“Set Up” the Race Car – Why?

You would never think of taking a rear end setup from an Indy car, a front end setup from a Winston Cup car, and a weight distribution setup from a Formula 1 car as your settings in your short track asphalt racer - but racers seem to do just that! When many racers “dial in” a setup in their race cars, they go through the motions without really understanding why they are doing what they are doing!

The goal of any race car setup, regardless of the track type or track surface, is to keep all four tire contact patches firmly anchored to the ground at all times. Obviously, this is a good theory, but in practice it is impossible. We must make compromises in design, chassis adjustment and driving style to get as close as we can to this goal. All chassis components must work together to meet the goal of keeping all four tires in firm contact with the track. This means that each tire should have equal weight exerted on it in the turn so that the car can go fast through the corner.

Adjustment to one component will cause a change in another component. If there is a problem in one corner of the car, the “fix” for that problem may cause a problem somewhere else - and you spend race day chasing these problems all over the car. In the end, you never cure the handling problems that you have, and you leave the track frustrated.

For example, let's say that you set up your car at the shop to your baseline specifications, but at the track you hear that the track champion runs a different stagger than your normal baseline. You decide that instead of running your “normal” stagger, a change in rear stagger to match the “champ’s” stagger numbers is what is needed. A change that drastic will invalidate all the other settings in the chassis, and you will be left wondering why you are not in the winner's circle.

Chassis setup is a formula that you use on your car at a particular track under particular conditions, coupled with your own driving style. Mixing in other settings is a mistake. Your baseline setup formula may be changed in small increments, with one change at a time, depending on track and weather conditions. Drive the car consistently, then analyze what the car is doing. Make small changes, one at a time, and record the results. Resist making wholesale changes on the fly just before the race. If the car isn’t working well in practice, you are better off to pack it up, go home and work on running well next weekend than to risk a crash – or worse.

Mike Loescher is the owner and chief instructor at FinishLine Racing School in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Mike holds Chassis Seminars throughout the year - all around the USA & Canada. View our class schedule or call 386-427-8522 to schedule a private setup date.

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