Racing Your Chrysler/Plymouth/Dodge EEK!

Circle track racing your EEK!

On the right course, EEKs are reasonably competitive. Midpack or a bit better is reasonable to expect. I don't think EEKs really shine on technical courses, where you have to twitch the wheel or stab the gas at a particular moment. The responses are just too slow, both throttle and suspension.

Unlike sharp-handling cars, you have the luxury of being able to relax and think about what you're doing, rather than making minor immediate changes all the time. I like open sweeping course like a few weeks back, as opposed to the very tight and technical course I ran this Sunday. You'd think that a 2.5/auto wagon would be underpowered in a big open course, but peg it for a few seconds and you'll be going plenty fast enough. It's not drag racing.

Ask around for local clubs, which run club events as opposed to big sanctioned and/or sponsored series. The pressure is less, and the cost should be less.

Clubs may have idiosyncratic house rules about classes. I would say you are best to stay in the meekest stock FWD class. This usually means you can upgrade wheels and tires (no racing compounds), maybe shocks, definitely brakes. No engine modifications, no spring changes, no all-urethane bushings, etc.

It's better to learn in a K-car than in say a Integra Type R. Smoothness is important, and you wind up having to be smooth in a K car, because twitching the wheel won't do much in the short term anyway.

I was perturbed Sunday when it came to fun runs. I took off the 205/50-15 Gatorbacks and put on the 195/70-14 low-line Motomaster tires (Canadian Tire tires, made cheap). The Gatorbacks have much better response to inputs, and at street pressures anyway hold on way past the point where, on the Motomasters, I'd have plowed off the outside of the curve, tires shrieking madly. It was a pretty technical, tight course. I hadn't done very well, 61.5 seconds was my fastest (clean) run. On the Motomasters, I ran 58.5, clean. I don't quite know what to conclude, except that: 1) with really bad tires, you really have to be smooth; 2) tires with very quick response may not be good for cars with mushy suspensions.

Most clubs will have loaner helmets. Automotive (SA) helmets are pretty expensive, though most places will let you run Snell motorcycle helmets of some designation.

Bring a pressure gauge and some way of pumping up the tires. Going with a typical 185/70-14, you'd want something like 43-45 PSI in the front, and the usual 35 in the back. Make sure your battery is held down and the suspension is solid (including rear wheel bearings). If you break something, it was going to break anyway.

The neatest thing about running an EEK--especially a "real" K car--is that people have some kind of expectation that on the first turn you'll tip over and explode in flames. K cars actually hang on pretty good (better than the archenemy Tempo/Topaz) so when you finish your run without blowing up, and with a decent time too, they'll really be agog.

After some runs I figured out the launch technique for a 2.5/auto:

  • Do not brake torque. Brake with left foot, keep right over gas pedal.
  • Wait for the second yellow.
  • Part way through second yellow (not too soon, not too late) tromp gas while releasing brake.
  • Collect .520-.610 reaction time. Traction is NOT a problem.

This setup should work even better with a heavier car and a 2.2, since it wouldn't quite leap off the line like a Mighty Two Five. The trick is to wait the appropriate length of time--it's quite easy to get a .440 or .470 red light if you're anxious. The less judgement involved--(the less you have to judge what "partway through the yellow" actually takes), the better. My reactions times were as follows: .877, .835, .779, .570 (figured it out!), .440 (too quick), .523, .543, .576, .458, .472, .603, .610. Getting that just-right delay on the second yellow will take more practice.

I staged as shallowly as possible.

Best results with jack, spare tire, tent, sleeping bag, backpack, water bottles, etc etc in car was 19.025@70.95 (and my last run of the day). Best result overall was the previous run without the stuff in the car: 18.931@71.64.

I tried to implement this at a pretty major meet on Sunday at a different track (Grand Bend). Only had one test n' tune run: 19.265@69.94, and my fastest run of the day! The car ran significantly slower at this track, and I kept expecting it to run faster.

Redlighted the first round (.480), paid $20 and bought back in. This made sense because my class, "Modified Street" (14.00 and up dial-in), was pretty empty, and if you were in the last 16 you were in the money. Kind of a shame, though: his reaction time was 1.120 (!) and he ran a 15.962 on an optimistic 15.20 dial-in (!!). Needless to say, if I had launched .020 seconds later, my 19.302 on a 19.15 dial would have beaten him utterly and without mercy.

I won the next round because the Mustang broke out by .010 second--he was probably kicking himself for not getting on the brake harder. I ran a real slow 19.384 on a 19.20 dial-in. Had him beat on reaction time, .610 to .744. I didn't want to redlight again....

