Is there anything worse than being under a ton of stress? We have all felt it, whether at our jobs or dealing with family members. Whatever the case, how you handle stress determines how hard it is on you. Your racecar is not much different. Sometimes your vehicle will be under stress and you might not ever see or hear it, but your performance on the track will change greatly.

It goes so much farther than just tightening every nut and bolt on your chassis and chassis components. This, no doubt, is extremely important. But the teams that are typically experiencing success have a checklist of tasks performed regularly on the car. Some might be more obvious than others, but all of them are equally as important if you are serious about winning.

The following are just a few areas that you should be checking throughout the race year. Some of the areas need to be checked every week while others you could get by with only checking once every few races. The important thing to do is to keep a steady eye on them and make a checklist that shows how often you check them.

Our team has created a list that we tape to a window on the car once it is unloaded after a race. Then when a task is completed, we check it off and the person who performed the task leaves their initials. This helps make sure that everything is done, but it also helps hold that person accountable for the work.

A chassis can be extremely finicky. One bent bar can drastically change the way the car handles. But that bent chassis component may not always be visible, and that is why you should regularly check the welds on the chassis to see if you notice any chipped paint or cracks. If you can, then it is time to put the chassis on a jig and make repairs. Or take it to a mechanic who can repair the chassis.

Your upper and lower control arms undergo a lot of stress as well. They also determine a lot about how well the car handles, as they control caster, camber, toe, and wheelbase. So if the upper or lower control arm is bent, you will have major problems with your setup. A lot of the time it is extremely hard to see a bent control arm. But one dead giveaway is when you are checking your setup notes from the previous race, you notice that the camber has changed considerably although you didn't make any camber changes. Then you can count on either the upper or lower control arm being bent, if not both. Any time you hit another car or encounter the wall with either the right- or left-front wheel, you should be checking the upper and lower control arms.

A bolt hole placed in the chassis to hold additional equipment will weaken that part of the chassis. So anytime there is a hard impact around that area, the first place it will bend is around that bolt. It is important to regularly examine the chassis and chassis components to ensure they are up to par, not only for performance sake, but also for your safety.

Motor mounts are another area deserving close attention. Just a simple glance from week to week will do. Like the welds, you should look for cracked paint or hairline cracks. If you happen to discover either, then more than likely your engine has shifted due to an accident or other stress at some point.

I was involved in a pretty bad accident last year where the entire rear clip had to be replaced. It was a bunch of work but we got the car back to form and repaired everything we saw wrong with the car. We unloaded at the next race and thought we had everything right. But as soon as I went out on the track the car was shaking severely. The yoke on the driveshaft was bent. That's something we would never have been able to see with the naked eye.

The rearend of a racecar can be extremely complicated. It doesn't matter if you are using a quick-change or nine-inch rearend, as each needs to be inspected every week. It can be as easy as glancing underneath the car to make sure you don't have anything leaking out of the rearend or transmission.

On a quick-change rearend you should change the ratchet springs every few races. The ratchet springs ensure that the right-rear and left-rear turn at the rate they are supposed to turn. But once the springs get worn down they will make your car handle very poorly. The one time the springs reached that point in my car I couldn't even touch the gas pedal without almost spinning out. It made the entire car extremely loose, but it could have just the reverse effect; it could make your car extremely tight when you enter the corner. It all depends on which spring goes out first.

You should also check the axles in the rearend on a consistent basis. The axle has splines on each end that will transfer the power from the rearend to the rear wheels. If the axles have been grinded down to where they have very little of the splines left, and there are a lot of sharp edges where the splines used to be, then you need to replace the axles.

There is nothing in your vehicle that will experience as much stress as your engine. The extreme temperatures, the broad rpm range experienced by race engines, and the potentially harmful debris that could enter the engine are just a few variables that will add to engine stress.

One of the more important components needing attention after every race is the exhaust gaskets. This is where you could potentially lose most of the power being generated by the engine. If you blow an exhaust gasket, you will lose back pressure and lose horsepower. If you discover that you have a blown exhaust gasket at the track, there is a quick fix: Use high heat silicone and seal the area around the blown gasket. Allow it to dry before starting the engine. Check all of the gaskets associated with the engine just to make sure that you do not have a blown head gasket or, even worse, a cracked head.

After every race weekend, clean out the carburetor and inspect it to make sure you don't have any dirt or grime inside the carburetor. (See FAQ page 74.) While the carburetor is out, look inside the air bleeds and make certain there is no type of debris inside of them. Also check the boosters to see if any has started to come loose, and replace as needed.

Another point of interest is the spark plugs. You should pull them every few races to make sure the color around the electrodes is consistent. If seven out of the eight are brown and the eighth has little to no color, then you have probably been running on seven cylinders for some time. Also pay attention to how the electrode looks, checking to see if it has any type of debris or aluminum gathering around it. This could help prevent further problems.

The point of all this is not to worry you about your car, but to make you aware of a few areas that most teams inspect from week to week. If you are constantly having trouble with things breaking or falling off once you get to the track, then that is a sign of too little maintenance being performed on the car between races. Just remember when you're not working and inspecting your car, someone is working on theirs and making it better. It might seem like a lot of work, which it can be, but it's more than worth it.

Leavitt Racing Components
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