Auto racing. At one point in our lives we have come into contact with this spectacle in form or another. This could have been by seeing it on television, hearing about it from friends or colleagues, seeing highlights of a heinous wreck on the news, or attending, or even participating, in an event. That being said, anyone who said auto racing is cheap may be misspeaking. If you look at the cost of racing in NASCAR, Indy Car, Sprint Car, or any of the other numerous types, the money poured into these events is enormous.
That’s where John Condran came in and founded the ChumpCar World Series. The marketing tag line of this series is Real Racing, Real Tracks, Real Cheap Cars®. Condren founded ChumpCar in 2009 because, in his words, racing had become “stupidly expensive.” A racing veteran for over 40 years, Condren has been a driver (and still is), team manager, team owner, and a NASCAR and USAC track owner. Condren related “In the 1970’s, my racing budget for the entire year was about $5000…In 2006 and 2007…it was costing me nearly $5000 just to prepare for single race!” That is why Condran founded ChumpCar in 2009.
Okay, okay. Racing is all fun and interesting and all. But what does this have to do with science? A lot. A whole lot. For example, in 2011 a group of high school seniors contacted Condren, expressing their interest in building a car and competing in a race in the ChumpCar series. However, there were two problems: 1) they were under 18, and 2) they had no money. Condren came up with a plan. All of the high school participants were required to have their parents sign a Parental-Minor waiver witnessed by an attorney, and one parent had to accompany each minor to the event. He also required them to speak to their principal on the financial aspect, and then give a 20 minute presentation to the school on every aspect of science and math they encountered in the race. The list was long: lap times to the thousands of a second; speed differentials with other competitors; fuel mileage; fuel use average per lap; tire pressure and circumference stagger; barometric changes for carburetion and engine performance; vehicle aerodynamics; mass movements and coefficients of friction; suspension geometry; castor and camber; weight distribution percentages, and the list goes on and on. They kids showed up to compete in a 24 hour endurance race, blew up the engine in four hours, replaced it in 6, and finished the race. Their school presentation was 45 minutes long and reportedly captivated the entire student audience.
I became involved with ChumpCar due to my wife, Lorrie Davis, who co-owns and drives for Rusty Bucket Racing, based out of St. Louis, MO. Condren said “..no one is ever involved with racing… you are either assimilated and sucked into the dark recesses of the inner core, or you’re not.” I have worked pit crew for several races, and have seen firsthand, and heard on the long drives home to Jonesboro, AR, the level of science and engineering that goes into this sport.
Since ChumpCar’s founding in 2009, they now have 66 races per year in three different countries, and over 8,000 registered “Chumps” in their driver membership. When I asked Condren if he thought it was important that the race teams and car engineers take the scientific aspects seriously, he responded “Only if they want to be on the podium. The teams that don’t take science, math, race strategy, and preparation serious are the ones that are just out for a fun-run.”
Find out more about the ChumpCar World Series at www.chumpcar.com
Rusty Bucket Racing, just one of the many teams involved, can be reached at www.rustybucketracing.com