Editor’s note: A few months back we brought you a feature on the growing sport of ATV drag racing. All across this country guys are hopping-up old and new ATVs and racing with their buddies for fun and against deep competition at sanctioned events. In this issue we are going over some important details about getting into the sport with help from our straight shooter, Gary “Gee” Armstrong. Gary is an authority on all things ATV drag racing. Not only does Armstrong help organize events in the Pacific Northwest, he competes as well. Gary’s weapon of choice is a Yamaha YFZ450. The engine has been beefed up by Red Line Racing Engines, and the chassis has been stretched. Gary’s other sponsors include Florence Yamaha, Fullerton Sand Sports, K&N, and CP-Carrillo Pistons and Rods.
According to Gee “To be a serious contender in the sport of sand drag racing on a track, your first modifications will be a wheelie bar so you can launch without worrying about flipping over backwards. To accomplish this, you have to replace your shock absorbers with rigid struts measured to level out the chassis and suspension for better speed and control racing down the drag strip.
We race on finely groomed track surfaces, and with those two modifications you will be able to add large paddle tires with more paddles to hook up and launch harder and go faster. Fullerton Sand Sports Tires & Wheels in Stanton, California, one of my sponsors, actually carries a wide range of tires specifically designed for ATV and SxS sand drag racing. Most of us racers use the Super Lites with up to 16 paddles on them! Start with 9 or 10 paddles and go from there. Next, focus on gearing. Start with stock, but it’s likely that until you do engine mods to add power to your racer to get those big paddles turning in a race, you will have to gear your racer lower. Rule of thumb: a tooth down on the countershaft sprocket equals adding three teeth to the rear sprocket and vice versa. There are gearing ratio charts available online that might help. You’ll need a day on the track testing to figure it out. Many of us even use different gearing and tires for different tracks, due to the composition of the surfaces or the weather.
A narrower, laser-drilled drag axle is another good racing investment, JJ and A is a popular brand. It will not only add to your traction by positioning your tires more under your body, but weighs at least 10 pounds less than your stock axle and is designed to handle the stress of racing.”
FINDING YOUR RACE
Local and regional MX and drag tracks and races in your area can be found in magazines like Dirt Wheels or online at www.dirtweelsmag.com. Their jamboree guides regularly feature events that have or are surrounded by ATV sand drag racing. Facebook is also becoming a very popular way to get the word out about upcoming events. Typically you can search the name of your town along with the words “ATV sand drags” and something will pop up. More top websites featuring the sport are www.atvdragracer.com and www.prosanddrags.com.
Many tracks or MX parks even offer a race series you can participate in at one or more racing venues and compete for a championship title. Check the track’s website and read the rules and their safety requirements. All tracks require helmet, goggles or a face shield, long pants, gloves, and most require an engine kill switch tethered to the rider. It’s a good idea to test the water first by attending a track’s test-and-tune or track day where racers in all race classes come to run the track for the day to practice and dial in their race machines without the pressure of an actual race. These can be fun days and an opportunity for you to run with your competition and get a glimpse of what race day is going to be like and, at the same time, make any changes in your machine’s setup before you race. Frequently a track will hold actual races the day after a track day or test-and-tune.
This is a good time to introduce yourself to the track management and staff and ask any questions you have. It’s also a good opportunity to meet and talk to other racers. Don’t be shy. I can tell you that anyone who’s made the effort to get to the track, approach me and ask questions about my passion—racing—gets 100 percent of my attention as a pro racer.
Get a good night’s sleep and get to the track early. You’ll be busy. Pay your gate fee if there is one and find and park in your paddock area. Then, go to race control, register for the class your machine fits in and pay your race entry fees. If you are a minor, a parent will need to register you. You will also have to sign a liability waiver and get lined up for tech inspection. Track insurance requires each machine be checked for structural soundness and required safety features.
Find out when the required riders meeting is scheduled and make sure you attend. You’ll learn vital information about the track, staff, safety flags and how your race will be run. Get your pit area opened up with a canopy and ground cover. Check your quad for fuel, oil, tire pressures, lug nut torques, squeeze brakes for function and anything else you should check or tighten. Get your tech inspection done and signed off. I always arrive at a track early so I can walk the track, inspect the starting and finish lines, dig my hand into the dirt or sand along the track noting depth, moisture and consistency. I also walk the shutdown area, note conditions and locate the exits (we need up to 900 feet to slow down and safely exit the track in sand drag racing). Be courteous and friendly in the pit area and you’ll make friends who will make your racing experience even more fun. Don’t speed through the pit area raising dust or let your dog off the leash. If someone needs some help, help them. When your race is announced, go to staging promptly and follow the starter’s directions. Relax, breathe and focus.
WIN OR LEARN
Sometimes you win; sometimes you learn. Whether you end up on or off the podium, if you’re serious about winning races, you take notes on everything that’s worked for you or not worked that day so you can learn and improve. If there is a race photographer at your race, make sure you buy photos of you racing. Every race experience is a one-off in your life, and photos capture that unique moment and allow you to share the excitement with family, friends and potential race sponsors later. You can also learn from photos or videos of you racing.
Sponsorship is a partnership. A sponsor makes your racing more affordable, and you promote your sponsor to increase the sponsor’s sales. There’s basically two types of sponsorship support: “Flow,” where a racer receives discounts on products or services, and “Pro,” where a racer has earned free products or services and, usually, financial support. Many companies serving off-roading customers offer Flow support to racers and have sponsorship applications on their website. Sites like HookIt.com and Promotive.com host vendors offering discounts on product support. Your local ATV dealership is an excellent potential sponsor who might be willing to help your racing by offering you discounts on everything from fuel and tires to riding gear.
Create a racing resume with photos that you can submit to potential sponsors. Keep your racer, trailer, hauler and personal appearance clean and professional. Keep your sponsors’ decals prominently displayed on all of your equipment, and talk about their products and services wherever and whenever you ride. Send supporters, Dirt Wheels magazine and your local newspaper’s sports editor a brief update of your race activities with photos regularly. Above all, keep your racing fun!