PHOTO: This typical-looking ignition setup is found on most short track race cars. This one happens to belong to two-time Valenti Modified Racing Series champion Jon McKennedy. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson
VMM Correspondent

I am unsure of what to make of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Army Strong 150 this Saturday at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In my honest opinion, it will either be an epic race or a disaster.

I get that Bowman Gray Stadium has its roots deeply planted in NASCAR history. ‘The Madhouse’, as they call it, has a hot crowd every weekend, and the will be a huge test for the development drivers that make up the series. But, Bowman Gray is unlike any other track that the series has ever raced on. It’s small, it’s flat, it’s tight, and it’s slow.

Yes, the Whelen Southern Modifieds do well around there, but they’re not full-bodied stock cars. Bowman Gray is a mini-Martinsville, and flatter. And does anyone remember the results of that Martinsville race? Eleven cautions plagued the event, eight of those coming in the final 100 laps as patience ran thin.

The problem with this car and track combination is that the cars will have to go through the corners so slowly, the only way to be able to pass will be to dump the car in front of you. There is no outside groove at Bowman Gray. And with young drivers, they’ll tend to grow impatient, knowing they’re better than the car in front of them and can’t pass.

I really hope I’m wrong and the race goes off as being great, but I have a feeling that it will be a caution plagued race that sees little green flag racing, and the winner will be the one who builds the biggest bumper.


Speaking of Bowman Gray, is it any wonder why they are successful? The Army Strong 150 is part of a Friday-Saturday event for the track, with Friday night featuring two 20-lap Sportsman races (NASCAR Late Models), a 20-lap Street Stock race (Super Street-type car), and two 15-lap Stadium Stock races (Warrior/Hornet-type car), along with qualifying for the Army Strong 150 for just five dollars.

Yes, five dollars.

Saturday night, the K&N Pro Series East Army Strong 150 will headline the card along with the cars and stars from the premier division at Bowman Gray, the NASCAR Modifieds, for a 100-lap event. Two hundred fifty laps of racing for just 12 bucks, and just two dollars for ladies. You get to see some of the biggest names in Modified racing, as well as the top regional touring division for the same price as some local tracks have for four divisions with a total of 50 cars in the pit area and no special happenings.

I tell ya, if I was going to be around North Carolina this weekend, I’d go. As bad as the Army Strong 150 could be, the race is still going to be a historic event, plus the 100-lap Modified race will more than make up for it.

Oh, and you also get to see a ‘chain race’ at the end of the night. Pretty awesome.


Some of the races I attended this weekend could be called boring, or not good. But what I saw was some good racing.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series event at Twin State was filled with cautions, yes, but if you can overlook the cautions, there were some very good runs. Remember, Twin State is a tricky little track and is hard to pass on. The race between Rowan Pennink and Chris Pasteryak played out well, even if Pasteryak was unhappy with Pennink after the race in regards to his restarts.

I saw Kirk Alexander drive his way to the top five twice from mid-pack — and lose it twice, rebounding for tenth. It wasn’t as great as the Monadnock race in April, but it wasn’t a disaster like people are saying.

The Memorial Day Classic at Thunder Road was just that, a classic. When you hear about only two cautions — four total in both 100-lap main events — you could think the events were boring. They were far from it. The Tiger 100 was exciting, edge-of-your-seat as the top four battled and fought nearly the entire race.

The Late Model portion was good as well, with a good battle for the lead between John Donahue and Dave Pembroke. After that was settled, Nick Sweet and Brent Dragon battled for nearly 50 laps as they swapped fourth spot a handful of times. The run by Joey Polewarczyk was impressive too, coming from the 19th position to finish sixth. Another caution or two, he may have put up a great fight with Donahue.


I feel horrible for J.R. Hildebrand and the Panther Racing team. Hildebrand could taste the milk and feel the texture of the bricks on his lips until he threw it all away at Indianapolis.

It was impressive that Hildebrand had the discipline to save fuel early in the run, allowing him to hold nothing back as the race closed. If the same situation happens in 2012, Hildebrand won’t make the same mistake again.


