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The Art Of W.A.R.: Improving Your Results At The Track With Suspension Specialists W.A.R. Shocks

W.A.R. Shocks works with many top dirt racing teams, including Austin Hubbard in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

W.A.R. Shocks works with many top dirt racing teams, including Austin Hubbard in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

There’s no doubt that shocks have become a very important part of just about every winning racing program. As dirt track racers are becoming more savvy, more and more are figuring out how useful a properly tuned racing shock can be to helping maintain traction and even tuning the car for a dirt track’s constantly changing conditions.

Willie Allen, owner of suspension specialist shop W.A.R. Shocks, certainly understands this. Besides running his company, Allen remains a racer himself–although he prefers to run on that silly black stuff called asphalt. But W.A.R. Shocks assists many dirt track racers, including Kenny Wallace’s Modified operation, and Allen has seen firsthand just how important a quality shock program is for a winning dirt racing team.

“I got started in shock tuning around 2008,” Allen says. I ran in the Truck Series in NASCAR and got interested in shocks. I was friends with the shock guy on the Truck team, and we started doing our own shocks and definitely had some success. From there I started building shocks for our friends, and they started winning so it is just snowballed from there.

“And I’ve definitely seen the dirt market grow since I first got started. Dirt track racing has just gotten so popular. The perfect example is there’s probably five or six dirt race tracks within an hour or so of our shop in Centerville, Tennessee, but there’s only one asphalt track.

Among the top racing shock manufacturers there isn't really a must-have brand. Owner Willie Allen says he can work with most brands. It's more about matching the right shock setup for your driving style and conditions, not spending money on brand X.

Among the top racing shock manufacturers there isn’t really a must-have brand. Owner Willie Allen says he can work with most brands. It’s more about matching the right shock setup for your driving style and conditions, not spending money on brand X.

“From working with dirt track racing teams, we have definitely seen that it is more of a challenge on the suspension side. There is so much going on there. With an asphalt car you are mostly just fine tuning, and you mostly just work on the left-front corner. Dirt track racers are working more off the left rear and the right rear; there’s so much going on with the back of those cars there with the four link suspensions. On dirt you are up on the left rear and down on the right front trying to maximize traction and get around the track, and on asphalt car you basically down all the way around.”

The shock, Allen points out, is just one part of the suspension. The goal, he reminds us, is to maximize the traction between the tire in the track. To do that properly requires not simply concentrating on the shocks or the springs or bar placement, but looking at the race car as a working system.

One of the key tools for any shock specialist is the shock dyno, which allows him to test the shock's performance before it goes on the race car.

One of the key tools for any shock specialist is the shock dyno, which allows him to test the shock’s performance before it goes on the race car.

That is why W.A.R. Shocks has recently added a pull down rig to its arsenal of tools. A pull down rig can simulate the forces a race car sees as it travels through the turns so that you can accurately see how the entire chassis and suspension are affected.

“We have worked with a lot of dirt cars (on the new pull down rig) and this is a new area where they are finding gains. I feel like this is one thing that puts us on a different level with data acquisition and being able to capture shock velocities like you see on the track,” Allen explains.

“A pull down rig allows you to see your actual wheel loads through the turn. If you go to say Volusia or East Bay and get data on a lap and your shock travels, you can come back and put your car on this machine and it lets you look at a lot of different factors such as dynamic bump steer and your dynamic camber all the way through the turn. It is one thing to set your bumpsteer with the car on jackstands, but when the car is under load and things are flexing and moving around, your bumpsteer may actually be quite different than what you thought.”

We spent a lot of time talking with Allen and his dirt track specialist Keith Cochran about everything from maintenance at the shop, to shock adjustments at the track, to current setup tricks for Street Stock racers. Honestly, they gave us so much great stuff we could make a couple articles out of it all. But to help pack as many helpful tips aspossible into the pages we have available, we thought we’d just give you the best nuggets of information straight from the source.

Weekly Maintenance 1

“One thing many guys don’t think about if you have single- or double-adjustable shocks is to go back through your clicks sometime during the week. It is so easy for a crew guy while he is taking off or putting on a shock to bump the clicker. It can also happen while you’re doing any number of things under the car. Then you’ve changed your baseline and don’t know it, and that may be why you’re struggling. Even on our house car this happens sometimes. So while you’re doing your weekly maintenance, make sure your adjustable shocks are still on the right settings.”

Shock Rebuild Schedule

“If you aren’t one of the big-time touring teams, once a year is usually about right. Sometime in the winter guys will normally send back their shocks, and we will go through them and change the O-rings and seals, replace the shock oil and put them on the dyno. That way when the team starts the season they know that everything is back where it should be.”

A Dirt Late Model on W.A.R. Shocks' pull down rig.

