Advances in racing technology have occurred at a dramatic pace over the past 15 years. If we could travel back in time and look at grassroots racing, we would be amazed at not only how different the cars looked, but also the practices in place to work on the cars. Recently, I watched clips of a Nextel Cup race from about 10 years ago, a race that I had attended. I didn't remember the cars being all that different, but after watching the clip, I couldn't believe how much they've changed.

The same has happened with Late Models and Street Stocks. A lot has changed in the last 10 or 15 years-not only the vehicles, but also the tools we use to set up our cars. One of these I honestly dread, and that's stringing the car. It never fails: Someone forgets the string is there, steps into it, and we have to spend time resetting it. It's a time-consuming process, and while you could try to do it by yourself, it's really a job for two people.

Advanced Racing Technologies (ART) has developed all types of laser tools, ranging from laser bumpsteer gauges to laser toe plates. One product that catches my interest is a laser that is used for stringing a car. It will not only square your right-rear tire to the frame, but also square the rear end of the race car.

I had the opportunity to see this product in use at Team Glock. Team members were using Spraker Racing Enterprises' Laser String. Spraker Racing is a dealer for ART, supplying all of the NASCAR community. However, the products will also work for your typical Late Model. The laser simply bolts onto the hub of the right-rear tire and shoots a strong laser that can be easily seen. This means that stringing your car is no longer a two-person job; you can easily do it yourself with this laser string system.

Digital Depth Gauge
Intercomp also produces a variety of high-tech products, including wireless scales and pyrometers. One product that caught my eye was the company's digital depth gauge. With accuracy to 0.001 inch, it is an incredible tool. It's perfect for drivers who have to choose from a selection of tires at the track. You merely stick the gauge into one of the small depth holes and quickly determine how much rubber that tire has left. This is especially valuable to Limited Late Model drivers whose tires are waiting once they arrive at the track. The digital depth gauge displays in inches and millimeters, whichever is preferred.

Intercomp also produces a digital camber/caster gauge that has been on the market for quite some time. I have used one for about six years, and I purchased it when I was still helping a lot of kart racers. This is one of the few pieces of equipment that I purchased for karting that I am still able to use with a stock car. It slides over the tire and measures camber and caster. The best part about this particular gauge is the magnet that attaches to the wheel while the car is on the scales, allowing you to easily determine camber. It eliminates the bubble gauge and the guesswork. It measures in 0.1 increments so you know exactly how much caster and camber you have.

One thing that never seems to work in favor of racers is the weather. When you need it to be 75 and clear, it's 50 and raining. At 100 degrees, it feels like the sun has planted itself in the pit stall next to you. There are a few tricks for dealing with the heat, and most everyone knows about them. But what about when the rain starts to fall? You could just use a simple tarp to cover the car, but that makes it difficult to get to the car when you need to work on it.

Cover It Up
Longacre has car covers that are much better than the tarps you'd use to cover the car. There are some that can be put on while the driver is still in the car, as there's a place by the driver's side that allows the driver to exit without having to remove the cover. Longacre has covers not only for pavement cars, but also for Dirt Late Models and Modifieds. Each car cover allows you to open the hood and work on the motor without having to remove the cover.

Radio communications have come a long way as well. First came custom earplugs designed for a more comfortable fit. The latest improvement is in helmet ear speakers. Instead of custom molded earplugs, helmets and speakers are designed so the speakers will slide over your ears. These will not only be more comfortable, but also block out noise from inside the vehicle. RH2 Radios can install the speakers into any helmet.

RH2 is currently developing a system for crew member headsets called the Active Noise Reduction Headset. They use the same technology that Bose headphones use for airplane travelers. Your crew will be able to put the headsets on and greatly reduce the noise of the other engines and cars around them.

It is important to stay on top of the latest tricks in racing. One way to do this is by talking to people and having contacts at the track who can tell you what they have been trying and what they have seen other people doing. This is especially important when it comes to the setups people have been putting underneath their race cars. Think of how much the big bar/soft spring setup revolutionized the way people set up their race cars. Fifteen to 20 years ago, nobody was doing this, and it was the complete opposite of most setups.

Technology will always make us change what we are doing to our race cars and how we work on them. Sometimes new technology will sound a little far-fetched and strange. However, if you can keep an open mind and commit to trying new things when given the opportunity, you might just save some time and improve your finishes at the track.

Advanced Racing Technologies Longacre
North Minneapolis