Strange Engineering Talks Drag Brakes, Shocks, and Suspension Tuning

Stephen Kim Nov 8, 2013 0 Comment(s)
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Whether your rearend has 10 or 12 bolts holding it together, Strange Engineering has piles of axles, gears, and differentials waiting on standby in case something goes kaput. For the heretics among us, it even has premium Dana 60 and 9-inch hardware to lure you to the dark side. Through decades of success in the highest ranks of drag racing, Strange has established itself as one of the premier manufacturers of driveline components in the industry. What sometimes gets lost in that hoopla of driveline success is that the company builds some serious drag brakes and shock packages as well. In fact, Strange was one of the first companies to offer carbon brakes in Funny Car and Top Fuel, and countless Pro Stock teams rely on Strange shocks every weekend. Naturally, this technology trickles down into the company's street/strip product line, which means that the big winner is your average weekend warrior. To get an inside scoop on all of Strange's state-of-the-art brake and shock technology, we had an eye-opening chat with Jeff Stange. We even bugged him for some helpful suspension tuning tips.

Drag Brakes
The needs of a commuter car that endures the grind of stop-and-go driving are far different from a drag car that decelerates only in short bursts. Since the brakes in a drag car require far less heat capacity than in a commuter car, it's possible to greatly increase braking performance while also reducing weight. For example, the front rotors and calipers on an LS1-powered fourth-gen Camaro weigh about 70 pounds, while Strange Pro steel drag brakes weigh just 37 pounds. "To reduce weight, our Pro steel brakes have an optimized thin rotor web with lightening windows, heat distribution slots in the rotors, and aluminum calipers and caliper brackets. We even fully machine the billet aluminum hubcap to save weight," Jeff says. "For maximum stopping power, Strange Pro steel brakes feature 11.25-inch rotors and large four-piston calipers. Our calipers have a unique directional design where both 1.750- and 1.625-inch bore pistons are used. The directional design allows for more even pad loading, wear, and heat distribution. The result is maximum braking force, consistent pad wear, and outstanding pedal feel."

Strange Engineering Carbon Brake 3 2/11

Weight of a Different Kind
Everyone knows that drag brakes reduce static weight, but they also reduce unsprung weight and rotating weight. "Reducing unsprung weight should always be the first priority in weight reduction, as it will provide the most bang for the buck. Reduction of unsprung mass allows for better tire contact over rough surfaces because as the wheel has to accelerate up and down, there is less inertia or momentum that must change directions," Jeff explains. "Reducing rotating mass has a similar effect, but this time we are talking about rotational acceleration and deceleration. The response time is improved in both cases, and when properly tuned, it allows for improved tire contact over rough surfaces, and less energy consumed in the acceleration and deceleration of the wheel and tire. Depending on the class, most people try to get a car as far below the legal weight as possible. This allows the driver and crew to strategically place the weight where it might be more beneficial for performance and vice versa."

One- vs. Two-piece rotors
Strange utilizes both one- and two-piece rotors in its brake kits, and Jeff says that there are definite pros and cons of each design. "One-piece rotors usually run truer than two-piece rotors that bolt together at the hub. There is no hardware that can come loose or fail with a one-piece design, and it eliminates the potential of the hub cracking due to the difference in growth rates between a steel rotor and an aluminum hub," he explains. Furthermore, Strange one-piece rotors incorporate a slotted design, which weakens the rotors radially to create a path for heat distortion. When a rotor heats up and distorts, the gaps in the slots close up, helping a rotor maintain its flatness. On the other hand, two-piece rotors also have their advantages, which is why they are used in Strange's Pro Series 2 brake kits. Since these rotors use aluminum hats, they are 0.7-pound lighter per rotor than their steel counterparts. "The floating rotor construction of a two-piece design allows the rotor to expand with temperature without being rigidly connected to the hat," Jeff says. "This results in increased heat capacity, significantly reducing the chance of the rotor warping. Also, using a flat disc allows us to process and manufacture two-piece rotors differently than a one-piece rotor. Our choice of materials and our manufacturing process results in a rotor that is far less prone to deformation over long-term usage."

Carbon Brakes
Carbon brakes have been popular in Pro Stock, Funny Car, F1, and exotic supercars for quite some time, and now Strange offers them for drag cars as well. According to Strange, the main advantage of carbon brakes is that they do not fade with increased temperature like cast-iron or steel brakes. Instead, carbon's coefficient of friction increases as rotor temperature increases. In other words, the hotter the brakes get, the harder they bite. Likewise, carbon is far more stable when subjected to multiple heat cycles. "In drag racing, brakes go from cold to extremely hot very quickly. The majority of OEM brakes use cast-iron rotors, but in drag racing applications cast iron is extremely prone to thermal shock, which can lead to a complete failure where the rotors can actually explode," Jeff explains. "Steel rotors are far more durable than cast iron in this regard, but after a lot of heat cycles, steel can begin to warp. However, none of this is an issue with carbon brakes. Strange introduced carbon to Top Fuel cars in the late 1980s, primarily for safety. Teams soon recognized that carbon brakes are significantly lighter than steel brakes as well. A complete Strange carbon brake kit weighs just 8.5 pounds."

Strange Engineering Carbon Brake 2 6/11

Carbon Caveats
Despite the advantages in stopping power, durability, and weight of carbon brakes, steel brakes still have their benefits. "There are certain applications where carbon is not as effective. For instance, most Super Comp racers like brakes that bite immediately before the finish line, and steel rotors are a better fit for this application," Jeff says. Likewise, carbon brakes require more maintenance as well. "Carbon brakes will become less effective over time if they are contaminated with oil or brake cleaner, which is why nothing should ever be used to clean carbon rotors. Once a rotor gets contaminated, the offending contaminants must be baked out of the rotor to restore it to nearly new condition. Strange currently offers carbon brakes for Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Mod, and Pro Stock applications."

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