This past week we traveled to Hampton, VA, home of Langley Speedway. A NASCAR home track that has very dedicated fans, Langley Speedway is located in close proximity to Langley Air Force Base.
Langley is a great little track, an opinion I only developed after this year’s race. The track is tough to get a hold of at first, especially for my rookie year. I struggled royally here in 2013 getting used to the track. It was a fresh repave and had tons of grip, but that didn’t change the unique shape of the four-tenths of a mile oval. Despite the track map having clearly defined straightaways, you are almost constantly turning left — if the car is right that is. The photo below was taken with an onboard camera. Notice the photo is right at the flag stand and the steering wheel is turned to the left by about thirty degrees. This means the right-front tire takes a beating and the driver must be careful to not abuse that tire.
After struggling so much in 2013, I employed iRacing to get over some of the negative feelings I had towards the track. Langley is a rhythm track where hitting each mark is important because it affects the rest of the lap. If you pinch the entry you hurt the center and exit which slows your entire run down the next straightaway. Consecutive sim racing laps on iRacing allowed me to get into a rhythm similar to 175 laps during the real race. The visuals on the service are great and really give an appreciation of how long the corners seem while in the car.
It’s worth mentioning that the week before this race, our short track primary car was involved in a serious crash at the Pensacola 150. I was fine but the car was damaged enough it had to be stripped and sent to the chassis shop. In seven days’ time that car was rebuilt and on the track at Langley Speedway. Really proud of what the Turner Scott Motorsports crew did and it allowed me to notch my first NASCAR pole and another solid top five finish.
Now, let’s take a lap around the real track in the Project Lifesaver Chevrolet. Crossing over the start/finish line, your eyes are already looking past the entry of Turn 1 into the center. You are starting the arc into the corner and aiming for the seam where the apron meets the track. Light brake pressure is carried down to the bottom, but as soon as the nose is set and turning well, brake pressure is released and the car is rolling. The corners are very wide, so it is okay to let the car move up a couple feet from the bottom if it means staying off the brake.
As the car slows down naturally from friction and steering input, it will turn back down to the seam between the apron and track. When it starts doing this I start rolling into the power. At full power, steering input is still more than 45 degrees, which means a lot of weight is shifted to the right-rear tire. It’s important to keep the car from having too much body roll in this situation. I’ve found that in iRacing, using a combination of a stiffer front roll bar and stiff right-rear spring can help reduce the body roll feeling.
Entering Turn 3 the car transfers the load from the right-rear back onto the right-front. Turns 3 and 4 require a similar approach to Turns 1 and 2. Aim for the seam between the apron and track, get off the brake as soon as the car is turning well, then roll back into the power after a long roll period. (If you want to see a full onboard at Langley Speedway visit my YouTube page ScottHeckertRacing.)
In iRacing and the real car alike, the most important thing to do is ensure you don’t overdrive the corner. Over-driving the corner results in the car sliding up the track a little bit, requiring more brake to get the car turned to the bottom. The added brake pressure hurts the rolling speed of the car. Also remember that in a race you can get the left front on the apron to get the car to rotate quickly. If the car is working properly, this is not necessary, but it can be a crutch mid-race.
Hopefully some of you iRacers can put this knowledge to use next time your favorite series visits Langley Speedway. I’m very appreciative of what I learned on iRacing, and in my mind it played a big role in getting my skills honed so I could notch my first pole in a NASCAR series (and track record). Looking forward to many more!