I watched people debate about Martin Roy’s ignition box from the May 21st race at Airborne Speedway, and it became clear that many people don’t know what an ignition box does, or what Airborne Speedway is trying to do with ignitions boxes and rev limiters.

One of the most popular brands of ignition boxes is MSD Ignition, with “MSD” standing for the exact theory behind an ignition box: Multiple Spark Discharge. An MSD Ignition box controls the ignition of a spark plug, controlling the voltage and allowing for multiple, hotter sparks per stroke.

According to MSD, the result is a more complete burn of the air and fuel mixture, resulting in better performance and smoother acceleration. In a racing application, the boxes also have the ability to stop the ignition sequence by not allowing the motor to burn the fuel that is in the combustion chamber at the same rate. This is known as a “rev limiter”, as it does not allow the motor to go past a certain rpm (revolutions per minute), and is adjustable by what is known as a “chip.”

A few weeks ago, our own Ricky St. Clair wrote an article about the introduction of the rev limit rule at Airborne using an ignition box with a rev limiter. This week, I reached out to long time crew chief Jeff Carter, current crew chief for Airborne Speedway and Mohawk Int’l Raceway competitor Todd Stone, for his opinion on MSD ignitions and about Martin Roy.

“The MSD Ignition box is a good unit, whether it is used with an MSD distributor or a stock factory one,” Carter said. “Racing organizations theorize that limiting the rpm will save the racers money, and I would have to agree. But, in my experience, unless you have a very high compression engine that you are over-fueling, I have not seen any magic with them.”

According to Carter, his G. Stone Motorsports team once tested an ACT-spec engine on an engine dyno and saw no improved performance with an MSD Ignition box. In fact, Carter believes that there is a chance a MSD Ignition box could cause further harm to the engine.

“While we were preparing to go to Syracuse, we took our car to RPM Racing Engines to tune the engine,” Carter explained. “When on the dyno, we watched the car go up through the rpms and reach the limit set on the ignition box. We witnessed the tires go all out of shape and into a violent tire shake, much like you witness on NHRA Funny Cars. I came to the conclusion that it was being caused by harmonics, starting at the crank shaft, and being sent up and down the driveline.”

Harmonics are not a good thing in a crank shaft, and are the reason the engine manufacturer installs a harmonic balancer to absorb them. The harmonic balancer is trying to save the crank shaft from breaking and creating further engine damage. Carter believes that the harmonics are a direct cause of the ignition box.

Carter also believes that the MSD ignition box rule will do little to even up the competition.

“It doesn’t change the amount of horsepower or torque an engine is allowed to create. The racer with less horsepower in his engine is going to have a shorter gear trying to help out of the corner, and he’ll hit the rev limiter halfway down the straightaway. That’s as fast as his car will ever get. The racer with the more horsepower will drive off into the sunset.”

The MSD ignition box can also be tampered with, allowing the motor to achieve a higher rpm than what it has been set for. Carter doesn’t believe this is the problem Martin Roy had, stating that it’s an “electronic device testing an electronic device, and the tester failed.” He also believes Airborne did the best thing by sending the ignition box back to the manufacturer, clearing all the rumors and get a decisive reading.

With anything that is manufactured, not all pieces are alike. “The driver who has the high chip has a definite advantage over the driver who has the lowest chip,” according to Carter.

Carter believes the only way to effectively enforce the rev limit rule is by a speed trap. Knowing the final drive ratio and tire diameter, rpms can be effectively calculated. “It’s black and white then. You either can or can’t turn that speed at 7,600 rpm with that specific gear ratio.”

In my opinion, there isn’t a clear-cut answer as to what Airborne can do to tighten the competition. They are trying something in 2011, and whether it works or doesn’t will definitely be determined by the end of the year.

As always though, the teams that have the most money will always spend that money. They will get engines that can produce the most horsepower within a certain rpm range, no matter what the rules are.

As always, I look forward to drivers and fans emailing me their questions. Contact me at .