Biggest advantage of bracket racing a TBI/auto EEK is that traction is no big concern.

Two disadvantages:

1) Probably want engine at consistent temp, but unlike V8s which warm up slowly and have a belt-driven fan, the temp varies a lot on our cars. Lack of consistent engine temp (I try to be at "operating temp", but the fan doesn't kick in until the gauge is pretty high) probably is the biggest reason for variance in times.

2) Real hard to judge if a 14-second car is gonna catch you or not at the end, especially if it's close. Getting on the brakes to avoid breaking out is pretty risky. The car chasing you probably has a better sense if she will catch up or not.

I was surprised at a couple of other cars there. One was a faded maroon 4-door P-body with T1/auto. He said his mods were "valve job, 15 PSI, Mopar performance distributor cap". He was running low 15s, and the last dial-in of his that I saw was 15.00, and that was a few round in! That's quick for a T1/auto with the specified mods I would think. BTW he said he'd bought the car for $300, and put another $300 into it to "fix it up".

All in all, I spent $40 to enter and $20 to buy back in, and got $25 for being in the first money round, and chicken on a bun, fries, and pop ("racer's meal"). Okay, but the faster cars--the lower level of Super Pro was 7.5, and there were a few vehicles in the mid 7s--were NOISY AND LOUD. I must remember to bring my earplugs.

A day at the drag strip is okay I guess. I wouldn't want to make a habit of it....unless I can figure out how to make a Reliant a bracket-race killer. It ain't the Thrill of Speed with this car, lemme tell ya!

First, remember to have fun and try not to be nervous. First runs of the seasons are usually pretty bad. At most tracks you first have to pass tech inspection. You'll pass, I doubt they'll pop the hood. Then they write some numbers on your windshield and back window. Now you’re ready to go.

Try to arrive at the track with a little more gas than needed to get to the nearest gas station. Maybe bring a gas can. This can be a guessing game, but gas weighs little more than 6 lb a gallon, so don't go with a full tank. This is also a good opportunity to clean all the junk out of your car to remove unnecessary weight. You can remove the spare tire and jack in the pit area. Don't worry about removing little things. ( pens, paper, tire pressure gage, wallet, etc ).

If you haven't done maintenance for a long while, replace spark plugs, filters, etc - simple stuff. Bring a tire pressure gauge and set the rear tires near their max and set the fronts lower, start around 25psi. This generally helps traction. I can get the tries to spin nicely on my brother's '90 Daytona 2.5/5 speed, but I don't know really how to launch his car. I'd say practice in a large flat clear parking lot. Find the rpm to that doesn't spin the tires violently and doesn't bog the car down. Popping the clutch isn't a good idea - quick release is better.

  1. Get familiar with the track, their policies, etc.
  2. Get there early and before you do anything watch a few people race and be observant.
  3. Take your car through tech inspection, there you will get your number that they write on with shoe polish
  4. Set up your car for racing. e.g. raise the rear tire pressure, lower the fronts (or put on the slicks), remove everything from the car.
  5. Go get into the staging lanes. Where I drag race you kind of have to be careful which lanes you're in.
  6. Unless you have slicks, drive around the water box. Driving through it seriously annoys some people.
  7. If you hear people laughing at you for having a Shadow, ignore them. They will probably be cheering you by the time you finish the 1/4 mile.
  8. The guy running the line will guide you up to the line. At this time make sure your windows are rolled up and your seat belt is on. Don't worry if something is wrong the guy will certainly tell (yell at) you.
  9. The tree has 2 sets of double amber bulbs. Creep up until the top set of double amber lights comes on. Then slowly creep until the second set of double amber lights. You are now shallow staged which is best for Elapsed Time. Get ready (bring the rpms up) and the middle 3 amber lights will light up in a 1/2 second sequence. Launch right before the bottom green light comes on. It's better to have a bad reaction time than it is to red light. Red lighting is going across the starting line, which should be about 12 inches in front of you, before the green light comes on.
  10. As soon as both of you are staged, the center ambers will be coming down. You usually want to leave when the amber bulb (flood light) is lit to get the best reaction time. If you are not bracket racing and just going for best ET/MPH, then your reaction time means absoulely NOTHING.
  11. Once you get going, it’s full throttle all the way down. Sometimes it's hard to see the markings for the end of the track, especially at night. But if you watched enough people race before you race, then all the above won't seem so difficult.

Remember to relax up there and have fun. Hopefully this helps. First time I went to the track, I staged and got kicked off the track for not passing tech inspection. Duh. You can see why I don't want anything like that to happen to other first timers.

