out??  Are you still using the same helmet you had back in the 90's.  ;-)  How many times has your head bounced off the roll cage wearing that helmet??  $150 is very very cheap insurance.  And for heavens stake ... if at all possible ... don't paint and/or put stickers on your helmet (other then required ones).  If you bump your head, and a crack forms ... it will be very hard to tell.  If you have the cash, and are in need of a new helmet anyway ... now's a very good time to think about getting a HANS system.  Or better yet, the $150 version when the plans come out.  ;-)

6.)  WHAT'S THAT NOISE??  Does your car make a funny noise when making a turn??  Or how about when you go over a bump??  Regardless of when the noise happens, figure out what it is ASAP.  It could be something small, but it could also be something very expensive down the road if you don't fix it now.  ;-)  Being on the track at Gingerman this summer during the SPC rally IS NOT the time to find out that that noise was a loose suspension bolt!!  Especially if I'm behind you!!  ;-)

7.)  BRAIN FADE?!?!!?!?!   Are you feeling ok??  Did you get enough sleep last night??  Doing 90-100MPH on the track is not the time to find out you needed to get some more sleep last night, or you shouldn't have taken that cold medicine right before racing.  Regardless of the "holly war" going on about how racing is / is not a real sport ... the fact remains that racing requires a LOT of stamina / energy.  Just ask anyone that has done a track school and/or race.  I am by no means ready for the big time ... but after a thirty minute session out on track ... I'm whipped (and I'm not even going car to car!!).  And anyone that thinks that adrenalin will get you though it ... think again.  Adrenalin only helps for the first few minutes ... after that, you'd better be able to keep it together.  Driving on the street to get groceries is easy ... trying to brake from 90-100MPH to 30MPH to make a 90' turn isn't.  Anyone that relates doing 70MPH on the highway to doing 70MPH on a race track is nuts.  During the off season ... NASCAR drivers don't sit around and drink beer all day long.  They're lifting weights, running, etc. etc.  Even if you don't consider racing a true sport ... your crazy if you don't consider the majority of the drivers athletes.

Ok ... that's enough for now.  If you got this far ... thanks for reading.  With any luck, I'll see you at the rally with a fully working car!!  Wish I could say the same.  Do as I say, not as I do.  ;-)  And just so everyone's aware, I'm not being sponsored by any of the manufactures I mentioned ... I just wanted to let everyone know what I have done, in hopes of helping others out.