PRI 2022–the importance of safety

Racing has a history of danger and in the mid-twentieth century safety was pretty much an afterthought.  With the efforts of people such as Formula 1 champion Sir Jackie Stewart, tremendous progress has been achieved.  Where once fiery wrecks were all too common, it is now so rare that racers and fans almost never have to be confronted with fuel fires.  One of the pioneer companies that developed fuel tanks that would not only survive racing crashes, but would remain intact enough to ensure that the fuel never ignited after a collision.

I visited the ATL booth where they showcased a graphic example of just how dependable their fuel cell is when the worst happens.

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This is the actual ATL fuel tank post-crash.  Despite the tremendous forces of the multiple impacts to the race car no fuel or vapors escaped to be ignited.  Here is the testimonial of the driver:

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There was a video of the racing incident that was shown at the booth.  It is tough enough to see the impacts as the shunt takes place and tougher still to imagine what it would have been like if the ATL technology were not as effective as it is.  I remember well the days when fires were all too common and drivers wouldn’t entertain using seat belts and harnesses since they would rather have been thrown from the care than be caught in one on fire.

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We can all be thankful that driver safety is in a much better place than it once was thanks to the efforts of many racers to improve things involving the tracks and the cars.  Including companies like ATL.

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PRI 2022–the Importance of Racing Tools

It is fascinating to watch the pitstops of Formula 1 where they seem shockingly long if they take three seconds to change out their wheels and tires.  This past year the record was 2.0 seconds.  Pit stops at the Indy 500 are also amazing to watch as they only have one person per tire (Formula 1 has many) and the impact guns are on hoses and must be dragged out of the way so that the cars can take off and rejoin the track.  In the past, NASCAR tire changes were depended upon five lugs to be undone and then the new wheel had fresh set of nuts already stuck on each wheel ready for the impact guns to be quickly tightening them in a circular fashion with a speed that was almost too fast to see.  Each tire corner worker would also have spare nuts at hand in case any of them attached to the wheel might come loose.  With their next gen cars five lugs are gone as NASCAR has adopted the single center lug design of the above racing formulas.

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Speed in the pits is as important as speed on the track and the impact gun it a critical part of the process.  United Race Parts booth was an amazing place to stop and visit as they had the premier wheel guns on display.  Paoli is the tool of choice for the top teams.

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Above is the business end of this race tool.  The wheel nut sockets are all custom made out of titanium.  If you look closely at the perimeter you see round circular things.  What are they?  Magnets that pull the socket to the wheel nut and secure it tightly to the socket.  Formula 1 wheels have captured center wheel nuts that are part of the wheel and other race series are moving to adopt to that approach.  In the mean time, it remains important that the socket has full contact with the single wheel nut.

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As you look at the back side of the Paoli gun, you will see that there are two prominent sliding pins that are there to push in either direction so as to change the rotation of the un and socket.  The next time you watch an Indy pit stop you will notice that when the corner tire changer undoes their wheel they drop the gun so that the button is pushed into tighten mode as the gun hits the surface of the pit road.  When that corner tire changer puts on the replacement tire the gun can be picked up and is already in tighten more.  Often the torque on the gun is higher in loosen mode than it is in tighten mode, but still far higher torque than you use on your street car’s lugs.

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Above you can see a new addition to the Paoli lineup.  Look closely and you can see that it has a battery pack to power it instead of a pressure hose hook-up. 

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Notice that the there are four round LEDs just behind the red Paoli sticker on the top.  The desired torque can be pre-set and the LEDs indicate to the operator when proper torque has been achieved.  You will be seeing these new electric guns taking over tire change pit stops in the future. 

No matter which of the Paoli guns you choose be prepared to open up your checkbook.  The guns sans the socket are in the $20K range and add another $10K for a custom made socket.  I’ve been told that Formula 1 teams budget upwards of $200,000+ for their needs of Paoli tire changing guns and sockets for the season.

As they say, the devil’s in the details.

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PRI 2022–it’s Electric!

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If you are like me, you love the sound of a performance racing engine being put to work.

But, there is another sound of racing that has made its place in racing today.  PRI is not ignoring EV racing and even has a special section of PRI to showcase what is going on with electric vehicle racing and providing EV racers with a chance to see just what is out there.

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Above is an EV version of a formula car and below is an EV dragster.  It has the electrical equivalent of 2,400 hp and has run the quarter mile in just 7.47 seconds with a trap speed of 202.82 mph.

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And if that is not enough here is a shot of Don Garlits version of an electric rail.

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Just because they run on batteries and have electric motors, the engineering is not trivial.

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Turn 14 distribution is a proud sponsor…

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Wherever EV racing goes it is going to be interesting to watch!

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PRI 2022 is now

While the flights to Indianapolis were a complete mess, the shuttle ride to PRI on Thursday morning was smooth as silk.

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Thursday morning at PRI is always a special as it is a welcome breakfast to the attendees.  There are thousands of us to enjoy our breakfast and enjoy racing legend Tony Stewart sharing some of his racing life stories with us.

