Episode 5: Five Ways to Protect Your Racing Operation

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 five, brought to you by dragtracker.com, an online logbook serving the racing community through tools and technology. For this episode we’re going to cover five ways you can protect your racing operation. But before we dig in, I want to encourage you to check us out at dragtracker.com. On the right side of the website there’s a voicemail link. If you click that link you can leave me a voicemail and share stories or questions for a future topic on the show. Also, to leave comments about this episode, go to dragtracker.com/podcast and click on episode five. There you’ll find a transcript with links and notes from the show. We put out a Youtube version of each podcast. So if you want to leave a comment feel free to do that there. That’s youtube.com/dragtracker. We also just launched a new video podcast. It’s the same videos that show up on Youtube, but if you want to get them to show up on your iphone, or ipad, or ipod, you can subscribe to that through iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/winners-circle-drag-racing/id834006560?mt=2). Just do a search on iTunes for “drag racing podcast” and you’ll see our audio and our new video feed. When you’re searching for “drag racing podcast”, if you leave a rating for us, I wouldn’t mind if it was five stars with a positive review if this is helping you out, to help us reach other people, because we’ll move up in the search results and get better rankings. Anyway, if there’s anything you think we can do to improve I encourage you to send us an email podcast@dragtracker.com.

Alright, episode five, five ways to protect your racing operation. The first tip is something that we just did in the last couple years and it’s really added some peace of mind to having our race operation based out of our home garage. And that is we added webcams to our garage. So, near the back of the garage where there’s other boxes and it’s not easy to see, I attached a wireless video camera. And what’s cool about that is it sits on my wireless network. It sends maybe eight frames per second, and it works in nighttime or daytime. So it’s got infrared sensors on it. So it can pick up even when there’s no lights on in the middle of the night, you can actually make out details of people moving, bodies moving, whatever. This has given me a lot of peace of mind. I can log into my home PC and look at the camera and see what’s going on. If I ever had any question about whether or not somebody left the garage door open, I just pop on, check the webcam, all set. So there’s lots of options for doing this. I just bought one off of newegg.com. I wanna say this camera was like $60. It was a little clunky to set up, but it’s not a “name brand” camera. I know that DLink sells some nice home, sort of wireless protection cameras. They’re probably good enough. Choose the flavor of your choice here. I just really think it’s valuable to have a camera set up if anything were to happen, if somebody were to crash in through the door, bust the door in, and try and take the racecar, I mean we’re going to have them on camera, and a lot of it. Because the way we have the video set up is it keeps every video it stores for, I think, a week. So I have up to a week. And then you can set up, of course, off-site storage of these video cameras and stuff. Probably wouldn’t be bad if you didn’t want to buy a camera, but you were a hunter. If you’re a hunter and you have one of those hunting cameras during the off season you could set it in your garage. That might be helpful just to take a picture every time somebody comes in. That way you’re sure you’re capturing that in case anything negative were to happen. So, cameras, video cameras, that kind of stuff; that will help you solve the crime, should a crime occur.

Another thing I’d recommend to help protect your racing operation. So number two is fire extinguishers. It sounds like a no brainer, sometimes. It’s definitely a no brainer if you’ve had an incident. Which we have, I have personally. So I’ll tell you that as part of my story. But I wanted to say, definitely keep a fire extinguisher around. We have one in the racecar. That’s used, if anything were to happen on race day we could use it for that. If any of our competitors did, we could help them out if anything were to happen. But also, just one in the garage. I feel like that adds a level of peace. If you were in the car; let’s say, running it, and you didn’t know the car had caught fire, let’s say the crew guy is there, your spouse, a buddy, your kid, they could help put the fire out before you even saw it happening. So, of course you want to take all the safety precautions necessary when you’re working on a car that’s in a garage attached to your house. So keep a fire extinguisher nearby. That’s tip number two.

Number three is to have smoke detectors in the garage. So you can detect or know, preferably the kind of smoke detectors that are connected to other smoke detectors so that if they go off, say there’s a smoke detector in the garage, we want it to ring the smoke detector that’s upstairs, so that if it goes off, it wakes us up. Because at least in my house the garage is on the opposite side of the house to our bedroom. We would never hear it if it just went off in there. Smoke detectors are a valuable thing to have. Now, the problem with that it, if they’re those multifunctional smoke detectors than they also pick up carbon monoxide. So if you’re running your race car, or any car in the garage, they’ll start beeping whenever you let the run for too long. So you’ve got to be prepared to deal with that, but it’s worth it. Because you would hate for something to happen and you weren’t able to find out about it in time because you didn’t have any kind of alert system.