If it's bracket racing, how fast or slow you are is not important; you're matching your own speed. Here is how I do it. I may not know everything but I do race every weekend.

When you get in the staging lanes make sure that you are ready to race, no changing tire pressure or cooling off the engine. Watch the track official to tell you when to pull on to the track. If your car has street tires, drive around the water if you can, and don't do a burnout. Just chirp the tires to clean them off. It will be tempting to burn them down but with street tires this just cost money and makes them greasy and slick.

Watch the track official that's in charge of the bleach box to motion for you to pull to the starting line. Pull the car down pointing straight down the track. Watch the top amber light on the tree, this is the pre-stage light. When your front tire breaks the starting line beam the pre-stage light will come on. You're now about 4" from the next beam.

Watch the 2nd amber light, this is the staged light. Just barely roll forward until the staged light comes on. You're now ready to race.

Look down the tree to the bottom amber light. When this light comes on take off. Try to leave as the green light comes on. If you wait until you see green you will be late and loose. Foot on the floor and through the gears to the finish line. Look to see where the other car is and slow down. Make the turn off road go to the timing booth to get your time slip.

Congratulations! You've just made your first run. If it is a bracket race you will get around 3 time runs. Take a look at your times, I hope they were all close to each other. Now pick out your dial. I usually go 3 hundredths under my quickest time, but everybody has their own system. Write this time on your windows so that it can be read from the tower. When you are called to race do everything just like you did in your time runs. The slower car will get a head start. This means that one side of the tree will light before the other, don't worry about the other guy just watch your side. This will get you started.

Don't worry about winning, just have fun.

Suspension changes for racing on road courses and circle tracks

The front Konis have adjustment settings accessible from the top with a small screwdriver. The rear are only adjustable by compressing the strut and turning the housing. I don't need to adjust them very much as the middle setting seems pretty good all around. For track days and the like, adjust them up while you're performing the typical routine maintenance before hitting the track (checking for loose items, broken wiring, leaks, bleeding brakes, changing oil, etc).

You can probably "fix" the height difference front to rear with some spacers on the rear springs. Not ideal, but easier than adding jack screws to the rear perches.

The Shadows, Daytonas, Lebarons, Lancers, etc can all use the same struts, springs, sway bars, cross members, etc. So the spring's measurements should be similar, the differences being free length and wire diameter (which determines height and stiffness). If you search the archives you'll might find the actual rates of the Eibach spring kits. The Shadow kit, at least, has a higher rate spring (280lb/in on the front if I remember correctly).

For racing, the real issue is the front suspension, not the lack of an independnet rear suspension. Horrible camber curves, binding sway bars and control arm bushings, bump steer, lots of soft rubber to eliminate any hope of maintaining what little geometry you have, etc. The later model K-members alleviate some of that, but it's still a strut front end and it will always have that as its main Achilles heal.

Eliminate the bump steer with rack spacers. Reduce the sway bar's binding by either running a Quickor end link bar (better but not perfect) or running a custom unit that is mounted to the front core support. The idea is that the sway bar is only active during chassis roll, not during bounce or rebound (i.e. it would be nice to be able to move the control arms by hand with or without the sway bar attached). The car won't pull much more lateral grip than before, but it will be much more repeatable. So when you turn into a corner, you should be able to the set the wheel into position and assuming you're driving relatively well, you shouldn't move the wheel until you exit. Stock, you typically have to adjust the wheel a little while the suspension compresses. This makes predicting how quickly you can go through some corners difficult because they may have bumps in them that upset the suspension (and therefore the driver, heh).

On the rear the issues are typical trailing arm/solid axle issues. It's similar to the rear suspension under a 1990s NASCAR vehicle (at least its not as bad as a stock 1990s Mustang rear suspension). Chrysler also adds a neat element where the rear locating bar moves the suspension laterally as the trailing arm moves up and down, sort of a rear steer solution only it works when you compress enough of the stock soft rubber bushings and flexible rear arm to make a noticeable difference. Since it's also a solid axle setup the standard solid axle solutions apply quite nicely. Watts linkage, mumford links, etc. Look at some of the solutions that the Lotus Super Seven clone builders are implementing.

If you have your heart set on independent rear suspension, I'd look at a De Dion solution (modified solid axle setup, used on some Alfa Romeos, etc.) that shouldn't take up much more room than the stock rear axle solution. A completely removable sub frame would be easier to work with. Bill Cultitta mentioned that the Stratus rear suspension would be a good solution since it's a little beefier than the Neon pieces and it should be 5x100.

Shallow vs deep staging

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