From springs to swaybars, Bristol takes a toll on race cars

Dave Ongie • Mar 18, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Part 4 of 5

When you choose to make racing your career, picking up and moving goes with the territory.

Tryson has settled into his new office at MWR where he is now working to get on the same page with Truex, who is new to the organization himself.

That leaves Tryson little time to ponder who left behind the fish tank — or the fish swimming in it, for that matter — that currently sits behind his desk.

The goal this week is to find a setup for the No. 56 that Truex is comfortable racing at Bristol. To do that, Tryson will take two possible setups to the track.

“I ran there last fall with one kind of setup, and the 47 (of Marcos Ambrose) ran good there last fall with another type of setup,” Tryson said. “So I think the biggest thing is to go there with one and try the other one to see if Martin likes one more than the other one.”

But Tryson knows he’ll be fighting the clock as he tries to cram a great deal of work into a short practice session Friday morning.

“That’s the biggest problem is that we’ll have to do it quick because we don’t have a lot of time,” he said. “Hopefully it goes pretty smooth because you only have an hour and a half that first day and you want to be able to sort through a couple of things in race trim before you switch over to qualifying.”

By the time qualifying rolls around in the afternoon, Truex and Tryson will have more or less settled on a setup. Once they decide which direction to go, they can fine-tune everything during happy hour Saturday.

The good news is that both setups Tryson has in mind rely on similar spring and bump-stop packages, so switching from one to the other during the 90-minute session that proceeds qualifying shouldn’t be too difficult.

With a setup in mind, Tryson provided a parts list to his setup guy in the shop as well as to the folks in the suspension room after consulting with his engineer.

“That’s how they know what suspension to put on it,” he said. “We go over it all. They get a sheet from us with all the parts and pieces.”

The detailed list comes complete with serial numbers for each part so that they all can be tracked. This is important for a few reasons.

First, keeping track of parts keeps down costs. Second, it allows employees to chart how many miles each part has on it, reducing the chances of a part failing during a race. Finally, the serial number allows the crew at the track to quickly identify each part in case it has to be replaced during the race weekend.

When it comes to wearing out parts, there isn’t a track on the circuit that rivals Bristol. After 500 laps, the parts that are lucky enough to make it back to the shop in one piece will be thrown out or rebuilt.

Designed to be run on intermediate tracks, Chassis 643 was ideal for the high speeds and tight corners of BMS.

“Really Bristol is just a Dover intermediate anymore,” said Dewayne Bigger, who works on the setup plate.

There have been some alterations to Chassis 643, however — all of them to help the car survive the beating that lies ahead. The sway bar mount and the track bar mount, for example, have been stiffened up to withstand the force that will be created when the car inevitably bottoms out several times at BMS.

The front of the car has also been reinforced just in case Truex decides to use his bumper at some point.

To offset some of this added weight, the rear deck of the car is much lighter than it would be on a track where downforce would be a factor. The light rear deck on Chassis 643 may ripple as the wind passes over it this weekend, but the extra reinforcement is more important than any sacrifice being made from an aerodynamic standpoint.

With Bristol being what it is, it’s not surprising that the boys in the fab shop are planning ahead for the worst possible scenario. Crash pieces have been built just in case Chassis 643 gets caught up in an accident.

Among them is a makeshift radiator that can be mounted on the car quickly in case of front end damage. If worse comes to worst, Truex will pull behind the wall and the crew will cut the entire nose off the car and take the hood with it. The makeshift radiator will be mounted onto the front of the engine and the car can limp around long enough to gain some points.

Even though his job doesn’t allow him to stray far from the shop during the season, Bigger admits that, as a fan, Bristol is the one place he’d like to go to catch a race.

Professionally, though, he isn’t crazy about the toll BMS takes on the race cars he works so hard to prepare.

“We don’t like it,” he said, “but it provides job security, I guess.”

Click here for Part 5.

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