During last month’s Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis, it was announced that twelve Dirt Late Model regional racing series planned to unify their rules and bring their standards in line with those of the two national touring series. In particular, measurements regarding the bodies of the race cars are to be more closely regulated than has been the case over recent years. Further, this unification of the rulebooks should aid drivers and teams who might want to race in more than one series and is meant to allow that to happen as seamlessly as possible.
These changes, or rather the agreement for all to follow the same guidelines, will have an impact on every Dirt Late Model racer whether they compete full-time on a national series, a regional series, or jump from one to another. So needless to say, those who do the work on the cars have opinions on the matter at hand.
Chad Hedgecock leads one of the most successful regional teams in the country. With his son, Cory, they have won numerous features including a World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series event held at 411 Motor Speedway in 2018 and last year’s Valvoline Iron-Man Late Model Series event at I-75 Raceway that earned that crew a total of $15,000.
Chad Hedgecock sees the benefits of the new regulations and what they are meant to produce but he also sees the potential for the measures to possibly cost teams more money in the short term.
“I think they’re okay,” Hedgecock told InsideDirtRacing.com. “As long as they don’t try to make us back the cars up a little bit, that’s going to cost everybody some money. If they could just stop them where they’re at and not let us take them no farther that would be great. I don’t know that any of the Crate series are going to adopt them but all the Supers are, for sure. It’s just going to cost everybody a lot of money if they go back and make us change the cars.”
Of course, racers are going to find whatever advantage afforded to them and if rules aren’t in place to guide them, they are going to tweak any area of the car they can get away with. Hedgecock says that lack of enforcement or a lack of guidance allowed the cars to become twisted into what they are today. But going backwards will prove to be difficult should their team have to make significant changes to their Black Diamond Race Car.
So what is meant by “back the cars up”?
“It’s all body related,” Hedgecock explained. “We’re going to have to redo all of our T-Bars, decking, and probably make new bodies and everything else to get the cars more square, which is probably how they needed to be to begin with but they let us get out of hand. Now everybody has all these cars that they’re going to have to put back. If they would just stop them where they’re at so they wouldn’t go no farther. I think it’s going to be great but I also still think changing all this stuff, all they same people are going to continue to win.”
Mike Nuchols oversees the Warrior Race Cars chassis building operation as well as that company’s house car efforts for driver Ryan King. He says the key isn’t necessarily in the writing of a unified rulebook but rather in the equal enforcement of that rulebook by each and every series whether they regulate national or regional tours.
The No. 1G machine frequently races with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series but also with the various regional tours that sanction races around the southeastern portion of the country.
“The rules that they implemented last month didn’t really change anything,” Nuchols stated to InsideDirtRacing.com. “So they came up with the triangulation rule. With the triangulation rule, if you build your car within the specs that are given, it’s fine. It’s all about enforcement. I didn’t have to change anything, My car was dead on. They wanted 118 and I was 118.”
What is the significance of the number “118”?
“They measure eight feet down the right side and then measure over to the left rear quarter panel from that eight foot mark on the right side and there needs to be no longer than 118(inches) and no shorter than 117,” Nuchols explained.
Nuchols and the Brian King-owned Warrior team made a trip to North Carolina near the end of last summer and had their cars checked out in a wind tunnel. He points out that some of what they learned will be beneficial under these standards as they are written but some of that knowledge may not aid their cause if the rules are enforced as written.
“Everything we learned at the wind tunnel to make the car better, we couldn’t do it with the World of Outlaws or Lucas or UMP,” Nuchols recalled. “But when I went to other races, I could use those things because I knew they weren’t going to check. Now, like I said, it’s an enforcement issue. Are they going to enforce it or are we still going to be on a level where Lucas Oil, World of Outlaws, and UMP are the only ones enforcing the rules so we can all go back to doing whatever?”
Nuchols goes on to describe how the rules will cause the cars to behave differently on the track.
“It will hurt a car if they go from a series that doesn’t make sure everything is checked right and if they start checking them,” he detailed. “It’s going to hurt the cars- it’s going to make them steer worse and have less rear downforce. That’s what we found out when we went to the wind tunnel. We took a car that was legal for Eldora, which would have been legal for UMP, World of Outlaws and Lucas Oil. We took that car because we were going to Eldora with it and anything we did to make it better was outside of the rulebook. Anything I done to yaw the body more, skew the doors, pick the nose flares up, anything was outside the rules. I actually called all three of them and told them what I had seen. They all had done a good job. I told them that if we did things to make the car better, it’s not within your rulebook.”
The so-called “Droop Rule” first implemented by the Ray Cook-promoted Schaeffer’s Oil family of series then adopted by the World of Outlaws Late Model Series has been a point of contention for some Dirt Late Model racers over the past few seasons. Nuchols believes that most of the tours, but perhaps not all, will conform to that rule this season.
“That’s the way it’s supposed to go,” Nuchols said. “I still think there are some series that are going to bail on it because some people are going to gripe. But if it’s implemented all across the board, I don’t care either way. If it’s the same all across for everybody, that’s good for me. We did have to have two different setups to run Lucas Oil and then World of Outlaws but the droop rule actually makes the car a little more driver friendly versus where the Lucas stuff is more aero attitude because you’re probably six more inches higher in the air and it’s more aero dependent. It made a whole different balance with two different setups.”
In the end, Hedgecock and Nuchols both agree that, in theory at least, the unification of the rulebooks should make things easier on racers who go from tour to tour.
“It will do that,” Hedgecock said. “Anytime where we had the droop rule, a WoO race or a Ray Cook race, then some of the stuff we did didn’t seem to matter as much. When we would go to a Lucas race we could cheat the car a lot more to fudge the deck height and get by with it. But yeah, it was two different setups for that. It will make it easier if everybody does the same thing, for sure.”
But again, equal enforcement is the key.
“It should, but in theory, it was always easier anyway because those regional series don’t check like the Lucas Oil Series does,” Nuchols stated. “So when I go to a Lucas race, I always make sure my stuff is spot on but when I go to a regional race I know where I can fudge at.”
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