PHOTO: The American-Canadian Tour Late Model rule book was released this week, featuring some major changes that should help bring the Late Model back to its original philosophy and bring weekly racers closer to touring racers. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

–by T.J. Ingerson

One of the beginning philosophies for the American-Canadian Tour style Late Model was to give the weekly racer an opportunity to have a race car that can be raced at multiple tracks that employ the same rules package. The Late Models have now evolved to allow the weekly racer to be able to race competitively against the American-Canadian Tour, and contend for wins. But, as the touring series has evolved, there was a feeling that the Late Model had moved away from its original philosophy.

“We have had a lot of discussions about how Late Model racing has evolved over the past decade,” American-Canadian Tour President Tom Curley said in a technical memo in December. “We have concluded that we need to try and get back to more of the core values and original business model that we started with this division back in the mid-nineties. We still place a high priority on making sure the network of tracks we are affiliated with continue to have success with their weekly Late Model programs, while still providing special Tour events for the many regional teams who enjoy participating in that kind of racing.”

One of the major points in the ACT rule book released on Wednesday was the defining of the chassis specifications. The previous ACT rule book allowed for chassis builders to potentially work in undefined areas of chassis construction. Right or wrong, chassis builders have been working in a highly gray area in the rule book and pushing the rule limits. Some recent chassis have been becoming offset to the left slightly, allowing for an improved performance.

The 2012 rule book defines what the perimeter chassis is, and gives exact measurements of many crucial dimensions that could alter the design of the chassis. The intention of this rule is to get back to the original philosophy and core values of Late Model racing. “It is the hope and intent that we can continue to keep the region’s Late Model division the most cost effective of any premiere division in the country,” as stated in the technical memo.

What will be done to the cars that are already built and have a chassis offset? ACT has “grandfathered” those cars in, pending that they register those cars with the ACT office by January 31. But those cars will also carry a small weight penalty: 24 pounds per one inch. Thus, if a car is over the offset allowed by half an inch, the car will be required to carry an additional 12 pounds of weight.

The cars that will have to change — or add weight — will be the most affected because their cars will, naturally, be slower. But, because we don’t know the cars that were pushing the gray area, fans may not know which cars are going to be affected the most.

The biggest change that should help the overall racing for Late Model comes with the fewest words, however. Late Models will weigh 50 pounds less in 2012, nearly 1.8 percent less, and be allowed to carry 1 percent more weight on the left side of the cars, which is about 28 pounds. Those may sound like miniscule numbers, but to crew chiefs, they are anything but.

Having a lighter car that can carry more weight on the left side should allow the cars to go faster and help the cars turn left. Those benefits should make the racing better, as the chassis will be working more with the driver, and not fighting the driver.

The Ford S347JR engine is now fully implemented for ACT Late Model racing, but for teams that have the Chevrolet “603” motor, there is a rule change as well. Teams will now be allowed to run a new spacer plate between the carburetor and intake manifold. The new spacer plate, nicknamed “the Super Sucker” by the manufacturer, is said “to make 15 to 30 horsepower on a 350 cubic inch circle track engine that is equipped with a Holley 4412 2 barrel carburetor and typical two hole spacer adapter plate“. The rules implemented with the Fords, including last year’s restrictor plate that will be carried over to this year, should help the Chevrolet engines at the larger tracks.

These rule changes seem to be in line to help the smaller weekly teams be able to compete with the top teams of the American-Canadian Tour, and seem to help ACT fall back into their stated mission with the ACT Late Model. It’ll be interesting to see how the new rules play out and what affect it will have on the competition at the opening events of the 2012 racing season. But one thing is for sure: the weekly racer won’t have to spend more trying to compete with the top teams of the American-Canadian Tour.

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