Brian Folk Guest Editorial
My name is Brian Folk. Some of you may know me from the race track, as my family and I have been involved both in bracket racing and NHRA/IHRA or "TV racing" as some call it my entire life. I have also had the opportunity to be an instructor with Luke Bogacki in a pair of ThisIsBracketRacing.com “Live“ driving schools at Mo-Kan Dragway and at our Folk Race Cars School at Byron Dragway last season. I would like to take this experience a step further and help you better understand my day to day experiences at the race track. Hopefully you can use some of the information and examples I present and apply them to your personal racing exploits.
Our race team currently owns and races six cars. I believe we have one of the largest fleets in sportsman racing. No matter if you bring one car to the track or many everyone can understand the time and commitment that goes into a winning team.
Maintaining, racing, loading and just plain trying to keep up on all phases of this operation, are all items I would like to help you experience from my side of the track. Maintaining all the hotrods could easily be a full time job for a two or three person pit crew, both on and off the track. In our camp, there are three major parties who do the majority of the work concerning our team. My father, Ron Folk "AKA GENERAL", who is a 61 year old workaholic has led our team to where it is today. As for myself, I am always making lists or writing down things to be done on the dry/erase board, keeping track of the trailer inventory, including but not limited to race parts, cleaning supplies, etc.. My friends tell me I'm always spit shining the vehicles and organizing, but it never seems like enough. Remember, just because you write things down on a list or make notes doesn't mean it is going to get accomplished the first time. That brings me to my brother, Nick. He's much more mechanically inclined than I am, so he tends to turn wrenches and adjust fuel programs more than myself. One of our favorite sayings is there is no "I" in team. Seems like that has been our motto for many, many years as we each bring a critical piece to the racing operation.
This team aspect continues into our daily business, Folk Race Cars. I handle the sales, along with most of the welding, while my Mom helps with the paperwork and shipping. Nick is one of the better tin men that I know also a fuel injection specialist and vinyl lettering/decal applicator. As always Dad oversees the operation while including his many years of expertise.
Whether you have a team of one or several- you need to realize there is a need for expertise in many areas to make a team come together. Folk Race Cars is fortunate to be able to bring three minds together to make our team work, but one person can make for a winning team if you just follow some of our team rules. The first thing we all have to realize is that we don’t know it all. In our camp, we’ve got three individuals who’ve been around racing our entire lives. Combined, we’ve got nearly a century of experience within the sport; and yet we learn something new everyday. This is especially true for those of you who are a “one man” (or one woman) show at the race track and in the shop. I’ve met very few people in my life who are capable of running all facets of a competitive race team (on any level) by themselves. It takes a very special, very talented individual do accomplish all the tasks that go into running a successful operation. With that being said, it’s key that we each have people we can turn to for help and more importantly for advice.
The fact that you’re here on ThisIsBracketRacing.com trying to soak up the knowledge from it’s various instructors means that each of you are open minded in terms of your on-track development. That’s great, but make sure you apply it to other areas of your racing operation. Maybe you build your own motors, and you understand fuel curves and the importance of finding the correct converter combination, but you don’t know a thing about suspension set ups. Well, admit that to yourself and find someone to help you! The trick in this is finding someone reputable, that knows what they’re doing, who you can trust to lead you in the right direction.
In our camp, loading & unloading all the cars, support vehicles, and broken parts in two rigs can be a chore all by itself. We have a few rules, like returning things where you found them, including hang up straps in the proper places, returning tools; little things that make life simpler for the long haul. The one team rule nobody wants to have the honor of performing is, if you lose early, you get to start the process of loading up everything that was unloaded for the race weekend. That is one team trick to help make you stay focused, so you are not the losing driver, "grabbing for the straps" first.
A plus to a multi-car team is you are able to build off each other. We learn from each others runs and use this information to go into the next round. Anyone can follow this same example by using your friends at the track and building off each others’ round information. Many times your friend may have just run the same racer you are racing next round. This is where I really agree with Troy Williams: KNOW your surroundings if time permits. See what your opponent just ran, know what the opponent was dialed, check out mph and even incremental times if your car is a close spot with you. Build on the information that is known. There are so many unknowns in racing, it’s a huge advantage to eliminate as many variables as you can.
