During any event track conditions can change and drivers and their respective crews need to adjust accordingly to make the best of any given situation. Whatever the case may be, these modern day cowboys make it work and more often than not, tend to prevail with consistent timeslips. A collection of factors are involved when tuning. They can range anywhere from keeping an eye on tire pressure to programming a complete timing ramp to manage the engine's power levels.
At this year's LSX Shootout at Memphis Motorsports Park in Memphis, Tennessee, Mother Nature provided a racing environment that would prove to be challenging for anyone, with bouts of light rain and the bone-chilling winds. Making it worse, Sunday night's finale ended with 44 degree temperatures, and it was only getting worse with a slippery tarmac.
Given the less than ideal weather, the degree of personal self-tuners across the field and quick passes was proof that it could be handled. In True Street, a class that requires a prerequisite cruise with three back-to-back passes, it was a game for some, who attempted to best their own reaction times. We found many feathering the clutch at higher than normal rpms in an attempt to average out their first two time trials for the quickest time, all the while trying to manage to not break out of their index. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there was the heads up Extreme Street class that were going all out with big mills and a power adder on top of a 10.5 slick.
To showcase the tuning efforts within this event, we combed the infield and found four cars that ranged from daily drivers to full blown race car status. We picked the drivers and tuners brains to find out what they do to ensure a clean and drama-free pass; some did nothing but stick the key into the ignition while others performed more in depth tunes as their class was significantly quicker with much more horsepower to harness. While some may think drag racing is easy, we certainly challenge anyone who thinks it's as simple as stabbing the throttle and holding on. Follow along; you may be surprised to learn at how difficult it really is.
What We Did
Get the scoop on how to compete with the big boys of the NMCA's LSX Shootout
These drivers hang on the ragged edge
Where It Was
Memphis Motorsports Park, Memphis, TN
True Street 12 Second Index
Running in True Street was this base '09 Corvette with minimal modifications. "The car is completely stock aside from the rims," claimed 22-year-old Justin Keith of Blue Springs, MI. Sporting a base LS3, the Corvette in factory form makes 430 hp right out of the box. So why no modifications? "It's my daily driver and all I have to do is start the ignition and make a pass. I just swap the rears to drag radial tires," he explained. Since this class is dominated by everyday street cars, Justin's tune would rely mostly on eliminating driver error and unnecessary wheelspin. True Street averages out the three passes to get your final time, which means it's vital to make sure you don't break out of the index. In the end, Justin averaged 12.05 at 119 mph, which was very respectable, only it wasn't enough to make this year's field.
1. For the first run, the rear tires were left at 16 psi. From there, Justin would be able to determine whether to add or drop air pressure. In this instance, he found the ideal launch for his combination was to leave the line at 2,000 rpm, while feathering the clutch.
2. Moving on to the second pass, Justin added 4 psi, changing the total to 20 psi. Justin explained: "With more tire pressure, there will be a greater chance of spinning the tires." Still, he felt confident that his previous launch at 2,000 rpm would suffice. His change dipped him into the 11s by running 0.16 quicker with the same trap speed.
3. For the third pass, Justin left the 20 psi in the rear drag radials. "I went for a more aggressive launch at 2,500 rpm," stated Justin. Unfortunately, by having to slip the clutch quite a bit more at the line, he ended up slowing down his Corvette by 0.13 seconds.
True Street 11 Second Index
Edgar Perez's story is a bit unique. Not only did Edgar actually need to slow his car down to remain in his 11-second index, he did it without even popping the hood, instead he uses the latest tech craze-"With my iPhone!" he exclaimed. "It's great, all I did was download an Excel file to my phone and I just punched in my times to get a predicted outcome." Add in the fact that his car utilizes an automatic and Edgar's consistency is generally dead on. Edgar uses this advantage to stage the car either shallow or deep to adjust his e.t.'s as needed. Edgar went on to say: "I can trim 0.15 seconds off my time if I need to."
1. With a shallow stage on his first time trial pass, Edgar managed a smoking 10.93 at 122 mph pass. "I shallow stage to essentially make the track longer," says Perez. He stalled the car at 2,000 rpm and let it all hang out, remembering it's an average of the three passes. He knew the Corvette needed to slow down for the next two runs in order to qualify.
2. Edgar's second pass had played out as he predicted. Knowing he would need to "slow" the car down, he staged the car very deep-essentially making the track shorter and therefore running a predictably slower time. He again launched the car at 2,000 rpm.