Number four is a tip to anybody that is towing. So this is about the whole operation. The first three were about protecting it inside the garage, that kind of thing. Number four is to protect your assets that you’re driving, carrying, towing down the road. And that is, I’ve seen a lot of people that I don’t know why they don’t do this. And if anybody has a reason why you don’t do this, or why you should do this, let me know. But here’s the thing, whenever you’re connecting the trailer to the hitch of the truck, you know, the ball, I’ve seen people keep the chains straight. So what I mean is they’ll wrap the tongue around the chain of the trailer and then they’ll just hook them up to the little eyelets that are on the truck next to the ball. And I always thought “Why would they keep them straight?” because I just don’t know what it’s going to protect. If the trailer becomes detached the tongue runs the risk of digging into the ground now and catching, and frankly causing an accident, sometimes a dramatic one. What you want to do is cross the chains, okay? So if you’ve got your chain is wrapped around the tongue, and then it’s coming up, go under the neck and go to the opposite eyelet for each one so they go in a cross pattern. The whole reason you do that is so that if it were to come detached those chains act as a cradle. So as it gets tight, as the trailer were to drift back, those chains come up, and if they’re crossed, the tongue should hang right in the middle of it instead of hanging down and touching the ground. So it’s all about safety. It’s all about keeping the tongue from causing a problem once it becomes detached. But you always want to cross the chains. I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t. So I’m serious if anybody has a reason not to cross the chains, let us know. Cause here I am, giving out this information. It seems like a slam dunk that you would always want to cross them. So anyway, let me know. Also, along the same lines, as far as protecting your rig, this is like tip number 4.5. You’re going to want to make sure your truck, or your tow vehicle is running in the right gear. And so that means taking it out of overdrive. I drive a Chevy Silverado. I have to make sure I’m out of over drive and in third gear, for me. It runs a higher RPM but it protects the transmission. The transmission isn’t made to handle that kind of, the sort of ebb and flow, the back and forth movement of the trailer. I’ve heard of people losing transmissions on long tows because they just forgot. So, you know, that’s sort of 4.5. Make sure you’ve got you’re chains crossed and your truck is out of overdrive. A lot of times you can just click on the shifter, it’s got a little button. I remember driving a Ford pickup that was like that. It had a little button you just press it to take it out of overdrive. But on a Chevy you actually have to change the gear.

And then number five, and I got this in an email a couple of months ago. I honestly can’t find the email. I don’t remember where exactly, who said this, who recommended it. I would love to give them credit. If anybody remembers, post it in the comments, but it’s like this, and this is about an enclosed trailer. The caveat here is I’ve never had an enclosed trailer, this is just something I read, and I made a note of it cause I was like “Wow, people need to know about this.” And the trick is, whenever you’re running an enclosed trailer, you run the risk that if it were to get stolen, it looks like every other enclosed trailer out there. So what can you do to help protect yourself? Paint something unique on the top of your enclosed trailer. You don’t have to use paint, you can use red duct tape from Walmart, something. Make a big “X” on it. Make it look like a candy cane, something that makes it uniquely identifiable if a police helicopter were to look down in a sea of trailers and trucks driving on the interstate, if they were to see this particular one that it would stand out to them. So you could put anything on there. You could put the last four digits of your social security number if you wanted. Or you know, I don’t recommend something like that by any means, but something that makes it looks unique, makes it stand out. Cause if you think about it, if you’ve ever been to a NASCAR race, and you look and you see a sea of trucks and you see their rigs there. I actually don’t know that I’ve seen them. But if you stand at an overpass and watch the trucks drive by, every truck looks the same from the top. So help yourself out and give yourself something that makes it looks unique. So that if you do turn it into the authorities and they’re looking at it from above, or even a traffic helicopter with the local news station. If they see it, they can identify it quickly because you’ve got something unique, and they can actually help you get your trailer, and your racing operation recovered, and hopefully before any damage is done. That would be great.

