Just as important as the cars and the drivers who drive them, the track is the gauntlet laid down before drivers each race. Unlike our paved track racing brethren, a dirt track surface is dynamic, always changing throughout the night, and rarely the same from day to day, one might consider the track as a competitor itself in a way.
In dirt racing, the track configurations and composition vary across a wide spectrum. From ¼-mile Bullrings to ½-mile high-banked speedways, we’ll take a look at a few common configurations, and then take a look at the racing surface compositions.
Example: Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
A D-shaped race track is a type of oval racetrack that resembles the letter "D" when viewed from an aerial perspective. It is a variation of the traditional oval shape commonly used in motorsports:
As the name suggests, a D-shaped dirt track has a distinctive shape resembling the letter "D." It has a rounded straightaway on one side and a tighter, more curved turn on the other side.
D-shaped dirt tracks vary in size, but they generally feature a longer straightaway on the rounded side, followed by a tighter turn and shorter straightaway on the other side. The overall length of the track can vary greatly.
The track is often banked or sloped to allow drivers to maintain higher speeds while negotiating turns. The degree of banking can vary depending on the track and its specific design.
The tighter turn on the curved side of the D-shape is a crucial element of the track. It requires drivers to navigate the corner at a slower speed compared to the straightaway, making it a critical area for overtaking or defending positions.
Overall, attending a race at a D-shaped dirt track offers fans an immersive experience with thrilling racing action, close proximity to the track, unique viewing perspectives, fan interaction opportunities, and a vibrant atmosphere. It's an excellent way to enjoy the sport of dirt track racing while creating lasting memories.
Example: River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
This dirt racing staple is defined by its lack of straightaways and short length. These tracks tend to keep competitors close together, and when the leaders begin to catch the back of the field, the action really heats up. Known for being hard to pass on, and featuring close quarter “beating and banging” style of racing, Bullrings are a fan favorite across the country.
Bullring tracks are typically smaller in size compared to traditional oval tracks. They have a short overall length, usually less than half a mile, and tight turns, which results in a smaller racing surface.
Bullring tracks are oval in shape, but they have a distinct design that sets them apart from larger tracks. They often have a more circular or near-circular shape, with tighter turns and narrower straightaways.
Due to their smaller size, bullring tracks usually have high banking or steeply angled turns. The banking helps drivers maintain speed through the turns and allows for more aggressive racing maneuvers, such as side-by-side racing and frequent overtaking.
Bullring tracks are known for their intense and action-packed racing. The shorter length, tight turns, and high banking force drivers into close proximity, leading to more frequent contact and exciting racing maneuvers. The close-quarters racing often results in intense battles for position and a higher likelihood of collisions or spins.
Bullring tracks offer a unique spectator experience. Due to their smaller size, the audience is closer to the action, which enhances the overall viewing experience. Fans can witness the race unfold from various vantage points, often with excellent views of the entire track.
Example: Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Paperclip race tracks tend to be longer in length. Often between ⅜ and ½ mile, these tracks are notable for their long straightaways and tight corners. The long straightways allow drivers to carry a lot of momentum into the corners, but the tight circumference of the corner will often bring the cars back together. Position and handling is paramount on these tracks.
The turns on a paper clip oval track are usually tight and have a smaller radius compared to other oval tracks. This design requires drivers to slow down significantly and navigate the corners with precision.
The layout of a paper clip oval track demands efficient acceleration out of the tight turns and strong braking into them. Drivers need to strike a balance between carrying speed through the straightaways and maintaining control while decelerating for the corners.
The unique layout of a paper clip oval track often provides ample opportunities for overtaking. The contrasting turns and varying lengths of the straightaways allow drivers to set up passes and make strategic moves to gain positions.
Due to the sharp turns and varying straightaways, driving on a paper clip oval track requires technical skill and precise car control. Drivers must have a good understanding of racing lines, braking points, and throttle management to navigate the track efficiently.
The asymmetrical nature of the track layout presents strategic challenges for drivers and teams. Decisions such as choosing the preferred line through the corners, managing tire wear, and optimizing setup for both ends of the track become critical for success.
The combination of tight turns, varying straightaways, and overtaking opportunities often leads to close racing on a paper clip oval track. Drivers are frequently in close proximity, battling for position, which can make for exciting and intense racing action.
