Editor’s note — Later this week we will debut a new series of articles from veteran NASCAR mechanic Don Scott designed to offer some basic set-up tips to participants in NASCAR iRacing Series Open competition. Read on to learn a little more about Don and what you can look forward to in the NiS Open Garage.
There are a host of adjectives one might use to describe walking through the door of a NASCAR team as a young mechanic. Getting a spot at any race shop can be a daunting task. You want to display confidence in your knowledge of mechanics, express your willingness to learn, while remaining humble in your demeanor. But most of all you want to keep your mouth shut and listen, you are going to learn a lot.
That’s how it was for me walking into the shop of six time SCCA champion and NASCAR Winston West legend Scott Gaylord. I had been turning wrenches since I was a teenager and had already cut my teeth in the modifieds, but this was a NASCAR team or as close to it as they had near Denver, and I wanted in.
When I attended automotive college, the first day they went around the class and asked each of us where we intended to take our automotive education. Most of the students said things like “BMW Step Program” or “Master Diesel Mechanic” but when it was my turn I said boldly “I want to be a NASCAR Crew Member”.
I would end up getting that internship, win several academic awards at the school, and create a NASCAR club where I taught other students to work on race cars. Some of those students even got the chance to pit at actual NASCAR Busch Grand National races.
I traveled with the team for three seasons. Starting with the most basic chores I progressed to the point where some of my tasks included assisting with the installation of the Dave Capriotti racing engines, fabricating the A-Arms, and installing the setups.
I was one of only two people trusted with installing the setups of the cars. The setups were provided and supervised by legendary crew chief Fred Roempler (NASCAR, K&N, ARCA). Under his direction we would win several Bud Pole awards, the “2004 Most Popular Driver Award” and lead hundreds of laps against many higher profile / budget teams. We never did get that elusive NASCAR win.
Where does all of this relate to iRacing you might ask?
At the same time I was starting my internship I was playing a game called NASCAR Season 2003 (later developed into what we now know as iRacing). As a matter of fact it was this game that gave me the idea to apply my mechanics knowledge to sim-racing.
“Most team owners, when you purchase a race car from them, will provide a series of basic setup sheets for certain tracks. iRacing has done the same for you.”
One weekend while racing at Fontana, I met a mechanic from the Hendricks shop who told me they had an online league and invited me to join. It was amusing to learn how many drivers and crew used the simulator (and still do). I was also interested to learn that a large amount of the chassis adjustments we were making every week on the track could be done inside the simulator with comparable results.
With the variety of hardware and settings each racer uses, the possibility of providing a cookie cutter setup for ALL drivers that is perfect for every driver would be impossible. So I will try and approach this column with the intention to help you translate what the car is doing (for you) into adjustments might be made to achieve the desired results.
Each week I will start with the basic setup provided by iRacing. This is actually similar to the way it works in real racing as most team owners, when you purchase a race car from them, will provide a series of basic setup sheets for certain tracks. iRacing has done the same for you. We will analyze what are the common thoughts about the setup, what corrections you might make, and explain each of the adjustments and how they affect the car.Keep in mind these tips are meant for the beginner to intermediate sim-racer looking to improve their performance, handling and stability. To help you turn consistent competitive lap times in a controlled manner. I will also attempt to show you what you might expect on race day and certain strategies that might help you level the field with the more experienced racers.
Winning is a combination of crew, car, setup and strategy (and luck). Iracing has provided you with an excellent crew, and a fast car…. That’s a good place to start.
Join me at Richmond International Raceway in the first entry of the series where we will learn about basic short track setups, driver terminology and basic adjustments to correct common issues.
Good Luck and God Speed!