Bracket Racing 101: Racing Into Fall
(Article begins on the Bracket Racing 101 page HERE)

Bracket racing constantly changes from season to season. Cars and drivers perform differently in summer and fall. Now that we’re getting into the autumn months, let’s take a look at some of the ways to adjust for racing in the fall.

We’ve all seen racers warming up their cars on jack stands right after unloading from the trailer. Regardless of the season, warm-ups are critical to consistency; you want the vehicle to be just as heat-cycled for the first time shot as for 1st Round. Yet in the Fall when the air is cool or even downright cold, I’ve seen racers warm their cars only once, after which the car sits until 1st Round, then sits again before 2nd Round. Because of the ambient air temperature it cools down too much and becomes inconsistent. During the cooler months I’ll warm the Dodge before time shots, again before 1st Round, and maybe even again before 2nd Round depending on how long it’s been sitting.

On the flip-side, this quick cool-down is a benefit to racing in the Fall months: it’s a great time to enter two classes if your track allows it because it’s so much easier to get the vehicle cooled down between rounds. I regularly race the Dodge in Super Pro and Pro on the same day. In the Summer this can be tough: I’m constantly running the fan and water pump for long periods after making a pass, and as a result my charging system takes a beating. This is not so much of an issue in the Fall.

The sun becomes problematic during the Autumn months. It sets earlier in the day and it spends more time at the horizon as it does. In the Summer, the sun’s path goes directly overhead in the sky and takes a straight shot down to the horizon as it sets; it spends less time hanging there in your line of sight. In the Autumn the sun’s path throughout the day is lower in the sky and it takes almost a sideways approach to the horizon; as a result it spends more time close to the horizon as it sets. If you race at a track that faces west, you’ll be looking straight into the sun late in the day as you’re trying to see the Tree. In this case sunglasses and a spotless windshield will help. If your track faces east, the sun will be behind you and will be flooding the tree with light, making it tough to see when the amber bulbs light up. In either of these conditions it’s likely that your reaction time will change. You’ll have to either take some out of the box, or raise the launch RPM and / or take some extra bumps into the starting line. On a related note: I used to race regularly at a track that has a unique sun phenomenon. As the sun approaches the horizon during the late Summer months, the tree is in shade except for the top amber of the right lane. When footbraking the Dodge in Super Pro at this track I would always take the left lane. I was betting on my top-bulb opponent not making the necessary adjustment to account for his or her top bulb being flooded with light. It worked more often than not. The moral: know your track.

If you’ve changed the tune of your carburetor for the summer months, now’s the time to think about changing it back. I’ve become more judicious about tuning my carb for reaction time. Reaction time is a moving target, and in March, when it’s downright cold, I’ll run some pretty big squirters and will play with the jetting all to get the car to leave on time. Once I find a set-up that works, I log the data into my log book, then I leave the car alone and go about racing. A few months later when it’s becoming hot and humid I’ll take jetting and squirter back out of it if I see the reaction time going away. In the fall I’m on the lookout for the reaction time going away again, at which time I refer to my log book and put it back the way it was in the spring.

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