Building a 100 Foot Track

Discussions on buying, building or rehabbing a race track. Topics like plans, materials, tools, construction, finishing, commercially available tracks, and so on.
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Nitro Dan
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Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by Nitro Dan » Wed Jun 17, 2015 9:41 am

Our District Race Committee decided that they wanted a new attraction for the 2016 season. For the last three years we have run a Youth Outlaw race, an Einstein Race (turtle race) and a Pinewood Demolition Derby, all in conjunction with the official District race (ran on a six lane, 42 foot Best Track). This coming season they decided they want to create a 104 foot long 3 lane track and use it for the official District race. Since I’m their “District Derby Day” event coordinator, the task falls to me to make it all happen. I’ve seen and have access to many different PWD tracks, but I’ve only built one track in the past and that was a 32’ PWD Demolition Track (3 years ago) that had no center guide rails. So if anyone has any advice, tips or tricks for building a multi-lane center guide rail track, please post your replies.

The first hurdle I saw was that no Pack in our District had a facility that could house a track this long. Even most hall rentals in our area couldn’t completely house the track (some were close, but I didn’t like the fact that we might have to run nearly 10 feet out the front door). I realize that the slope of the track will shorten the overall space requirements, but not exactly sure how much that would be. So to play it safe, we decided to hold the event outside. That lead me to the second hurdle, I needed to make sure that the track is going to be somewhat weather resistant. I would hate to have a quick rain shower blow through and ruin a year’s worth of work. After doing some research, I decided to make this track out of PVC planking. At first I was planning on making each lane separately, then lashing the three lanes together, but then I ran across some 12” x 0.5” x 8’ PVC planking at Home Depot. One side is imprinted in the plastic with a simulated wood grain pattern, but the back side is a precision smooth racing surface! To do this in a high grade American birch plywood (finished on one side) would cost about $120 a sheet which would yield me four planks, or about $30 a plank. The cost of the PVC plank is $23 a plank, a savings of $7 per plank. Since I need 13 eight foot planks, that’s a $91 savings over the plywood price and I don’t have to cut it or seal it. I also found some PVC lattice strips of 1.5” x 0.25” x 8’ to use as the guide rails. They were at Home Depot as well, but not available in store (only through online order). My thought on connecting the sections together is to use 1/8” thick aluminum plating (12” x 12”) and bolt them to the sections using carriage bolts. These plates seem to be readily available through Ebay and other internet sellers.

So with the main materials located I’m currently working on gathering the materials. One of my foreseeable hurdles is how to adjust the slope of the track so that the cars are easily staged and can make it to the end of the track. My first thought was that since this track is roughly 3 times the size of a standard 32’ track that all I have to do is multiply everything by 3. Unfortunately that puts a starting height of 12 feet for the staging area and nearly 35 feet of slope. Unless we build a platform or start from the roof of a building, this probably will not be feasible. My thought is to lower the starting area to eight feet and extend the slope to 70 feet (twice what it was in the first scenario). This seems more practical and hopefully will allow the cars enough speed to travel the last 34 feet on the flat. I could also have the track as a constant slope from beginning to end, but I think that might take away a lot of the excitement to the race. If anyone has any ideas on this, please let me know.

I’m also looking for inexpensive materials to make the risers from to support the track, so if anyone has any ideas there let me know as well. As the project moves forward I’ll post pictures showing our progression in stages. I’m expecting this track to cost somewhere between $600 to $800 to make. We gave the track a codename and are referring to it as “Juggernaut”. The name seems appropriate and I think we will wind up using it in the long run.

-Nitro Dan
Last edited by Nitro Dan on Sun Jun 28, 2015 2:27 pm, edited 2 times in total.


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Vitamin K
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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by Vitamin K » Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:22 pm

This sounds equal parts insane and awesome.

I hope you'll get pictures of the construction and races!



