Q: You’ve put together a regional class within NASA Rocky Mountain called the American Road Race Series. What’s that all about?
A: A couple of buddies and I were trying to figure out how to solve a common problem: We wanted to go faster on track, but not spend more money. What’s more money? Well anything more than Spec Miata was going to be considered “more money.” It quickly became clear that what we wanted was lightweight, with good old-fashioned American V8 power. Now, to control the cost, we were looking at www.racingjunk.com for full tube-frame racecars, and quickly found a plethora of low-cost options. It seems in circle-track racing they have made improvements to the chassis like antidive geometry or a lower center of gravity, which means 10-year-old cars are no longer competitive. All that was left was to figure out a power option to keep costs under control while still being fast, because when you’re racing a stock car, you “want to go fast,” in the immortal words of Ricky Bobby.
The class allows stock cars, late models, super trucks, super late models and more. How do you balance the performance among them?
A: Yes, the balance of power/performance among the different chassis was going to be an issue, but more than the chassis was the engine. Some small-block V8s that guys were getting with their used purchases were putting out 600 or so horsepower at nearly 8,000 rpm. But engines in the 400-hp range were the low-cost and much more reliable option. The biggest difference between the power was the rpm and power band. Simply put, engines that revved higher made more power and cost more to maintain. The answer was to limit rpm to a number that would keep our engines happily revving for years and years at a low price.
Q: The class limits engine rpm to 5,400. Why is that?
A: It turned out 5,400 rpm was the magic number. The engines are built with low-range torque, and while not making tons of high-cost horsepower, they were making lots of stump-pulling torque. My friend Al Fernandez helped us come up with a way to measure torque at three different rpm, and then average those numbers to even out the rule. Bam, instant success, because an engine built for ARRS costs less than $2,000 and makes 100 percent class maximum power for years, with next to no maintenance and broken parts.
Q: You also limit performance with your tire rules. How does that work?
A: Well, performance on paper and performance on track turned out to be a little bit different. And it quickly became clear that the tires were going to be an issue for us. The low-cost option is a 10-inch racing slick made by our great friends at Hoosier. This tire is being raced at short circle tracks all around the country every Saturday night. If you’re in a bind, you can get these tires used for next to nothing. But with any slick race tire they are best when new, less than four heat cycles and then again at less than 10 heat cycles. So we just made a rule that our competitors can only have one new race tire per day of racing, meaning every car on track is running three used tires per day. An added bonus is if you have a bad day and drop out early, the next day you have a newer tire than your competitors to take a little of the sting out.
Q: How is the competition on track?
A: One of my biggest desires of the class was to produce close on-track racing. Well, we all know some drivers are somehow better than others. One of our local drivers is nicknamed “Flyin’ Bryan.” Now, how can I reward a guy like that, but still keep the newest driver in the race? The easiest way is to just allow the slower cars more leeway in the rules, while still “rewarding” the fast guys.
So, in ARRS racing the trophy is a hat, more specifically the color of the hat. I give anyone who races with us a red hat. We present it in the winners circle, and we welcome new drivers as if they just won the race! But first-time race winners get a blue hat. Man, oh man, what drivers will do to win a trophy! But when drivers put on that blue hat, it also means that things like minimum weight and max rpm are rules to be followed. If a driver continues to win even with this blue hat reward, I have a special black hat and that comes with a 5,200 rpm rev limiter. Garrett Edmunds is the only driver ever awarded this black hat. He did not win another race that season. He led a few, but didn’t win, and he could wear that hat around the pits and show the rest of us how fast he was.
How’s the class going? Well, we continue to grow and have a great time on track at prices well below that of spec Miata and performance just above American Iron or GTS3.