A Dirt Late Model on W.A.R. Shocks’ pull down rig.

Too Tight on Corner Entry

“If I am wanting to loosen up the car on corner entry, I’m going to roll rebound into the left front to make the car pivot harder in the corner. On the flip side, it is also going to tighten me up when I pick up the throttle. If you add rebound into the left front and the track is smooth, you generally have to add a little bit of rebound to the right front to keep the car turning positive off the corner. That is because we’re going to hang that left side weight a little bit earlier.

“Now if I’m trying to loosen up the car on corner entry but it is really tight while I’m on the throttle, I’m going to take rebound out of the right rear. That will cause the car to sit on the right rear spring earlier, but it won’t affect the on-throttle situation as bad.”

Tight in the Center

“If I am tight in the center of the turn and want to loosen it up a bit, then I’m going to open (take out) rebound in the left-rear shock to allow the car to get into roll steer more quickly. And I’m going to put rebound into the right front to make the car stay over there and keep the roll steer in it through the center of the corner.”

Shock Change Vs Spring Change

“One problem I have seen is when guys go from a flatter track to a banked track. Instead of doing a spring change and putting more spring into the right front the car at the track they will try to make a shock change. This is because that extra spring is going to loosen the car in the corners. So instead, they will throw 150 pounds of gas into the right-front shock and also close the compression off.

“The problem with that is by adding the gas pressure you are mimicking spring rate, and then when you throw the compression at it you are slowing how quickly you can get into that spring rate. So you are keeping the left rear in the car longer on the entry so instead of loosening the car and helping it rotate properly, it is actually keeping it from getting into the right front longer and not loading the tire.

“If you think of shocks versus springs, the shock retards the timing of what happens on the corner, while the spring just changes the dynamic load that gets into that tire.”

A W.A.R. tuned shock built and ready to race.

A W.A.R. tuned shock built and ready to race.

The Latest Street Stock Setups

“A good shock program will absolutely help a Street Stock racer because with those chassis you don’t have the luxury of being able to set your own bumpsteer or your roll center where you want like you can with a tube frame car. So now we are running big springs to kill travel. It’s to keep the car from rolling over four and a half inches on the right front like a Late-Model because we can’t control that bump steer that it throws out.

“The point is to try and make the front end of the car is stable as possible, because then it is more predictable. And if you’re running a big spring to try to keep the front end more stable, you have to have the right shock matched to it.

“All of my dirt setups are now going back to a lot of the things I learned on asphalt. We are not jacking the cars up now. On my Street Stocks and other street chassis cars, we are not backing them into the corners like we used to. Cars are rotating through, and when the driver picks the throttle up they are launching like an asphalt car. And that’s just because we’re making the front ends more efficient. We are not able to get the front end geometry correct, were just getting the correct damping on that big old spring.”

Weekly Maintenance 2

“If you’ve got the time to do it, take the shocks off and work them through their travel. With either a twin-tube or a monotube shock, you should have smooth travel. You should be able to push it in and pull it back out without any type of rough spots or tight spots. So make sure the shock shaft goes all the way into the canister and comes all the way back out properly with a smooth motion. That is an easy way to ensure your shocks aren’t damaged and are doing their job.”

There are lots of different moving parts to any race car suspension. To be effective, you can look at just one component like the shocks. You have to see how everything works together to affect how well the tire grips the racing surface.

There are lots of different moving parts to any race car suspension. To be effective, you can look at just one component like the shocks. You have to see how everything works together to affect how well the tire grips the racing surface.

Communication with Your Shock Tuner

“With Street Stock racers, one of the best pieces of information I can get is their motor package. When you’re talking about the Late Model or open motor guys, everybody has got big horsepower and you know you’re going to have trouble getting it to hook up. But in the lower classes the horsepower can vary a great deal. If I’ve got a guy that doesn’t want to admit he’s got a cheated up motor that’s got an extra 100 horsepower, that changes what types of shocks he needs compared to the guy that just got into racing and has a motor that is down on power compared to the rest of the field. So honestly, knowing where their motor program is helps me hook up their car better. That’s more important than knowing what stagger they are running.”

Track Changes

“What I run into a lot is guys will want to change every shock setting when transitioning from a heavy track to a slick track. That may be fine, but if they hit an intermediate track they think they need to go to every shock and put it in the middle setting. But that usually doesn’t help. If they are just a tick tight on the intermediate track then they probably just need to take some rebound out of the right rear as opposed to trying to change everything. Often, it can be just a single change in one corner that helps with the intermediate stuff, not changing every corner. In other words, it’s more important to know what each adjustment does and just go to that corner where the change is going to be most effective.”

Source
W.A.R. Shocks
931.670.4024

 


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