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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by BallBoy » Wed Jun 17, 2015 1:56 pm

I would use the PVC planking for the same reasons you identified. There was a 300+ foot track built near where I live a few years ago. It was built on a hill and used the terrain for the slope of the track. About 100' of the track was slope and the remainder was flat. The major problem with this track was too much speed attained on the slope. The minor imperfections in a track cause a 5oz car going 8.5 mph to bounce around a little bit. Those minor imperfections cause the same 5oz car to do cartwheels when going considerably faster than that. On the track that was built locally many cars didn't make it to the flat section, most cars didn't finish, and too many were damaged during the attempt.

You could do what was done locally and use natural terrain to provide the slope for the track, however use a gentle slope instead of a hill. Using natural terrain would allow you to keep the start of the track low to the ground. If the location for the race has flat terrain then I suggest building a gradual slope for as much of the track as possible. You want the cars to gather enough speed to make it to the finish, but not too much speed. If you start 4-5 feet off the ground and gradually go to flat after 80 feet then I think it would be a reasonable height for the start gate, the cars would not gather too much speed, and have a high likelihood of making it to the finishline.

As far as materials for the track risers you could use cinderblock (concrete block), which can get tall without too much expense. I would ask a local Lowes, Home Depot, or similar store or brick manufacturer to donate them.



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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by Speedster » Wed Jun 17, 2015 4:17 pm

I suspect you presently have a 6 lane 42' Best track. Let's forget about inches, distant from start pin to timer, etc. You want close to 100 feet of track. You also are willing to pay $800.00 for materials and looking at a LOT of work. Best track flat sections are 7 feet long.

Take your 6 lane track apart so you have two 3 lane tracks. Use 3 of the flat sections. You now have a 3 lane track that is about 70 feet long. A 3 lane Best track costs $745.00 and you have another start section, flat sections, and another stop section. You won't use the curve. You can make the start section any height you want. A Tool and Die shop will have a metal cutting band saw that will cut a start section down if that's what you want. You will also have a release gate for a 3 lane track. I suspect your timer will work on the 3 lane track and you already have it mounted. Minimum work and you will have a very high quality track. If it rains, cover up the timer with a garbage bag.



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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by gpraceman » Thu Jun 18, 2015 1:15 pm

You will need to make sure that your timer will work outdoors. Most will not, due to the sun's brightness blinding the lane sensors. If that will be an issue, you will need to provide good shade for the finish line.


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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by Nitro Dan » Fri Jun 19, 2015 8:07 am

Speedster wrote:Take your 6 lane track apart so you have two 3 lane tracks. Use 3 of the flat sections. You now have a 3 lane track that is about 70 feet long. A 3 lane Best track costs $745.00 and you have another start section, flat sections, and another stop section. You won't use the curve. You can make the start section any height you want. A Tool and Die shop will have a metal cutting band saw that will cut a start section down if that's what you want. You will also have a release gate for a 3 lane track. I suspect your timer will work on the 3 lane track and you already have it mounted. Minimum work and you will have a very high quality track. If it rains, cover up the timer with a garbage bag.
Speedster, excellent idea! I had not thought about canabilizing an existing track and combining it with another one. After looking at this, running surface would come to 98 feet with a 35' track (3 lane) addded or 105 feet with a 42' track added. Unfortunately when I checked with the Pack that owned the track, they were not too keen on the idea of us tearing apart their track. The track is about 10 years old and the Pack just had it cleaned and had the joints smoothed out by a local metal working shop (hoping to get at least other 10 years of good use out of it). I think they're afraid I won't be able to get it back together to the same completeness that they have right now. Didn't want to push the issue as the Pack is a very good contact for volunteer assistance at our "District Derby Day" event and their charter organization has a very nice facility that they let us use for free for this event. I guess that leaves me back at the "building stage" for now, but still was a very execellent idea we had not considered.
BallBoy wrote:You could do what was done locally and use natural terrain to provide the slope for the track, however use a gentle slope instead of a hill. Using natural terrain would allow you to keep the start of the track low to the ground. If the location for the race has flat terrain then I suggest building a gradual slope for as much of the track as possible. You want the cars to gather enough speed to make it to the finish, but not too much speed. If you start 4-5 feet off the ground and gradually go to flat after 80 feet then I think it would be a reasonable height for the start gate, the cars would not gather too much speed, and have a high likelihood of making it to the finishline.
BallBoy, thank you for your insight! The last thing we want is cars doing cartwheels or not making it to the finish line because the slop was too significant. This is a major concern for the committee and we are going to take your advice and lower the starting gate a few feet more than we predicted, which will extend the amount of the slope to somewhere between 80 to 85 feet.
gpraceman wrote:You will need to make sure that your timer will work outdoors. Most will not, due to the sun's brightness blinding the lane sensors. If that will be an issue, you will need to provide good shade for the finish line.
Our plan is use the Judge timer that has the optional Sunlight Max photodiodes. We also plan to canopy tent the finish line area to help aid in the reading of the result LED's on the unit. The canopy will also help keep any rain off the timing unit, as suggested by Speedster.
Vitamin K wrote:This sounds equal parts insane and awesome. I hope you'll get pictures of the construction and races!
That's the whole purpose of starting this thread now! We want to document as much as possible for any future generation that might be as insane as we are! My son is 15 years old and is about to become a Life Scout. We both love doing Pinewood Derby events for the Cub Scouts in our District, including several hands on workshops on top of the District derby events. Unfortunately, I'm now 51 and started kidney dialysis this past year due to complications from being diabetic for the last 27 years. I only see myself doing this for a few more years before I'll have to pass the torch to a younger generation. I have some samples of the PVC planking I'm using and hope to get some pictures this weekend and post them to this thread.

