Help Cars Finish!

Discussions on race planning, preparations and how to run a "fair" and fun race.
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gpraceman
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Help Cars Finish!

Post by gpraceman » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:15 am

In my experience, the majority of the time it is two things that prevents a car from finishing:

1) Being underweight
2) Not being lubed

These can be easily caught with a good check-in process.

If a car is less than 4.5 ounces, we make the racers add weight. We are insistent, as some will say they don’t care (but they really will). Have spare weights (nuts, bolts, washers, or whatever) available in the pit area, as well as a hot glue gun to secure them in place.

If the car shows no visible signs of lube, then send them to the pit area to add lube. If you allow liquid lubes, it is harder to tell if the car has been lubed (if done correctly) so you would have to ask if the car was lubed with a liquid lube. If the answer is no, then send them back to the pits for a lube. Have some lube available in the pit area.

Additionally, before a race, we try to run each car down the track (not timed and no head-to-head racing) to identify the cars that will struggle crossing the finish line. This can be part of your check-in process. If a car doesn’t finish, it goes back to the pits for a tune up (re-lube and check of the wheels and axles), with the assistance of a race crew member. Do the wheels spin freely on the axles? Are the axles canted downward, making the wheels rub up against the car body? Having spare wheels and axles handy maybe necessary for some cars.

Lastly, if a car still has trouble finishing during the race, it goes back to the pits for a tune up before its next heat.

Some cars will not finish no matter what, but generally not many fall into that category.

Paying more attention to the cars will make for a more competitive race. It is rare that we don’t get all cars to finish during a race. More importantly, it helps the racers and parents to have a more enjoyable race. Nothing disappoints a racer more than seeing their car not finish heat after heat. :cry:


Randy Lisano
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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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FatSebastian
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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by FatSebastian » Wed Mar 06, 2013 1:52 pm

Good topic!
gpraceman wrote:In my experience, the majority of the time it is two things that prevents a car from finishing:
I'll add from our experience one which still appears surprising often:

3) Body narrowed less than 1 3/4".

This causes the wheels to grip the rail from both sides. Short of pulling the axles out a bit, I'm not sure what can be done about that.

As mentioned, wheels may not spin freely for other reasons, such glue in the wheel hub or axles pushed in too far.



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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by Speedster » Wed Mar 06, 2013 2:45 pm

Good Advice, Gentlemen. We do all those things and it works well. A new challenge we had this year was the Revell Pre-cut cars. They are illegal in our District. I was the inspector for a neighboring pack and we had 4 Revell cars show up. The Pack leader wanted them to race so we let them race. I'm not sure what will happen if one of them ever wins the chance to go to District and then the District disqualifies them.



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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by gpraceman » Wed Mar 06, 2013 5:12 pm

FatSebastian wrote:3) Body narrowed less than 1 3/4".

This causes the wheels to grip the rail from both sides. Short of pulling the axles out a bit, I'm not sure what can be done about that.

As mentioned, wheels may not spin freely for other reasons, such glue in the wheel hub or axles pushed in too far.
To me, that falls under the "Some cars will not finish no matter what" category. In my experience too narrow of a car is a fairly rare occurrence.

With some of the overly narrowed cars, we have been able to just pull the wheels out a bit. Of course, there is only so far that you can go with that.


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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:09 pm

I like your topic!



At our district races, run with "15 Burlington" the past 2 years, after 15 to 20 minutes, it becomes clear that some cars are "not up to the challenge". They lose their way to the Silver Track with a few consequetive losses. There just aren't going to be any 1st place finishes for them today.

The boys seem to be willing, maybe eager, to keep right on racing, as if hoping that some magic will happen.



Enter "The Black Flag Program"

proposal:

Suppose I lie in wait down by the Silver track, watching for that most underperforming racecar. When its Driver seems reconciled to his fate, I whip out the "black flag" on his Racecar and offer that driver a tuneup .... something that would take no more than 5 minutes (so he might miss one start!) What is it reasonable to accomplish in 5 minutes that will help that youngster with a heat win or two?



1. Swap in 3 prepped axles and align to do a "Dog Trot Rail Ride". 5 minutes will take some practice! But it is doable, I think. Hard part might be guessing a good drift to go along with his 2:1 weight distribution. :)


2. ?



I think that a "black flagged" car should not be allowed to become a finalist (possible, not probable). So, part of the "Black Flag agreement" is that if things go really well for him as a result, he must decline to be finalist because of the assistance.

Since what we do to the car gets "filmed", he and Dad can study it in detail later. So it is a real learning opportunity and well worth sitting out one heat!