So those are the top five things. I’ll just recap real quick: garage video cameras, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, cross the chains to cradle the tongue and paint or special markings on the top of your trailer. So if anybody else has any other, this is not a comprehensive list. These are just things I really wanted to get out there to share with people, again, ways to protect your racing operation. We’re getting ready to have our season start, it’s March. So these are things to do to prepare for the new race season.

So I wanted to do something a little different for the fifth episode. I was trying to figure out some kind of cool segment that we can have each episode. I don’t know if I’m going to have one for every episode, but at least I have one this time. It’s called pit etiquette. So there are things you can do while you’re in the pits between rounds, waiting for rounds, waiting for time trials. There are things you can do that are nice. There are things you can do that are rude. I’ll bet everybody’s got experiences with things that they thought are particularly rude. Or they’ve maybe parked next to somebody who was particularly gracious. So I’d love to hear any stories that anybody’s got. Leave us a voicemail on the site or send an email over to podcast@dragtracker.com. But meanwhile, I thought of the first one that I would sort of bring up. You know this is something that not everybody thinks of. And as a driver of a racecar, when I’m coming back after making my run and I’m coming back in the return lane to the pits, I’ve got my time slip, I’m kind of looking at it. When there are people crowding into the only place I can drive, which is down through the middle of the pits; when they’re crowding in that area and I’ve got a car that’s overheating. I don’t know about everybody else’s car but my car, as soon as I get done it’s hot. I want to turn it off as soon as I possibly can, and if there are people in the way, it just makes it difficult. I’m not trying to complain, I love having people there. If we don’t have spectators, we don’t have a race. So I’m definitely not saying it’s a problem but I want people to know. If you’re a spectator, and you see a car coming, of course you’re a pedestrian and you’re supposed to have the right of way, but just know that that guy’s got a car that’s probably getting hot, and he would love to turn it off. So if you could just scoot out of the way, give them space so they can drive back to their pits. You know, they’re the entertainment anyway, just move along out of the way. It’s not a huge deal. Like I said, I don’t get angry at anybody if they’re kind of plodding along in the middle of the pits while I’m trying to drive my racecar back to my pit. But it’s kind of an etiquette thing. Yes, you’re a pedestrian. Yes, we’re not going to hit you. We don’t mean to. We’re certainly preoccupied. We’re looking at timeslips. We just got done racing. But we’re not going to try to hit you. It’s just an etiquette thing, again. But I’ve seen it happen a lot of times. And a lot of times people are just, it’s harmless, you know they’re not paying attention, they didn’t hear. So, something to think about, pit etiquette. This seems like one of those topics where people could have ideas about, pit etiquette. You know, they have to do with running generators that are really loud and right next to people. I don’t know, it could be anything; so send your stories over!