The unknowns hold true when I explore the difficulties of running two cars. Not everyone has the luxury of having two cars, but sometimes it seems more like an obstacle than a luxury. If one is not running properly or you pick the one that is affected by the wind or humidity, it can have an adverse affect on how you drive the second car. An obstacle that has been hard for me to overcome during my career is losing in one car and having to stage up the next car, being angry and lacking confidence in yourself. It doesn't matter whether it's first or seventh round it's happened to me, as well as many good friends. You give up the win light up by .004 thousandths in your first entry, then go up in the next car and give it up by .003 thousandths. Another example, redlight by -.005 then put in +.005 in the next car and go .025 on the tree and lose by -.005. Also, just because one car slows down three hundredths, nowhere in the racing handbook does it say that your next car will lose the same amount. Sometimes it's simply best to remember, he who makes the least mistakes wins!!
My opinion concerning the positive/negative theory of running two cars is that the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. I am very obsessed about the many different crazy ways that I have lost, whether it's my fault or one of the many parts on my car decides to take the weekend off. You always go over and over them in your head, mostly being negative and angry at yourself, just like in life. Being too hard on yourself is detrimental to confidence. Take the good with the bad. If you can only run one car then pay attention to your surroundings more with your extra time. We all enjoy the social aspect of going to the race track, no doubt. And while I try to take time to visit with my friends and customers at each event, I’m a big believer that we need to make the most of our time at the race track. Hopefully, all of our maintenance is done and our cars are cooperating, so there’s not a lot of wasted time at the track working on equipment. I try to spend the majority of my time at the track either learning from fellow competitors or watching the action (to get that information that may become vital later in the event), when I’m not in the racing vehicle myself.
The last subject I'm touching on is maintenance. Unfortunately, the most boring and time consuming part of our racing. Maintenance is definitely something a race team can never do enough of. Our team definitely could use some more, but with work and families, as we spoke of earlier this can be rough task, sometimes seemingly impossible. I'm going to compare good maintenance with a high degree of confidence. Some people may disagree with my theory, but here's an example. In my opinion, if you're running a five year old truck motor in your car with junk tires and haven't checked the valves in five races, why pay the entry fees? Against a group of skilled competitors, in fresh equipment, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage before you ever get into the water box.
Proper maintenance definitely builds confidence in your equipment, which builds overall confidence as a racer. I, as well as many racers, feel they simply don’t have time to properly maintain one car let alone the 6 race cars we have. So you (we) always try and purchase the best equipment available the first time around to keep that maintenance to a minimum. I have plugged my sponsors down below which I believe is the cream of the crop of manufactures. Hopefully, this means less maintenance that the vehicles should need week in and week out. I don’t believe any racer will disagree with this. I know that it is tough during these economic times to pay for the higher quality, but in the end you will come out ahead.
I realize that not everyone can roll a $50,000 4-link dragster out of the trailer and go racing, that’s not what I’m saying. We all have to race within our means. But, I’m a big believer that we can each make the most of what we do have by paying attention to the car, keeping up with regular maintenance, and determining when and where to spend money when necessary to make the car more competitive.
Once again, I'm not saying you can't win without the latest and greatest car, because we all know that is not true. My point being if you have nice, modern equipment to begin with, maintenance and upkeep should be minimal. And to me, that’s one less thing to clutter my mind; which makes my job behind the wheel easier.
By taking the time and doing the work, I believe your confidence will give you the edge over the competition in the other lane that lacks the proper equipment, doesn't have the know how, or is simply on the lazy side. The confidence in yourself and your equipment could propel you into the next round which in turn is closer to the "WINNERS CIRCLE PICTURE" which is where we all strive to end up.
Thank you for taking time to read my tutorial and please check out my sponsors, none of my racing would be possible without their support and friendship. Those sponsors include: Aeromotive, American Race Cars, ARP Fasteners, Autolite, Autometer, ATD-Automatic Transmission Designs, B&M Performance, Crane Cams, Dart Performance Products, Digital Delay.com, Folk Race Cars.com, Glasstek, Hillcraft.com, Hoosier Tires, ISC Racers Tape, JE Pistons, JEGS, J&J Engine Diapers, JW Performance, K&N Performance, Lunati, Manley Performance, Moser Engineering, Moroso Performance, Mr. Gasket, Nitroplate, Quickfuel, Shogun Industries, Shafiroff Race Engines, Spin Werkes Racing Wheels, T&D Performance Products, ThisIsBracketRacing.com, VP Racing Fuels, and Wegner Performance Engines. Last but not least, my wife Jill & my sons, Aaron & Evan, and the rest of my family.
Best of luck to you all in the 2010 racing season! See you at the next track.