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The breakfast is a perfect time to meet new people and find out about their interests in racing and PRI.  We traded stories of our racing interests and what things were like in each of our parts of the country. 

After being welcomed by the people that bring us PRI and gaining insights into where the racing industry is going it was time to meet Tony.

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Tony is not only a gifted racing driver, he is a very entertaining story teller, and he wasn’t shy about sharing some of his challenges and the lessons of racing life. 

Soon it was time for us to head for the vast showroom floors and start exploring all the exhibits and attending the many seminars that PRI offers.

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As I wandered the floor I recognized many familiar brands as well as some new ones.

Hunter technology had their product line on display and were able to give you a live demo of how their products worked.

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I talked with the representative as to how their alignment machines worked with the needs of track day customers that required something more than a factory spec alignment.

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Their machine made it easy to adapt the specifications that a track day vehicle needed to attain and all those custom specs could be stored so that a customer’s setting could would always be available for future track alignments.

We stopped by Creative Racing’s display of equipment that makes it easy to perform corner balancing of your car.

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This is a critical step for many track day enthusiasts as they work to improve their driving skills with the best handling possible out of their car.

I stopped by the Full Race display and eyed the many turbocharger upgrades they had featured.  As always, I was drawn to the the Mitsubishi Evo IX turbo upgrade they had available.

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Hmm, 590 horse power would be a nice upgrade.

Back to suspensions.  There was a great QA1 display of the many suspension upgrades they offer for the classic American cars and trucks.

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This kind of upgrade makes a huge difference in handling capabilities.

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QA1 also has some beautiful carbon fiber drive shafts available.

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Another suspension upgrade vendor is BMR that had a great display of upgrade options.

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The Driveshaft Shop from North Carolina was at the show.  Their display was great to browse.

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I was talking with ABRO Balancing Machines Inc. at another display and they told me that the Driveshaft Shop uses their balancer and takes each driveshaft up to 9000 rpm to ensure perfection! 

I have a lot more to share with you, but I need to catch the shuttle to get back to PRI.  More to come!

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Fall and Virginia International Raceway

I like VIR.  Mostly because it is fairly close.  Just about an hour and twenty minute drive and literally just over the Virginia/North Carolina boarder.  And it is a beautiful place.  Rolling grassy hills and wonderfully kept facilities.  The owners are continually finding ways to make it a stellar venue.

A couple of Saturday’s ago they had multiple events going on.  One was Formula 4.  If a youngster has racing ambitions that lean toward the pinnacle of international racing, Formula 1, then they usually begin with carting and its various levels of competition.  All this is to get to the first step of Formula 4.

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Drivers have three years to prove themselves in this first step and then they must move on or move out.

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It is not easy, but it is a lot of fun.  Traveling to various race tracks around the country and competing against fellow drivers.

This weekend we met a young competitor that was in his third year in carting.  He had graduated from the four cycle engined carts to the two-cycle.  His mother was there finding creative was to fund his passion.  She described how he started out in carting and how he struggled to figure out what it meant to drive a racing cart.  As he competed at the back of the pack things finally clicked for him and he started to put it all together.  Finally he was qualifying in the single digits and got his rhythm.

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He even looks like a race car driver now.  Dreaming of some day being a Formula 1 driver.

One of the great things about VIR is that it is very fan friendly.  Unlike some other venues you can walk around the pits and the paddock to your hearts content seeing the cars and talking to the owners and crew.  This weekend had a great variety of race cars.  Some vintage and many current competitors.

Here was a classic Lola that brought back memories of racing I had from back in junior high school. Even after all these years it is still a beautiful racing car.

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Walking around the paddock was a bit of time travel as memories are visited as they are triggered by coming across one classic after another.

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This BMW 2002 model brought back memories of the first time I spotted on making its way through the demanding curves of Cape Cod roads.  That first time I was merely an observer that was amazed as the boxy sedan snaked its way through the curves and vanished into the distance.  A few years later I found myself behind the wheel on a particularly challenging part of route 149 with a smile on my face as I enjoyed the thrill of maneuvering the curves and snaking my own way through the wooded road at speeds I had never dared before.  It was lovely.

Meanwhile cars were on track and crews were either preparing for their cars time on track or repairing things that happen on track.

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We continued to explore with our attention drawn from one great set of wheels to another.

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Lest we forget about the all important tires.  That which is the true connection to the race track…

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More vintage race cars…

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Above is a clone of the fantastic Team 44 race car.

Then we got to see them on VIR’s full course.

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This Saturday there was also a Cars and Caffeine car show on the grassy parking area.

As the “pony cars” did their Trans Am racing thing we browsed the cars.

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The cars in the car show had moved to the parking area near “Oak Tree” and we had a chance ot take some photos before the racing paused and these had their chance to do some laps around the track.

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As the race cars came to the end of the back straight and headed for the challenge of “Roller Coaster” we fired up our Mitsubishi Evo IX and headed back home with a smile in our hearts and the urge to return to VIR soon.