Alright, so earlier I hinted at having a story related to fire extinguishers, smoke detectors in the garage, and protecting your assets. And this is sort of why I am, this is a part of why I’m passionate about it. I’ve had friends, racers who’ve had their equipment stolen. And I actually read a story on a forum about a guy who had a fire in his car in his garage, and was able to get the car about half way out. It burned his car, and half his house. The car was ruined. And what was interesting is I read that story and I thought “Wow, I’ve never thought about what I would do if I had a fire in my garage.” And so I started kind of thinking, you know. Well Golly, I guess it depends on what’s happening exactly as far as how I would handle it. You know, where the fire came from, if it was fuel or electrical, just what exactly I would do. So I kind of mulled it over and thought I didn’t have anything actionable that I should do after I read that story but it definitely got me thinking about that kind of stuff. And a couple of weeks after that I had the racecar up on blocks at our house, in our garage. I was working on, actually I was removing the alternator. I’ve mentioned it before, we will run an alternator because we don’t take a generator to the races with us. We run an alternator with an alternator belt. We have a safety switch on the back of the car, I had turned the safety switch off. So there shouldn’t be any electrical current up at the front of the car. As I was detaching the alternator, it grounded out something. And there was a wire that was attached directly to the main power cut off switch to the positive side that was completing a circuit. The positive side of the alternator was hot. And it started touching the engine block, which grounded it out, which meant that there were some wires that ran into the drivers’ compartment that started actually melting. They melted together. They melted to the power line to the fuel pump. Well I had disconnected the fuel lines to go up to the carburetor. I had disconnected them so now they were pointed straight out. And so what ended up happening was, fuel started pumping, the fuel pump started pumping fuel straight out onto the floor and it was arcing, this fuel stream was arcing right next to where the alternator was sitting and it was glowing orange hot because it was grounded out. I kind of got freaked out. I looked at it. There was smoke coming out of there. There was smoke coming out of the drivers’ compartment because of those wires melting. And I looked down and sure enough there’s fuel just dumping out right there, right by the engine, right onto the floor. And I was like, this is going to start a fire. And I thought “Man this is going to be a big one.” And the car was up on blocks so I wasn’t going to be able to push it out. So I ran, I went to the back and I thought “Why is this happening?” It was kind of one of those things where you’re like this shouldn’t be happening. This is not the way this is supposed to work. I did the safety precautions. This should not be happening. So I reached back up in the car and flipped the power switch to turn it off. When shock and fear and panic hit you all at once you do things that don’t make complete sense. Anyway, there was nothing to turn off because nothing was on. I ran to the back of the car and double checked this thing, and sure enough it was still off. So it didn’t make any sense. But I knew what I’ve got to do. So I ran, I grabbed the exact size wrench. Thinking back now, I think it’s a 9/16ths to get the positive terminal off, or negative terminal off, one of them. And so at this point I had actually stopped the fuel from coming out at one point by putting my thumb over this 3/8″ fuel line. Stopped it while I was trying to kind of gather what was going to be my plan of attack because I couldn’t stop the fuel pump from pumping. I was just stopping it from coming out for a second. So now my hands are covered with fuel. At one point I had tried to grab that electrical line because it started melting to the block actually soddering itself to the block. I couldn’t get it to come loose. So I pulled on the wires and I plugged up the fuel line. Now my hands are covered in gas. I ran over to the tool chest, grabbed my 9/16ths open end, and started with fuel covered hands, disconnecting the battery cable. Luckily there were no sparks. You know, I thought surely I’m going to catch in fire but I’ve got to get this disconnected because there was fuel just pumping. I mean it was just pumping out, straight out into the engine bay, to the front of the garage, wide opened. Luckily, nothing happened. I mean there was a mess on the floor. I had to replace a bunch of wires in the car, and this was a terrible situation. It could have been a terrible situation. It ended up okay. I found that we had one rogue wire attached to the positive side of that switch so I got that taken care of. I honestly don’t know why we had it there. We must’ve needed it for something at some point. It ended up really almost causing permanent damage so we disconnected it, there’s no need for it. And we don’t have that bypass. It’s one of those things where it turned out okay. But it was really ironic that it happened a couple weeks after I had read that story about somebody having a car that had caught on fire in their garage and how they weren’t able to save everything. At least I had thought through that a little bit. And everything worked out okay. Do you have any stories like that? Do you have any stories about a fuel line just going or things catching on fire, and ignition, may be. I don’t know. If you’ve got any kind of story like that I’d love to hear. If you’ve got any kind of video response put it on Youtube or send it to me. We’d love to include it.

Alright, well that wraps up another episode. This is episode five of the Winner’s Circle, drag racing podcast. A couple of things, a couple of quick notes. I already told you about the video podcast that got approved on iTunes. There’s a podcast that’s looking to interview me. I’ll let you know more about that as we get details and actually publish it. That’s what’s going on. It’s the start of the racing season. It doesn’t happen here in Tennessee for another couple of weeks. I know people are racing in Florida. Oh, I wanted to mention, IHRA is going to be televised on MAVTV, a couple pf races this season. It looks to be like they’re going to add some drama to it. I don’t know if they’re going to follow racers and kind of make up stories to it kind of like they do with the old Duck Dynasty. One of my favorites, but clearly well produced. But it’ll be interesting to see what happens with IHRA but I’m excited to see them back on TV. Anyway, it’s good stuff. Anytime they can do more television coverage of these drag racing associations I’m all for it. We’ve got some junior dragster racers that are checking out dragtracker.com. So that’s cool. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to serve you there. So anyway, yeah, that’s about it. Thanks for watching, thanks for listening, and until next time,

Race safe. Race to win, and take care.

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