The hardest part of racing is finishing a new car and getting it to the track on time

March 14, 2019

This weekend, our hometown track Southern Raceway will host the Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series for the third annual Bash at the Beach. Friday night’s lineup will include a $3,000 to win Super Late Model main event, while Saturday’s weekend finale will pay $7,000 to the winner. 


Super Late Model racing doesn’t happen often in our area, so we’re doing our best to get Joseph’s car ready for Friday night. The problem is, the car my brother will be driving this weekend is new to us, and the motor that’ll be in it has been sitting in the back of the shop for five years.


So, for the last week, we’ve been in rush mode trying to get everything put together in time for this weekend. It’s been one of those “we’ll be in the race shop until further notice” kind of weeks, where everyone in our family knows where to find me, Joseph, and Daddy from the time we get off work until late into the night. It’s also been a “all hands on deck” situation. All our racing buddies know the deal: we’re wide open in the shop. Come help us if you can.


Hopefully, we’ll get Joseph’s new car together in time for Friday night, but if nothing else, the last week has reminded me of a simple truth about racing:


The hardest part of this sport is getting a race car to the track for the first time. Whether it’s brand new, new to you, or newly rebuilt, getting a race car together and to the track is tough work.   


I often hear people use the phrase “crunch time” to describe the period of time when the pressure to get something finished is at its greatest. It’s the few days right before a task has to be completed and the final handful of hours ahead of an absolute deadline.


The last week has been “crunch time” for us.


It started last Friday evening when Joseph returned from the engine builder with our “Super motor.” It’s an all-aluminum, 18-degree, 430-cubic-inch hoss that’s putting out a little shy of 750 horsepower. It might be a little under-powered compared to some of the 900-horsepower beasts we’ll race it against, but it’s the best we have and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’ll run as well as it did before it locked up on us five years ago.



The car we’re bolting it in is an eight-year-old Victory Circle chassis, but it’s brand new to us. We picked it up a couple weeks ago, and we’ve come a long way with it since then. When we unloaded it in the shop last week, it was less everything other than the body, front-end components, and rear-end. Everything else, from the radiator to the fuel cell, we’ve bolted on it over the last week and half.


Last week, we got the hubs and brake calipers on the car, and we mounted and wired the switches, gauges, and ignition boxes. Over the weekend, we bolted the fuel cell in it. Then we dressed the motor and set it in the car. So far this week, we’ve mounted the seat, gas pedal, brake adjuster, and steering column. We’ve also marked several other items off the list: radiator, carburetor, headers, transmission, and dry sump tank and pump.


We’ve fabricated all kinds of pieces and components from body parts, to a radiator perch, to a dry sump tank mounting plate. We’ve made more trips than I can count to the auto parts, hardware, and race supplies stores. And we’ve eaten all sorts of fast food: burgers, chicken, pizza, doughnuts, and all kinds of other unhealthy filler.


It’s been a heck of a week, and now, with just over 24 hours until race time, we’re down to firing the motor; bolting on shocks and springs; setting up the car; and mounting, grooving, and siping tires. If we’re lucky, we’ll make it to the track before time trials tomorrow night. If we’re really lucky, we might even make it in time to hot lap.


The good news is every week isn’t like the one I just described. Not every race requires as much time and effort as we’ve put into making it to this one. But the fact of the matter is there are times when getting ready to go racing means setting everything else in life aside and devoting just about all the time and energy you have to working on the race car.


This is something that every racer knows. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a late model or a pure stock, when you’re building a new race car, or rebuilding an old one, you’re going to have to work really, really hard. And, odds are, there’s going to come a point when you feel like you’ve done just about all you can do. You’ll stop for a second, take a deep breath, and stretch your aching back.


Then you’ll say, “Man, racing is really hard work.”


But then you’ll get right back after it, because you know there’s no time to waste if you’re going to get the car to the track on time.


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