3. Approaching the third and final time trial run to qualify, Edgar opened up his tuning device (iPhone) and used simple math. By plugging in his times from the first and second passes, Edgar sat in the staging lanes and predetermined what time he would need to run in order to qualify; Edgar's third run would have to be 10.885, which would allow him to stay in the 11.0 index. Already banking on the fact that a deep or shallow stage resulted in a faster or slower e.t., his third run would be a shallow stage. Once he passed the 1,000-foot marker, he tapped the brakes to scrub off speed on the big end. His efforts netted him with an 11.016 average for the three runs, keeping him in the field. When the smoke cleared, Edgar got the win and took home the True Street 11.0 Index trophy.
Who says you can't get 1,500 hp to hook? In this class, a lot of the tune comes by finessing the suspension. The Extreme Street class tends to run in the bottom 8s and requires the finicky 10.5 slick to handle everything you can throw at it. For Jamie Stanton's first of his three qualifying passes, he and tuner Jake Holdrege relied mostly on managing the power on a slick track. Their second run was actually a wash because the tune was too aggressive and ended up shaking the tires. In the end though, Stanton's team created a number of flawless bumper-standing passes. If you haven't already noticed, we've got the full disclosure on their fourth-gen on page 70. But first, here's how they did it.
1. Making their first pass a solid one with a relatively conservative tune. "The track had some cloud coverage but was still 80 degrees and looked good," said Stanton. He went on to say they "decided to tighten the front a bit." During the next hit, Stanton launched the Camaro at 4,200 rpm, resulting in the car leaving on the bumper, running 8.26 at 173.84 mph. Stanton stated: "We didn't have enough wheel speed and need more timing on the launch-I had to pedal it." Back to the pits.
2. Up again, the Stanton team attempted to step up the power to induce more wheel speed. They tightened up the front end again with suspension limiters. For the rear, the shocks were tightened as well. Again, they launched the Camaro at 4,200 rpm; however, the tires shook badly causing him to abort the run.
3. Their third run was for all the beans. "We quit experimenting and reverted to a tune from a previous outing that we knew would work," said Stanton. This was the right call, as they instantly became the number one qualifier with an 8.08 at 173.30 mph run. The Stanton/Holdrege team carried the tune from their third qualifier all the way to their first Extreme Street victory.
Better known in the doorslammer community as "Sponge" Bob Curran, he's no stranger to single-digit passes. How does his team manage a tune? In his play-by-play book, it's all about managing the engine timing and doing your best to be consistent round after round. Sponge Bob's team did notice a bit of oil in the engine bay due to blow-by, however that wouldn't keep them from competing. Bob's overall goal was to get into the top half of the field. Bob and crew ended up qualifying in the number five spot with an 8.34 at 167 mph blast.
1. Luckily for the Sponge Bob team, they were experiencing similar conditions as they had seen the weekend prior. "Remember, this was the first round of qualifying, we just let her rip," said Bob. "I ended up hazing the tires and got out of it." During the second round of qualifying, they tightened up the front shocks and backed the timing off to try and tame the car down, which ultimately placed Bob in the number five position with an 8.34 at 167 mph run. "Right down Broadway," he said.
2. During the first round of eliminations, the team reviewed data from ealier rounds to determine what to do next. "It's a crap-shoot for me if I have an opponent that can lay down a solid run," said Bob, "Do I make a change or leave it alone?" For the Sponge Bob team, they left well enough alone. At the tree, their opponent redlit and with no changes to the chassis, Bob was on a ride and made it to the next round.
3. For the next round, Bob had a tough one on his hands. As he said, "You are racing the number one qualifier (Jamie Stanton) and I had outrun his time in round one already." Bad news came in the form of the waiting game. Consistent oil-downs on the track pushed most of the field off from racing for hours. In Bob's case, it was 8 hours before they could make their third pass-it was 44 degrees and dropping. For Bob, "You better believe that Jamie's big-block is going to take full advantage of the colder air." Even so, the Sponge Bob team left the tune alone again for this pass. Around 700 feet out, Bob's opponent was hooked, gone, and pulling slightly. You couldn't have asked for a better race. We're talking side by side action to the finish line, but his small-block ended up giving up the ghost on the big end. It wasn't the way Bob and his team wanted to end the year, but he vowed to be back next season with a new small-block combination.