So, any traps to snare the unaware? E.g. need to be able to quickly scan the would be rocket and determine of an axle swap out is feasible... the might be welded in!

Any other traps?


Stan
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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by FatSebastian » Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:29 pm

gpraceman wrote:In my experience too narrow of a car is a fairly rare occurrence.
In our experience, cars not finishing are a rare occurrence, because most everyone is usually well coached on adding weight and lubricant. The rare times that it has happened in the past, often it was because the car was built too narrow by over-imaginative first-timers. It's a rookie mistake that they do not repeat the next year!
Stan Pope wrote:So, any traps to snare the unaware?
Interesting proposal!

Even if the flagged car was not allowed to be a finalist, could it potentially push someone down and out of being finalist (or, appear that it has)?

Most rules only allow a car to be altered if it becomes damaged. Taking an uncompetitive car to the pits, intentionally improving it with expert supervision, and then re-introducing it into competition might be seen as, well, er, a bit like cheating? If nothing else, rules would need to be modified to allow for "Black Flag" modifications, and almost certainly the car would need to specially marked so that others are aware that the car is no threat to their standing. (A scarlet letter!? :o )
Stan Pope wrote:The boys seem to be willing, maybe eager, to keep right on racing...
:thinking: If they seem content and are having fun with their car as is, should an adult call them out for being slow?



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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by whodathunkit » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:51 pm

Kinda along the lines of the narrowed block also.. Wheel hub to body gap settings way to tight.


What type of automobile can be spelled the same forwards & backwards?

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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by Stan Pope » Wed Mar 06, 2013 11:53 pm

FatSebastian wrote:
Stan Pope wrote:So, any traps to snare the unaware?
Interesting proposal!

Even if the flagged car was not allowed to be a finalist, could it potentially push someone down and out of being finalist (or, appear that it has)?

Most rules only allow a car to be altered if it becomes damaged. Taking an uncompetitive car to the pits, intentionally improving it with expert supervision, and then re-introducing it into competition might be seen as, well, er, a bit like cheating? If nothing else, rules would need to be modified to allow for "Black Flag" modifications, and almost certainly the car would need to specially marked so that others are aware that the car is no threat to their standing. (A scarlet letter!? :o )
Stan Pope wrote:The boys seem to be willing, maybe eager, to keep right on racing...
:thinking: If they seem content and are having fun with their car as is, should an adult call them out for being slow?
insightful observations! Just as I hoped.

My goal as always is to make it (1) more fun and (2) a learning opportunity.

The "Black Flag" is not imposed nor is it intended to be obvious to everyone. Rather it is an opportunity offered by which to change the course of their day and, perhaps, of their learning.

My experience is that if you put 4 cub scouts with 4 derby cars and a track in a locked room, the track would be hot and they wouldn't notice that the doors were locked! Would they get bored? Yes, after an hour or so, I suspect. Would they enjoy it more if we changed a parameter along the way that changed the results to a new pattern? I think so.

As to the scoring, 15th Burlington Finalists get collected and counted as qualified racecars win their way off the Gold Track. We don't differentiate in posting results where you were when Finalist Selection racing ended. Nor, if you were a finalists where you placed among the alsorans. (As it turns out, yes we make that data available, as an analytical tool, not as a recognition.)

Suppose I put a few dozen F.S. Clones with hot cars in the mix. Their goals were to see how such intense competition affected their lubrication state, to generally wreak mischief, and to stop racing when they won their way off the Gold Track. Could they affect which racers became finalists? Yes, I think so. Could they prevent the fastest five from becoming finalists? Only if that were their goal ... If winning races were their goal, they would win their way off the gold track and no longer affect operations. What might happen is "flutter" in the last few finalist places. There is, for instance, no expectation that racers become finalists "in speed order". We set the number of finalists so that the probability is near certainty that the 5 fastest cars emerge into the finals. The rest ... probabilities drift down as they affect the remainder.

Thanks for helping me dig into this "possible idea" it is such a departure from "normal" that great thought and analysis are due before loosing it upon those innocent Cub Scouts!


Stan
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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by Shawn Stebleton » Thu Mar 07, 2013 8:58 am

If there were a rule in place to cover the situation, then that would smooth things over with all participants and Akelas.

Perhaps the rule could be worded something like this:
--------
If a car finishes in 2nd or 3rd place in three consecutive races on the silver track after [30 minutes of racing OR the selection phase begins], it may move to the silver pit area to be repaired, under the supervision and coaching of the silver pit area inspector.