-Nitro Dan


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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by ngyoung » Fri Jun 19, 2015 5:08 pm

You don't really need to cannibalize two tracks. You just borrow the flat track sections. You can keep the start gate and finish line from the primary track, probably need longer cables. Add an extra flat section after the start gate section before the curve then add the rest to the flat. You could just add them all to the flat. That works for 63ft tracks but the slope may not be long enough to give enough energy to make it to the end of 100ft. Slightly inclining the flat may help solve that though.



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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by gpraceman » Fri Jun 19, 2015 7:00 pm

With a Best Track, you will need some leveling means to keep the sections in good alignment with each other. I imagine with a 100ft length, especially outdoors, that might become a challenge. The sections don't necessarily have to be level, but at least in line with the other sections.


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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by Nitro Dan » Sun Jun 28, 2015 2:12 pm

ngyoung wrote:You don't really need to cannibalize two tracks. You just borrow the flat track sections. You can keep the start gate and finish line from the primary track, probably need longer cables. Add an extra flat section after the start gate section before the curve then add the rest to the flat. You could just add them all to the flat. That works for 63ft tracks but the slope may not be long enough to give enough energy to make it to the end of 100ft. Slightly inclining the flat may help solve that though.
We looked at this as well, unfortunately buying the extra flat pieces sort of puts us above budget, but if I disassembled the hill pieces we would be near our budget level. In either case, the Pack that owns the track really doesn't want us disassembling their track (even the flat pieces), so we are going forward with building this thing from scratch.

Here's some pictures of our sample pieces laid out to form a single segment to the track. Nothing is tacked down we are just laying out the pieces to get a feel of what will need to be done. This first shot shows the flexibility of the track. I believe this material would produce a natural curve if using it to produce a standard track.

Image

This next shot shows the first problem we will encounter. You can see from the picture that the lattice pieces are slightly longer than the running surface. This means we will have to trim all the lattice pieces to fit the track segment. Not a difficult task using a miter saw, just time consuming as we will have to do this for nearly 40 lattice strips.

Image

These next two shots show that the lattice pieces are not cut evenly at the ends. Again, this can be fixed when we trim the lattice. Our plan is to layout the lattice strips with 3.5 centers. This should leave a little bit of extra room on the surface board to either side of the racing area. This extra room should be helpful in making sure our connections are lined up and gives us a surface to mount the finish line photo-eye bridge to.

Image

Image

-Nitro Dan


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Re: Building a 100 Foot Track

Post by ngyoung » Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:01 pm

You should purposely have the lattice overhang one end. Then it can overlap the next segment to attach the two segments together.

Check this site for a track that was built with the similar materials that you are using:

http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/pinewoodderbytrack



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