The fan experience at paperclip track can be quite engaging and thrilling. Spectators can feel the rumble of the engines, hear the sounds of screeching tires, and even catch glimpses of the drivers inside their cars as they navigate the corners. The fan experience at a paper clip oval dirt track often immerses spectators in the sights, sounds, and energy of the race.
Example: Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
High banked ovals tend to have steep sweeping corners and a decent length straightaways. Much like the Paper Clip, drivers can choose to run the top or bottom line, but with the high banking both lines can carry much more speed through the corners. These tracks tend to have a lot of passing and excitement as the lap times are very quick.
High-banked ovals have significantly elevated banking angles in the turns. The degree of banking can vary, but it typically ranges from 30 to 45 degrees or even higher. The steep banking helps drivers maintain higher speeds through the corners by utilizing the downward force generated by the banking.
The steep banking of a high-banked oval allows drivers to carry more speed through the turns. The banking assists in maintaining traction and grip, enabling drivers to take the corners at higher velocities compared to flatter tracks.
The steep banking, combined with the high speeds, generates intense centrifugal forces on the drivers. As they navigate the turns, they experience significant lateral G-forces pushing them towards the outer edge of the track. This requires drivers to have physical stamina and the ability to withstand the forces exerted on their bodies.
The high-banked configuration promotes aggressive and thrilling racing. The increased speeds and the ability to maintain momentum through the turns enable drivers to engage in side-by-side racing, overtaking opportunities, and close-quarters battles for position. This often results in exciting and intense racing action for both competitors and spectators.
The banking of the track affects the ideal racing line that drivers should take. They can choose different lines, from hugging the inside line at the bottom of the track to running higher up on the banking to carry more momentum. Finding the right racing line and mastering the nuances of the banking is crucial for success on high-banked oval dirt tracks.
High-banked ovals offer an exceptional viewing experience for spectators. The steep banking allows for great visibility from various seating locations around the track, providing fans with a clear view of the entire racing surface. It enhances the excitement of the races as spectators can witness the speed and intensity of the cars navigating the high-banked turns.
It's important to note that dirt tracks can be prepared and maintained differently by track officials, which can affect the characteristics of the racing surface. Factors such as moisture levels, track grooming techniques, and track preparation methods can all influence the traction and overall racing experience on a dirt track.
Preparing a dirt track for a race is an art form. With the variety of track surfaces across the country, and the divisions racing on them each night, one of the most important jobs in dirt racing is Track Prep. The track crew works tirelessly in the days leading into, and throughout the night of an event. Here’s a look at the tools and techniques used to make a safe and exciting dirt track surface.
Moisture content is crucial for the track's condition. Watering the track thoroughly before race day ensures it is packed and compacted properly. The amount of water required depends on the track's composition and weather conditions. Too much water can make the surface muddy, while too little can make it dry and dusty.
Heavy machinery like rollers or compactors pack the track surface tightly. This helps to create a solid base and reduce loose dirt, providing better traction for the racers.
Shaping the track to provide optimal racing lines and define the turns. Banking the turns helps racers maintain speed and control through the corners. The degree of banking depends on the track's size and the type of racing.
Use grading equipment to maintain an even and consistent surface. Regularly scrape the track to remove ruts, bumps, or excess loose dirt. This process can be done with a motor grader or specialized equipment like a box blade.
Monitoring the moisture content of the track throughout the race day is important. Crews adjust the watering schedule accordingly to maintain the ideal level of moisture. Too much or too little moisture can affect the track's consistency and racing conditions.
Between races or during breaks, use track packing equipment to keep the racing surface compacted and in optimal condition. This helps to minimize track deterioration and maintain a consistent surface for all competitors.
Dust can reduce visibility for drivers and spectators. Applying a dust control agent, such as calcium chloride or water with a binding agent, can help mitigate dust formation and improve overall race experience.
Throughout the night, dirt and mud will often cover the walls through the corners making it difficult for drivers to see. To help with this the track crew will occasionally scrap lines or chevrons in the dirt so drivers know just how far they can push the limits.
From retaining walls to catch fences, every track on the World of Outlaws tour undergoes a full inspection. Series and track officials work together to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators.