Can Investing in a Shock Dyno Help Your Racing Program?

Intercomp Shock Dyno 01

In past years a computer controlled shock dyno was the exclusive domain of the big money touring teams, but advancing technology has made options like this shock dyno from Intercomp affordable and incredibly useful to Saturday night racers.

In many ways, dirt racing is just like ordinary life: Technology continually evolves and you either keep up or get left behind. Racers who refuse to embrace change are like the little old grandmother who’s grandchildren showed her how to use the camera on her cell phone–and always took two pics of everything so she would have one to share.

That may sound ridiculous, but racers who run the same setup year after year rather than looking into new ways to get faster are going to be at an ever growing disadvantage over time. We’ve known racers who found success on the track and stuck religiously with whatever “secrets” got them those wins even as other teams kept searching for new ideas and new tools to help make them faster. Eventually those formerly successful racers found themselves struggling to stay with the lead pack because they had refused to adapt.

One of the biggest changes in the last few years when it comes dirt track racing is the importance of shock tuning. In many classes the engines are capable of overpowering the rear tires practically anywhere on the track, so it has become a game of making sure you have the absolute maximum traction available to make use of that power. Plus, teams have also found that they can cut their lap times by setting up the race car so that it drives around the track a lot more like an asphalt car rather than sliding through the turns with the rear end hung way out.

Lots of teams still try to get away with a single- or double-adjustable shock as a way to make shock adjustments for the conditions. But more and more teams are also using a shock dyno to help them build shocks that perform precisely to their needs.

“To be honest, these days we are in an arena where shocks can be pretty expensive,” explains Intercomp Racing’s Carter Gerlach. Besides being Intercomp’s technical representative for the company’s lineup of shock dynos, Gerlach also owns and operates his own racing shock tuning company, Elite Shock Services, which helped driver Zach Johnson win the WISSOTA Late Model National Championship. So he knows what he’s talking about. “Touring guys can be paying $1,000 a corner or their shocks. If you have a set on the car and a set on the trailer, you basically have the cost of a new Intercomp shock dyno just in those shocks.

“So if you’ve got a high-dollar shock and it isn’t working like you think it should, instead of setting aside until your shock tuner can get to it, you pull it off the car, work on it yourself and put it right back on. Nobody likes to have a lot of money tied up in the parts that aren’t helping you win races, and a lot of teams are realizing that having a shock dyno on hand can help them fix their own shocks right there at the track, cut lap times and have better finishes.”

Changing Shocks on a Late Model

More and more race teams are realizing how a strong shock program can benefit their racing. They are working more closely with dedicated shock tuners or purchasing their own shock dyno and building shocks themselves.

Intercomp’s shock dyno is one of the more popular units in racing because it offers lots of features for the money. Intercomp’s dyno is a computer controlled unit that, surprisingly, clocks in at less than eight grand. Before we get into what the computer controls mean, first a few specs: Intercomp offers a few options off the same basic design. There is a tall mast option for off-roaders, but oval track racers will almost always go for the standard 28-inch mast. All dynos utilize a high-strength three horsepower electric motor, but you can choose between standard shock travel speed (0.5 to 19 inches a second) or high speed (0.5 to 55 inches a second).

“Either of the four models will work for oval track racing,” Gerlach says. “But typically, the standard speed dyno works well for dirt racing because it is capable of pulling really high low-speed numbers, which is the most useful. We don’t look at high-speed numbers in the oval track arena. That’s for the off-road guys. If you need high speed numbers, you are doing something wrong with your setup.”

The computer control is what really sets this dyno apart from cheaper units on the market, and this is one of the least expensive electronically controlled shock dynos you can get. Intercomp, in fact, actually throws in a laptop with the dyno. All the software is pre-installed and the cabling is already done, so there’s no connection issues, and you always have a computer dedicated to your shock program.

“The dyno definitely comes locked and loaded with everything you will need,” Gerlach explains of the system. “We pride ourselves on the simplicity of the dyno software, so you can concentrate on improving your racing program and not waste time scratching your head trying to figure out how the dyno works. We understand that smaller operations are purchasing dynos and the driver may be the one who is also building the shocks, so the equipment has to be simple and easy to use. When we train people on using our shock dyno, it usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to get them up to speed using the machine so that they are pretty fluent with it, and then the rest of the time we are working on tuning shocks.”

Gerlach also told us that the software also comes loaded with lots of different graphs. The idea is that if you are beginning to build your own shocks or upgrading from an older dyno, you can find the style of graph that your shock tuner or old dyno used and match your own tests up with that so you aren’t starting from scratch.

The great advantage of a computer-controlled machine is that it is capable of running several speed runs back-to-back to help a shock specialist get the information they need quickly and accurately. Almost universally, when a racer starts building his or her own shocks they begin simply trying to match up their shocks to dyno plots from older shocks that have proven themselves on the track. But they also quickly begin trying to understand how changes to a shock will behave on the race track using the information the dyno can provide.

Intercomp Shock Dyno Software

Intercomp’s built-in software is designed to be extremely user friendly. The idea is no one gets faster learning to use a shock dyno, they get faster actually using the dyno to learn to build shocks that improve traction all the way around the race track.

“The computer-controlled dyno allows you to run the tests at different speeds,” Gerlach explains. “You can tune on the shock and look at a lot a information from a single test. When testing and building different shocks, I will run 10 or 12 different speeds within that one run. It will take one minute to warm up and run the test. And then after that test is done, all that information is logged and I can look at all 12 different speed runs from just that one test.”

There are cheaper shock dynos on the market, but they almost always lack the computer controls. Instead, you must choose from among a couple of set speeds and run each test individually. Not only does each test take longer, but the ability to fine tune shock travel speeds to what you are actually seeing on the track is hindered.

We’ve noticed more and more teams at practically all levels either working more closely with a shock tuner or purchasing their own shock dyno and setting up their own shock program. “We are seeing an uptick in interest in our dyno,” confirms Scott Elmgren, Intercomp’s market specialist for racing. “I think people are getting more comfortable with the idea of tuning shocks. It is another area of the race car you can learn on and use to improve your racing efforts.

“Shocks can be a bit overwhelming at first, but I’ve found that people get excited about taking control of their own shock program.”







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