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On the Side of the Road–Vintage Chevy Pickup Parts

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Driving along the road in Minnesota a site to behold popped out at us.  It was a line of vintage Chevy pickup trucks.

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Who does this?  Sure we’ve seen vintage pickup trucks on the side of the road and a few of them are worth noting.  This was above and beyond.  so who had accumulated this collection of bodies, frames and parts?

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It was Sunday and they were closed so there was no one to talk to and ask questions.  So we did what we do and took photos of all the treasures.

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Set back from the road was a second row of truck cabs and bodies just waiting for that collector that wanted an amazing project.

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It wasn’t just Chevy pickup trucks either.

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Next to this GMC was another Ford pickup truck.

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Tons of all styles and years of cabs waiting for you.

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But what about a rust-free frame?

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Plenty to pick from.

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So this is the one stop place you have been looking for…

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Oregon–Green Springs Highway

This curvy highway snakes around the mountains and was a major part of our route between Bend and Hood River.  It was quite a road.

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I’ve driven Pikes Peak and Mount Washington.  I’ve driven the Tail of the Dragon and many other mountain roads that challenge and thrill, but I must say that this one just may take the cake.

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Guardrails are sparse and you can take the speed signs seriously.  The road not only curves, it undulates.

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The Dragon has 318 turns in 11 miles, but this road goes on for at least 30 miles of amazing turns.  The views are breathtaking, too.   This is a fun road.  The Jeep Liberty is not a rally car, but it handled this road well and yes, I did wish for my Mitsubishi Evolution IX .

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On the Road–Man’s Best Friend Along for the Ride

As we travel from towns to cities to forests and the high desert it is nice to see fellow travelers enjoying themselves.  This guy was having a good time in the bed of a pickup truck.

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He loved waiting for the cars going in the other direction and following them with his head as they drove past.

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Its great to see travelers that are enjoying the ride.

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On the Side of the Road–Titan II Missile Museum

Okay, it’s not a car, but it is a motor vehicle and very fast and it was on the side of the road.  This was quite an exhibit, especially these days.

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I mean, how often do you get to see a nuclear missile site?  We got to see what the reentry vehicle amounted to (the bomb).

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The reentry vehicle came back to earth at over 20 times the speed of sound.

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This was some serious stuff.

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Here was a chart of the missile museums.  Perhaps there is one near you.

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These were the locations of Minute Man and Titan missile sites.

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Things don’t work 100% at all times so there was redundancy built in to the missile systems.  Called Overkill.  It was deemed important to be certain that if a strike was launched we would do our part to end the world as we know it.

At the time it was known as mutually assured destruction or MAD.  All we can say is that it has worked so far.  But do see the movies Dr. Strangelove and War Games and think about it yourself.

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Before we went down to the actual underground missile and command center we watched a video on the cold war.

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Following that we went to the hatch and walked down about 55 stair steps to get to where the blast doors were.

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Which led to another blast door.

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Eventually to the command launch center where we observed and participated in a launch simulation that showed us what was involved in a launch of a Titan II missile.

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The underground rooms were supported on multiple springs in order to survive a near miss from an enemy missile.

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After the “launch” we went to the actual silo and had a look at an inert Titan II missile.

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Then we climbed back out and took a look at the things that were above ground .  One being the huge and heavy door that normally covered the missile.

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The Titan II is a two stage missile and these are the engines for the first stage that got it about fifty mile in the air and fifty miles closer to it target.

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Then the second stage engine would propel it another 200 miles before it would release the re-entry vehicle,  otherwise known as the thermonuclear weapon, to fall on its target.

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Was this scary? Yes and no.  The thought of the reality of such weapons ever being used is unbelievable.  Thank goodness we haven’t as I doubt that it would solve any problems except over population.

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Pima Air Museum

No it is not a museum about air or our atmosphere.  It is about aircraft!  Faster than a  speeding Hellcat!  Aircraft are amazing and their development parallels the automobile.  The airplane also changed our life and our infrastructure.  This museum is a must see.

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But keep in mind that this is Arizona and by this time of year it is hot.  Often in triple digits.  so get there early in the day and have plenty of water to consume.  There are acres of aircraft on outside display as well as several buildings for you to continue exploring in when you need to get out of the sun.

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Multiple versions of the Harrier vertical takeoff jets.

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A very early version of a jet fighter. 

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The fabulous F-16

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Off in the distance is our largest Cold War bomber.

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The B-36 Peacemaker

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This version was always flying around Cape Cod in the Cold War as early warning of Soviet bombers.

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This is the B-52 Stratofortress.  Still active as our largest bomber that outlived the Cold War.

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For a brief period of time this Hustler was our strategic bomber.

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The MIG Soviet fighter.

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The deadly Soviet MIG-21

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Helicopters! 

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The Cobra gunship.

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This jet turoboprop prototype was based on WW II’s P51 D

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The UAV Predator

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Acres of aircraft

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The SR-71, the worlds fastest, highest flying manned aircraft.  With several buff Americans enjoying the museum.

This really is a great place to visit and soon they will have a special section of military vehicles on site for those of us that are automotive in our perspective.

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