I Missed The Dirt Setup!

me sitting on pit wall @ IMS

(sitting on the pit wall @IMS)

For the past six months I have been working on getting off the excess weight that I have accumulated in the last several years.  In addition to changing my eating habits, I have been walking.

Where I was walking this winter is within the confines of the facility where I winter.  It is much safer, no cars trying to run over you, no traffic, no distractions, etc., however it is pavement, like a road racing course.  For the month of June I was visiting my kids and grandkids in Fresno, and walking on a one mile horse race track.

One would not think there is no difference walking on asphalt, versus walking on dirt.  I, too, was one of those that thought that there was little to no differences in the surfaces. However, after a few days of walking on the dirt track I found that I was having handling problems!

On the pavement, where I was walking this winter, it was a relatively flat surface, requiring both left and right turns.  I had no built in camber, or bump stops in my suspension setup. Just an old pair of Nike cross trainers on my feet!  However here on the horse racing track, it is dirt, slightly banked, and just left turns, kinda like oval racing in NASCAR. Quickly I realized that there was a big difference on how this old man performed on the dirt!

Anyway, for the first week of walking on this dirt track, I found that as I would get to the end of either straight-away, and try to set up for the turns, I was unable to hold the low line through the turns.  As soon as I would “gas it up”, I would push up towards the fence!  I just could not figure it out! Why was I unable to hold the low line, and pushing so much through the turns?

I tried “getting out of the gas” early, rolling through the center, then “gassing it up” again as I progressed through two-thirds of the turn.  That didn’t fix the problem.  I still was “pushing” through the turns!  I tried different tennis shoes, thinking that a change in the “footprint” would be the key.  No help whatsoever!  I was was absolutely puzzled!  What can I do?

After a long self evaluation, I decided to confer with one of my good friends, David Prickett, the 2013 USAC Western States Dirt Track midget champion.  If anyone could help me with my dirt set up, it would be David!  So I loaded up in my car, drove over to his race shop, with the idea of picking his brain.

Once I got over to his shop, I began to query him on how to get through the turns on my walk.  I asked David what are the main principles, tires, suspension, etc., of how he gets his midget to handle in the turns.  I was thinking that all those principles would apply to me and my walk on the dirt horse track!  David relayed to me that the right rear tire was for sliding through the turns, while the left rear powered the car through the turn!

Why did I think of that!  That concept seemed all too simple.  I thought a bit, hmmm, surely this will work for me as well.

Now all I have to do is to adjust my body posture, and body weight, to all a little softer right leg as I go into the turn, allowing for a little slide.  All the while, concentrating on getting the left leg to power me through the turns, and up off of the turns, onto the straight-away! What a concept!

On my walk the following morning, I was very diligent with the knowledge that I had received from David.  On lap one, at the end of the straight-away, I allowed my right side to roll over just a little as I got into the turn.  I found that I was able to hold the lower line.  As I “got back into the gas”, I found that my left leg was, indeed, able to power me through the turn without pushing up to the fence!

Eureka!  Problem solved!

Needless to say that my lap times came down, and my speed went up!

So the next time you see someone walking on a dirt surface, if you notice a cloud of dust, and a person walking by in a blur, it just might be me!