Episode 2: The Five Things You Need at the Track on Race Day

Welcome to, “The Winner’s Circle: A Drag Racing Podcast”. I’m your host, Leroy Leese. Our goal is to help you win more rounds at the track by sharing tips and tricks.

This is episode 2, brought to you by DragTracker.com, an online logbook serving the racing community through tools and technology. For this episode, we’re going to highlight five things you absolutely need to take with you on race day. I’m also going to share a story about a time I went down the track and there was a herd of goats crossing the track.

But before we dig in, I really want to encourage you to check us out on DragTracker.com – on the right side of the website is a “Voicemail” link. If you click that link, you can leave me a voicemail and I encourage you to share any stories that you have so we can get them included in the show. Or if you have any questions and answers that I can do some research or if I have an answer, I can share with you so we can share with all our listeners. That would be great – I really want this to become a community podcast so lets figure out where we can take it.

Alright – for the five things you absolutely need to take with you to the track – I have a couple things that I ALWAYS take with me. But I went ahead and went onto a forum, for this it was the Outlaw Pontiac Drag Series forum and I posted the question, “What things do you take to the track?”. And I got a couple of answers. You’ll have to forgive me, I have a cold today so I’m trying to get through this without sounding too “nasal-ly”. One particular answer was, hands down, you can’t race, you can’t win without this, their answer was: Fuel. What is funny about that is I almost never take fuel. I use 110, it is usually either blue or purple and I don’t have any trouble usually getting fuel at the track. So my raceday includes, not necessarily taking fuel, but taking a fuel can. But for this racer, fuel was #1 on his list.

For other racers, and for my self – I run an alternator – so I bring an alternator belt. Its got to be right up there with fuel. If I can’t keep my battery charged, I don’t have a charger, and I don’t have a generator, if I can’t keep the battery charged, I can’t run all night. And so that is a major concern. So I need belts, if I didn’t have belts, I definitely need jumper cables. If you don’t have jumper cables, you are going to need those other things like a generator, a charger. So let’s call that #1 and #2. Fuel, and battery or some method of keeping the battery charged.

Next thing would be, a tool box. Whether that just means wrenches and sockets, it could also mean a toolbox that is full of parts that you need like ty-wraps, fittings, other gaskets, other belts, hoses, JB-Weld – all these kinds of things. You are going to need these in some kind of bin or box that you take with you to the track. So let’s call that #3 and in there you can have extra nuts, extra hardware, racer’s tape, electrical tape, carb cleaner, rags, these are all things you can list them out … I know I am cheating here because I have a box that you put these things into, but, there are even more things than just having a box with these.

That takes us to the next one which is a floor jack. Some kind of jack, some way to get the car elevated so you can get under it and look at it. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to just look under there to see where a leak is coming from, to try to understand what is going on with the car. It can be embarrassing to have to go to the next guy’s pit over or two pits over and drag a floor jack all the way over to your car when you have one at home, you just didn’t bring it with you. So just bring it to the track, throw it in the back of the truck and there you go.

So what’s that – four right? The final thing I would say to make sure you are taking to the track: well … there are two! We should have made this a list of six! The final things is clothes. Besides the clothes you are wearing, you know we are usually racing in the summer, its going to be very easy to get ready in your shorts and T-Shirt but if you are going to get into a car with any kind of speed, you are going to need a helmet, you are going to need pants, and you are going to need a fireproof jacket. So – don’t forget them! Alot of guys keep them in the car or in the catch-all toolbox I was talking about. These are going to be important, you don’t want to have to turn around and go home or send one of your crew guys home to pick up this stuff. Make sure it is in the car or truck so you don’t have to turn around.

The final one – number six really is, cash. Right? For one, the pit crew is going to need to eat, you’re going to need to buy them track hot dogs and nachos and you are going to need to buy gas at least if you’re me. You have entry fees, spectator fees. I mean it can’t hurt to have a big ol’ wad of $20’s in your pocket or in your wallet on raceday. You’re going to need that.

There you go – there are five things, kinda six things but that should get you started. We are working on a checklist on the website, dragtracker.com that you can download. Its going to have everything that you ought to take with you to the races. Its going to include all these things like hand-cleaner, rags, carb cleaner, gaskets, ty-wraps, all these things that you want to be sure you have.

Here’s the whole reason for it. Let’s say you get through a couple time trials, and you get past first round. You realize you have just gotten past 50%. Half the people are going home after the first round. Now that is unless, of course, you have buy-backs – but for all intents and purposes , 50% of the people have been eliminated. That is what eliminations are in single rounds of eliminations. It would be criminal, you would not forgive yourself, if you have to go home and it was all because you lost a nut that goes on a valve cover and its causing you to leak oil. I mean, that would be unforgivable. How could you forgive yourself if you have to go home even though you were winning rounds, you’re getting into money – you’re actually going to start making some money off this deal, this race – you’re in the money rounds – and you have to go home because a nut fell off. Seems ridiculous.

I remember I was going three rounds at Emerald Coast Dragway and we lost a belt. Like I said, I run an alternator. So there weren’t many rounds that I could keep going before I was going to be stuck. For whatever reason, I failed to pack the toolbox that has all the extra belts and gaskets. So I had to call my wife, “Hey I know you weren’t planning to come to the track today, but I need you to come over, by the way, can you bring that box of belts?” Its heavy and she doesn’t need to carry it around to her car. Anyway – it was ridiculous.

