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Routine Weekly Maintenance: Preparing & Washing Your Sprint Car

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Have you ever been to the racetrack on a Saturday night and wondered what it takes to put a winning effort on the race track, week in and week out? Contrary to what some may believe, it takes a lot more than loading up the racecar, driving to the racetrack and unloading it. There is a lot of meticulous and tedious work to be done nearly every night throughout the week. These practices are what often times make up the difference between a first-place effort, and say, a tenth-place effort. As they say, “You’re only as good as your last race”.

There are plenty of teams out there that may take the lazy approach. They may do just enough maintenance to get by, show up to the race track with a dirty car, fix things as they break, and inspecting components once they’ve already come apart. Those teams don’t find their way to victory lane too often.

I have been part of some very successful race teams over my years in the industry, and we have always gone the extra mile in maintenance. Those efforts assure we don’t have an issue that could hinder our ability to win races, and run up front. Races are won at the race track, but Championships are won at the shop. In order to be a contender night in, and night out, you have to possess a work ethic that won’t quit, and a car that won’t quit on you either. The first step in that week to week maintenance is getting your race car washed, cleaned, and inspected, so you can start your maintenance for the next race. The following are steps that I like to take to prepare the car for the next nights races, beginning as soon as the checkered falls.

Prepare your car for the car wash.

I like to prepare the race car for the car wash immediately after the A feature is over. I do so after I check tire pressure, wear, and tire growth, usually while the driver is signing autographs and talking to fans. This starts with removing excess mud or dirt from the race car, especially the top wing so you don’t have dirt dropping on top of the engine as you prepare it for washing. I also look over the entire car while scraping mud to take note of things like shock travel, any wear and tear, or damage to the racecar.

Next is removal of the hood. After removing the hood, I remove the air cleaner box from the injection. I follow that with wadding up paper towels and pushing them down into the stacks to the butterflies. This will be the last line of defense to keep water from going down the runners. I then like to get the top of the runners sealed. There are plenty of nice wash plugs on the market, such as Speedway Motors Fuel Injection Wash Plugs. The wash plugs fit into the stacks, and tighten down to help keep water out. If you would rather spend your money elsewhere in your program, sealing the top with duct tape will suffice as long as you get a tight seal.

If your car runs a mag and mag box, as 360 and 410 cubic inch power plants do, you will want to disconnect the generator wire from the mag, unplug both Electrical connections and take your mag box out. If you run an external coil, like we do on our 305-cubic inch power plant, you will simply cover the coil with a plastic bag. You want to be sure to keep the bag as tight as possible around the bottom to keep water from getting the electronic parts wet. You will also want to cover the magneto itself and keep it dry. The last problem you want is an ignition problem that could have been prevented by keeping those components dry. I like to keep the end of the headers closed off from water as well.

I’ve seen people use things such as Nerf Footballs to keep the water out before. I have found that a large fountain drink cup from one of our sponsors, placed in the end of the header, bottom first, fits tight enough to keep water out. No matter what you use, it is best to be careful and try not to get water into the engine.

Thoroughly wash your race car.

When I arrive at the car wash, the first thing I like to do after unloading the race car is to roll it to the wash bay and remove the top wing from the car. Next, I wipe the grease off of the runners and I put pieces of duct tape over the slots in the bottom of the wing where the wing posts fit into the runner. This keeps water from getting inside the wing. I also like to remove the hood and the body panels from the car. This makes it easier to wash both sides of the panels as well as make it easier to wash the chassis itself and the mud, dirt and grease that gets into the cockpit. It is much easier late at night if there are two wash bays open. One person can be washing the race car and body panels while another person can thoroughly wash the dirt and mud off of the wheels and tires.

When it comes to washing the car, I prefer to bring my own bucket and wash mitt and fill it with soap and water as I presoak the car. Remember as you wash to try to keep the Engine as dry as you possibly can. You can always hand clean the engine if you have to when you’re done washing the rest of the car. I then presoak the car, wheels and tires, and all body parts with soapy water just as you would your daily driver, still being careful of the engine.

Next, grab your mitt and get the car wiped down. The dirtiest areas to pay attention to would be the front of the car, the bottom frame rails by the rear end and the lower panels, which get the dirt baked on by the exhaust. I recommend taking the jack into the car wash, too. Jacking the front of the car up allows you to clean the entire surface of the front tires. If you have time (and enough quarters) you can take the wheels and tires off the car to thoroughly clean them, doing the same for the rears. As you wash your car and wipe it down, this is a great time to carefully inspect every inch of the race car and look for parts showing wear, or cracks.

Drying race car, preparing for routine maintenance.

Once you are done with the wash process, I recommend using regular house towels to hand dry everything. Once you are back to the trailer, or the shop, take an air blower and blow out the torsion bars, each brake system, and all of the places on the engine compartment that there could be water sitting.

When you arrive at the location you will do maintenance at, take your set up blocks such as Speedway's Standard 1 3/4- 4" Set-Up Blocks, part number 91082750. Or the Standard 3-6" Set-Up Blocks, part number 91082755. Then adjust them to your ride height and place the blocks on the frame rails under your front and rear axles. You may have to disconnect your left front shock in order to let the axle rest upon the left front setup block. The left front shock needs a shorter shock as it requires less travel and may not extend far enough to get the axle to the set-up block.

Standard 1-3/4 - 4" Set-Up Blocks & Standard 3" - 6" Set-Up Blocks

Next bust your rear wheels loose, jack your car up and place it on your stands. Here at Speedway Motors, we sell a very nice set of Sprint/Midget Car Chassis Stands with wheels, part number 94081105. Be sure to keep the ride height blocks square under your axles. Finally, remove your front and rear wheels from the car, you are now ready to start your routine maintenance.

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