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Track types Wedge Track bar Nose weight Brakes Camber Shock absorbers Springs
Setup
descriptions

Less (loose)

More (tight)

Wedge is the percentage of weight carried on the right front and left rear wheels. More wedge means more weight on those two wheels, making the car tighter (harder to turn).

Typical pit-stop tweak: 20-40 lbs. (1-2 rounds of a ratchet)

High (loose)

Low (tight)

The track bar is a rod connecting the rear axle to the chassis. Lowering the track bar gives the rear axle more grip and makes the car tighter. Only the right side is adjusted during a race, with a ratchet through a hole in the back window.

Typical pit-stop tweak: 1/2 inch (two rounds) or less

Back (loose)

Front (tight)

Part of a car's minimum weight (3,450 pounds) consists of 35-pound tungsten blocks lined up in the hollow frame rails, along with a few nearly weightless aluminum spacers. Adding weight to the nose, which makes a car tighter, is as simple as moving the blocks to the front and spacers to the back.

Light

Heavy

Brakes come in different sizes and weights, and teams choose based on how much braking a particular track requires. Brake bias, adjusted by a knob in the cockpit, controls how much braking force goes to the front brakes vs. the back.

Less lean

More lean

Camber is the angle of the wheels. The right tires lean in and the left ones lean out for more grip in the turns. The angle provides grip, but it also causes friction on tire edges, so teams use as much camber as they can without wearing out the tires. NASCAR rules restrict camber as well.

Soft

Stiff

Shocks must strike a balance between responsiveness and bounce. Softer shocks cushion bumps (think of the smooth ride in an old Coupe deVille); stiffer shocks make the car more responsive (think of the squishy handling in that Caddy).

Soft

Stiff

Springs are measured by the weight required to compress them one inch, and the range is 100 to 3,000 pounds. Right-side springs are typically stiffer than those on the left. NASCAR hands out the back springs on superspeedways.

SUPERSPEEDWAY
Loosest
Highest
Back
Light brakes / balanced
Straight
Varies
Varies
SMOOTH INTERMEDIATE
Loose
Middle
Middle
Light brakes / front
Straight
Stiff
Stiff
ROUGH INTERMEDIATE
Tight
Low
Front
Light brakes / front
Straight
Balanced
Front stiff /
left rear soft
SHORT TRACK
Loose
High
Back
Heaviest brakes / slightly front
Highest angle
Stiff front / neutral rear
Very soft
HIGH-BANKED SHORT TRACK
Medium loose
Middle
Middle
Moderate brakes / slightly front
Medium angle
Balanced
Stiff
ROAD COURSE
Even
Varies
Back
Heavy brakes / slightly front
High angle/all tires lean in
Soft
Very soft
LONG STRAIGHTS FLAT CORNERS
Loose
High
Back
Heavy brakes / slightly front
Medium angle
Varies
Soft
Sources: Penske Racing, NASCAR | Graphic: Wilson Andrews, Bonnie Berkowitz - The Washington Post
About Travis Geisler

Travis Geisler, crew chief for Sam Hornish Jr., grew up working for his father, a Dirt Late Models legend. Geisler, who has a mechanical engineering degree from Vanderbilt, began driving go-karts and advanced to the Nationwide Series before becoming a race engineer in 2006 and a crew chief for the Penske Racing Mobil 1 Dodge midway through the 2008 season.

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