Also at one point I only carried one spare tire which a terrible plan – you run the risk of two flats – how are you going to trailer it home? Its going to be a mess, you are going to end up possibly ruining a rim, ruining a tire, where they might have been saved if you just had a spare set of slicks, spare set of tires. So its worth considering bringing extra tires, extra wheels, a full set. Trailer tire – of course, some could argue that should be in the top five on the list. If you don’t have a spare trailer tire, you are going to have to borrow. Tow straps – these are vital. This isn’t stuff you need to pack, but it is stuff that is essential on race day if you are towing so its worth having an extra one.

I have wing nuts on my valve covers and I have extra ones just sitting in the top of the toolbox because I just know, one day, I’m going to check lash, not necessarily between rounds, but during time-trials and I’m going to drop one and its either going to fall on the grass – I’m not going to see it. Its going to fall between the header tubes – I’m not going to be able to get to it. Something is going to happen and I’m going to need a spare one. I’d rather not even think about it, go exactly to where its at – not be worried, not be panicked, not have to ask anybody – just take care of it. So that is where I am coming from with that.

I’ll reiterate it – I’m looking for cool stories about times you were at the track and something happened serendipitous or whatever. Preferably good luck stories so we can all feel good at the end. Neat things that have happened to you – that caused you to win or an interesting set of circumstances or whatever.

So one of my weird stories, back in 1997. I was racing at Capital Raceway in Crofton Maryland – Jim Cunningham, NHRA Pro Stock car owner and driver owns that track (he used to own it) – the race track sits right next to a farm. Of all the time I spent racing at that track I never saw any farm animal. So it was never a concern, it was never a problem. I never even saw dogs running around. So one regular April afternoon, I was doing time trials (they give you 3 or 4 before you race) we got there early, we were testing … no problem – still a fairly new driver. Its a 1/4 mile track, it takes 10 seconds in our Firebird. Typically when I am going through the traps, and getting toward the finish line, I’m looking at things like water temperature, making sure the alternator is charging, I’m looking at my tach – I’m basically just running through the gauges – and I sometimes look up but usually there is absolutely nothing to see other than when I am crossing the finish line, I look up ahead of me and there is literally a herd of goats crossing the racetrack. And I notice peripherally the other car hitting the brakes very hard and this caught my attention and I look up to see the herd of goats and what I see … my dad had told me during training, preparing to drive the racecar, “unless it is a person you have to go through it” if you see something on the track. Obviously it wasn’t a person, I’m going to have to go through this – this is terrible – I can’t believe this is happening but here we are – 130MPH – I’m going to have to go through this herd of goats. What happened is I was able to gently steer, you know at 130MPH you are not going to do a left-hand turn or a right-hand turn – I was able to gently steer to the left and I got right between two goats that were on the track, but this one kid (a baby goat is called a kid) ran right in front of the car and hit the bottom valence and actually busted the stock valence panel on our racecar and then went under the tire and he must have bounced between the underside of the car and the rear tire because he split in two. One half hit the rear tire and shot up in the air 30 feet and the other half shot out toward the farm. It was unbelievable – luckily it didn’t hit a fuel line, didn’t hit a brake line – everything was okay. I mean, there were some pieces of goat left under the car. It was very ironic because, driving a Pontiac, naturally a GTO is often referred to as a goat, so then I got the nickname at the track of “Goat Killer!”. You know these terrible things that happen at the track, nicknames and what not. It was a very scary moment, I was glad that no one got hurt including myself. The poor goat sacrificed himself, it was a young goat just following his mom. They shut down the track and called the farmer to come over and retrieve his goats. That is just one of those things that you never expect – you never really prepare for it. What Roy Hill’s or Frank Hawley’s school are you going to go to where part of their training is, “And if you have a pack of goats cross the track while you are going through the finishline, keep your line” – you know? That will never happen – I mean maybe it will happen now if they listen to this podcast. I’m just glad that everything worked out and we did have to do some repair work to the car but it didn’t keep us out of eliminations. And it gave us a good story, for shock value if anyone is sitting around going, “do you have any good racing stories?” we can say, “well I hit a kid”. Well it wasn’t a real kid – it was a goat! And then I get to tell them the story.

We’d love to hear any stories you have!

At this point, I’d like to say if you are enjoying the podcast, please rate us on iTunes. It is the only way we are going to get visible to other racers and we really want to tap into this community and provide this service. Like I said – I’m looking for people to interact with so if you want to leave comments on this page at dragtracker.com/podcast. If you want to contribute – feel free to leave me a voicemail or send me an email at podcast@dragtracker.com. And we’ll get you plugged into the show. Again, this is episode 2, we’ll see where this whole thing takes us but I’m having fun so far. Glad to be and honored to be in your ears with this podcast.

Race safe. Race to win. Take care.

I just finished recording and realized that I forgot to mention what we are going to be talking about in the next episode. Three things that I do as part of my pre-race, pre-eliminations ritual. So – this means three things that, when I get to the starting line, these are things that I intentionally do every time to get my mind ready for reacting to the lights coming down the Christmas Tree. So I think this will be important for people who are having trouble finding a routine, or having trouble winning rounds. These are things that have proven successful for me and I’m very comfortable with and even when things go weird, like somebody breaks and I have to restart or do another burnout – these things help me reset and gain my own composure especially at the starting line if someone double-bulbs me and I can tell you what that means – it helps me not be thrown off by it. So I am really excited to share that (I already put away the recording equipment) what we will cover in the next episode – episode 3. Thank you!

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