Our New Home Track
As you all know by now, the Mac family is back in Southern California. After a 15-year stint in Northern California, we have a new home track to figure out. Up north we had one of the toughest tracks in the nation to dial because of changing weather conditions, especially the wind. Infineon Raceway (it will always be Sears Point) is in the beautiful microclimates of wine country, Sonoma County. From the staging lanes you could look out over San Francisco Bay and have the hot winds blast down from Sacramento Valley to the north. Atmospheric conditions would range throughout the year from 500-feet-below-sea-level corrected altitude to the mid-3,000-foot range. The conditions are things you can easily measure with weather stations, but what you can't read with instruments are the subtle changes that create big performance differences. And just when you think you've got it all figured out, the track would leave you scratching your head!
Luckily, Southern California is blessed with a very nice race track. Auto Club Dragway at Fontana is an incredible facility adjacent to the Auto Club Speedway. The big difference between its northern counterpart is that, for lack of better words, it's basically in the desert! Yes, the Inland Empire is developed today, but 30 years ago it was just the desert on your way to Palm Springs! We've gone from moist sea-level conditions to 1,000-plus feet of elevation with humidity numbers that will dry out the waterbox in minutes. Yes, it's just another quarter mile of timed tarmac, but every track has its own personality and performance changes that cannot be measured. This is where experience comes into play. You must learn these differences by running at all hours of the day in varyingweather. Also, keeping a close eye on the wind conditions from head- to tailwind, and how much the crosswinds affect the performance of your car.
My son Daniel and I have now been racing at Fontana for about three months. My Roadster is parked for a complete rebuild and SFI chassis recertification. Once my garages are in working order, we have to add helmet bars, rollcage gussets, and a few new sidebars to the driver's compartment to comply with current rules. Daniel has been carrying the family racing torch. Last weekend he raced the Super Chevy Show, our sister publication's marquee race, and won eight rounds to take the non-electronics class. It was a great day having three generations of Macs in the Winner's Circle for photos.
One thing that gave us the edge throughout the day was watching the changing conditions at our new home track. You can only pick these things up over time. Anytime you roll into a new track you must pay attention to all the details. Remember, the locals who race there every weekend have quite an advantage. You can never have too much information when it comes to dialing your car. Good luck to all this summer.
Q: The Horsepower TV series has some very good tips and techniques for building high-performance engines. The machinist on the program shows heating the small end of the rod until it's cherry-red to slip the piston pin through it and load the piston on. I always took press-fit pistons and rods to a machine shop to have them hung or pressed them together. Is this a proper way to do it, or are viewers going to find their heated-on rods on the road? I've been building engines since the '60s and never heard of this.
Villa Ridge, MO