Cars repaired under such circumstances will receive a black [or other specified color] dot sticker that will be placed on the underside. Any car marked as such will not be allowed to proceed onto the gold track.
--------
The silver pit area is separate (at least conceptually, if not physically) from a regular pit area. Boys visiting the regular pit area for typical repairs will not receive coaching and/or pre-prepped parts from staff. They would be expected to bring their own parts and tools. The silver pit may just be a marked-off part of the pit area, and the silver pit area inspector may have a name tag indicating such.

I would think that there would be a relatively small chance of a car (or two, or three) repaired in such a way would improve so much that it would then be able to get to the gold track, especially in the limited amount of time . In case that would happen, though, have a modified procedure for the track next to the gold track. I'll call it track 2. Track 2 start officials will ensure that no more than one marked car gets into any heat. If a second marked car's driver is next in line, he is passed over by the next non-marked car in line. The finish order on track 2 would be reordered such that all non-marked cars are placed prior to marked cars. This would move the driver of the marked car down to track 3 for his next heat, allowing others to pass. Just getting up to track 2 would take time, having to win on all the intervening tracks and waiting in their lines.

The three consecutive races bit would definitely indicate a slow car. I would think the car's owner would want to repair (improve) his car quickly to get back racing, so setting a time limit shouldn't be necessary. Explain what the car should do on the track after repairs are made. Encourage the boy to observe how his car runs after the repairs and note the results. Hopefully, the improvement in track position will encourage him to watch his video-taped instructions and he will gain some understanding. Maybe a tip sheet, made available freely during workshops leading up to the pack races (but most likely missed or ignored) can be included. Refer to the tip sheet during the repair session as to what repairs are being done and why. Then he can have it with him when he watches.


Shawn

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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by gpraceman » Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:51 am

I really think that the better time to help a car finish is before racing has started. Look at improving the check-in process to catch those cars. That is the main point that I was trying to make with this thread.


Randy Lisano
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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by Stan Pope » Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:55 pm

Shawn, yes! Once a program is conceived and developed, then, if the program is worthy it must be embedded into the process, including the rules and, maybe, even the culture!

As a rule, I'd avoid correcting too many problems before they are shown to be problems. As the car stands at inspection, it reflects what the builders were able to accomplish. Their efforts should be respected enough to allow the car to prove itself on the track. When the builder sees the results, then he is in a stronger position to decide.

An "inspection time intervention" which makes sense to me is a "timer off" solo run on the track and a discussion between mentor and team regarding observations. A discussion of symptoms (and cures) would be especially valuable.

Randy, thank you for sharing your topic with me in my slightly :offtopic: manner. I'm still in the throws of the croup here, and it affects a bunch, including my mental agility.


Stan
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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by Shawn Stebleton » Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:20 pm

Our pack doesn't allow test runs on race day. We have a process where car race numbers are drawn just prior to the race and after each draw the car is given a solo "Parade lap" run. I think our Cubmaster uses that run to determine if the car needs to be worked on some more by the race team. I can't recall if any cars have stopped short, but there might have been one in my earlier years when I wasn't nearly as clued in as to the process, and if so, I don't recall what was done.

This past PWD race we had one car almost not finish, but because it did and the boy stated he was going for design anyway (it was a snow plow) there was no offer to lube it.

For districts, there aren't any test runs allowed, either. Since one is qualified by placing high enough in the pack race to go, they expect the car will finish. Sometimes one or two don't.


Shawn

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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by FatSebastian » Thu Mar 07, 2013 3:24 pm

Shawn Stebleton wrote:the boy stated he was going for design anyway (it was a snow plow) there was no offer to lube it.
Yes, interesting point. Some racers might not want graphite upsetting the cosmetic appearance of their craftsmanship.



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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by gpraceman » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:17 pm

Another way to help slow cars to finish is to consider taking out a section of track, to shorten it. So, for those running tracks longer than 40 feet, that is something that you might consider. You do need to make sure that the faster cars will be stopping gently enough, since they have less of a straightaway section to decelerate.


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Re: Help Cars Finish!

Post by Darin McGrew » Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:06 am

We've always provided help with lubricant and weight adjustments during our final check-in. This is easier when the check-in is not on the same day as the race itself. But we learned to stop asking whether the axles have been lubricated. Too many kids and adults would answer yes, confusing polishing with lubricating, or just wanting to get the check-in over with. So we ask how they lubricated the axles instead. And we position the lubrication table at the entrance to the check-in room.

But what made a huge difference in our DNF rate was providing drill presses at our workshops. We still get DNFs occasionally. This year, we had two: an adult's car decorated with moss (which rubbed the wheels), and a kid's car that didn't have any obvious flaws (axles looked straight, spin test was okay, nothing sticky on the car body, etc.).



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