Preseason Training at University of Northwestern Ohio Valuable to ARCA Racing Series Officials
(LIMA, Ohio) - Going to school at 8 a.m. on a cold, dreary Saturday should not seem the most appealing of activities, unless you're an ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards official who wakes up far earlier on multiple weekends throughout the summer and race season anyway.
Over 40 series race officials attended a preseason training session Saturday at the Dr. Jeffrey A. Jarvis High Performance Motorsports Complex at the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH), the official High Performance Education University of ARCA. There, the officials spent their day rotating through four hands-on stations, detailing everything from fuel cells to shock measurements, as well as two classroom sessions explaining in-race and pit road procedures.
Chris Ford, an ARCA Racing Series official from Colmar, Pa., near Philadelphia, helped fellow officials to understand inspections under a car, covering topics like brakes, exhaust, springs, drive shafts, and trailing arms. Even as a veteran of three seasons with the series, Ford found the annual primer helpful.
"It's important, especially coming up to Daytona. A lot of things we're going over today are mainly for the Daytona race, and also Talladega, because the rules are different on springs and things like that. Teams will do certain things to get by, so we need to be aware," said Ford. He was just one of several officials who traveled from out-of-state to attend the session, joining men and women from Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, and even St. Louis, Mo. - in addition to a number from the Toledo area.
Series official Tony Ortega stressed exact numbers, not estimates, to the officials attending his breakout session on templates.
"No guesswork," said Ortega, explaining the importance of using a template to measure spoiler width. "It's three-sixteenths of an inch all the way across."
Touching the top side of the spoiler, he was certain to ensure uniformity in the spoiler's shape.
"It can't be tapered. It's square throughout."
While many attending the training program were ARCA veterans hoping to add a refresher to their seasons of experience, some officials this season are making their first foray into the series after coming from other mechanical backgrounds.
"We're refreshing our procedures for our existing officials, but we have some new people here and this is all new to them. They're getting their first taste at going through the cars in the inspection process," said Joe Wells, vice president of competition for ARCA. "A lot of these officials may have been involved with teams, but this is a side of racing they're not used to. They look at things one way as a competitor, and as officials, we see it a different way."
Though Wells is one of several with a hand in annually composing the Official Rule Book, he maintained that the true garage environment at UNOH is a far more effective training tool than a piece of paper.
"The hands-on element is really helpful. You can write all of this stuff on paper and have diagrams, but when you can put a template in your hand and then on the car, or take a tape measure, and look at, feel, and touch the actual car, it's easier to stick on the brain," Wells said.
Steve Farmer, the vice president of development for UNOH, is at the heart of the university's effort with ARCA, and in turn, the applied education for the series' officials.
"The key thing is having a facility where the officials can come and spread out and have the space for various stations. Having the ARCA officials on site today gives more credibility to the program (UNOH) has with ARCA as the official education partner."
To say UNOH's motorsports complex is merely a fitting space for ARCA's training session is to severely undersell it. At 75,000 square feet, the High Performance Motorsports Complex stands out as a location where ARCA officials can truly learn.
"You're looking at a building with eight different compartments: custom engine-building, engine-building, fabrication, high-performance welding, high-performance chassis, steering and suspension, accessories trends, and a dyno building with four dyno machines," Farmer said, before additionally noting that the dyno building houses the college's motorsports team, which races four modifieds and three stock cars every week at another university property, Limaland Motorsports Park.
"This session is more of a real-life experience, like the officials would have at a race track, with the different stations they're running. Our kids are pretty proud that we have this relationship with ARCA, and that they get to be affiliated with that."
The 2011 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season will mark the sanctioning body's 59th year of competition and commences with the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, February 12. The event will air live on SPEED.