Evolution of Circle Track Technology

35 Years of CT Ads: Documentation of Evolution of Technology

When the first issue of Circle Track came on the scene, short track racing was in a major transition. Racing as an industry that we now know was being formed then and had only been around for several years. Prior to that time, most race cars of the 1960’s and up to the mid-1970’s were home built with parts scavenged from the junk yard. Soon after that, some enterprising individuals began what we commonly know as members of the Performance Racing Industry.

For the chassis, parts like brakes, rear ends, hubs and wheels were usually components found on production trucks. These were stronger than those that came on production automobiles and could withstand the rigors of racing.

This is the cover of the very first issue of CT that came out sometime in 1982. This SIP (special issue publication) did not have a month or year marking anywhere in the issue. The first news-stand issue came out in October, 1982. Some of the first advertisers in those initial issues are still in business and advertising with CT. As we look through the years, the ads and articles tell a story about the advancement of racing technology.

For the engines, there were truck clutches, truck intake manifolds, truck cams and heads that produced more horsepower than stock parts, etc. But, the racing was becoming more sophisticated and so the suppliers became more innovative. You would be surprised to know what was available then, in 1982 in comparison to what is used today. Here is a review that you might find interesting.

Brake Systems – Up until the mid-1970’s, brakes systems in circle track race cars were usually borrowed from trucks where stopping heavy loads was necessary. The friction material was a shoe rubbing against a steel drum. Somewhere along the way, probably as a result of Indy car racing and aircraft design needs, the disc brake system was made available to the general racing public.

In the summer of 1982, a racer had access to four-wheel disc brake systems offered by several companies, some of which are still around. Wilwood brakes was an advertiser in that first issue and still provides the best in brake systems for short track racers, along with PFC Brakes and many other companies that were spinoffs.

The system consisted of a disc of varying thicknesses and aluminum or steel calipers bolted to the spindle or rear axle tubing, just like today. In fact, other than significant improvements in friction materials and disc designs, the two are the same. And what that did for us was eliminate brake fade that was common before the disc brakes became available.

Custom designed calipers, rotors and brake pads can be used to enhance any setup on dirt or asphalt. With the use of brakes becoming more prevalent and the racing conditions being more intense than ever, brake systems have become more and more a tuning tool to take a team to the next level.

Springs and Shocks– Back in the day, we were starting to see dedicated spring manufacturers and shocks built for racing applications. The use of coil-over shocks meant we needed good, quality springs in a variety of rates to use to setup our cars.

From those early companies came quality spring makers like Landrum Springs who advertise with CT today. And racing shocks have come a long way too. Gone are the days of the twin tube shocks. Now, almost every shock used on a wide variety of race cars is a gas pressure variety of varying pressures.

We have dedicated shock companies who can build any shock combination you need. Current advertisers Keyser Manufacturing, QA1 and RE Suspension are some of the many who offer full service shock sales of their own brands plus Penske shocks for a custom build. The modern shock dyno makes possible the designs that enhance the current setup arrangements.

Coil-over force rigs are used by racers to know the distribution of forced in their cars when going through the turns. These are offered by Gale Force Suspension, Intercomp and Longacre while we also have specially designed pull-down rigs by Mittler Brothers and DRP Performance.

Driveline – In 1982, we were starting to see quick change rear ends made of aluminum and even magnesium alloys. Quick change gears were offered by several companies to keep up with the high demand associated with the switch from the common 9 inch Ford types to quick-change. Winters Performance offers low friction quick-change rear ends and Quick Performance is the supplier for a variety of rear ends and parts based on the 9 inch Ford design.

At the other end of the driveshaft, the multi-disk clutch was making a lot of waves. Way back in the mid-1960’s a drag racer running a regional race in NHRA competition decided to build a clutch with multi disks to see how that would work. He wanted to slip the clutch rather than the tires.

He broke, or shattered would be a better description, the world record for AA Fuel dragsters on his first trip to the track with that invention. In doing so, he changed the way racers transmitted power from the engine to the transmission. And in 1982, Ram Clutches was offering three disk clutch systems.

Ram Clutches was among the first companies to capitalize on the multi-clutch systems used by racers. The invention happened in the mid-1960’s, by “accident”. A regional NHRA racer somewhere in the mid-west decided to try building a clutch with several disc to see if slipping the clutch instead of the tires would help improve the speed of his AA fuel dragster. The first time he ran his contraption, he shattered the world record for that class and backed it up on another run to make it official. A new age in racing clutches had begun. Here we compare Ram’s 1982 ad with a new one in 2017.

Engine Components – Wow, where do I start? Just about every part of the engine was undergoing modifications, re-design and improvement over the stock components. From high compression pistons connected to aluminum rods to heads and valve train parts that get their fuel mixture through redesigned carburetors and intake manifolds, the old V8 motor had never been dressed so well.

I can remember back in the 1970’s when Lunati was one of the most respected brands of racing cams. Their participation in CT started with our first issue and continues today. The ads have only gotten better.

The ignition systems that were being introduced in ads gracing the pages of CT were high capacity capacitive discharge types and multiple spark discharge, by MSD. The older points-in-the-distributor ignitions had gone by the wayside and racing engines were burning much more efficiently than ever before.

In 1982, racing ignition systems were in transition and racers were getting away from the “points” mechanisms and opting for the electronic ignitions which movement MSD was a big part of. They have continued to grow and offer still some of the best ignition parts on the market. Their ads have gotten spiffier too.

All of that fuel/air was being mixed in a Holley carburetor, flowing through a Weiland manifold bolted to Brodix heads, around valves lifted by a Lunati cam and ignited by an MSD spark that drove down that Mahle piston. It then flowed out of the engine through a tuned exhaust header system. In short, the “modern” 1982 racing engine components were far superior to any of the production automotive engines of the day.

Safety Items – Safety had come a long way, but not nearly as far as we see today. Still, with the help of Bill Simpson efforts in the mid-1960’s, drivers now wore fire resistant suits, gloves and shoes. The helmets were being made better and soon, more drivers would be wearing full face types.

We saw six-point seat belts being offered in that first issue too. Longacre, who had advertised in 1982, sold a specially designed roll bar padding to adsorb the impacts of arms and legs against the roll bars. There were quick release steering wheel hubs available and surround racing seats were starting to become popular too.

As I looked through the early issues of CT, there were very few dedicated safety companies advertising. RaceQuip, started in 1975, was an early client and here we see a 1988 ad. Their participation in the sport has grown through the efforts of the present owner Patrick Utt, a previous publisher of CT and they continue to see the benefits of advertising in the pages of CT.

One of the deadliest safety items of the day was fire. In the pages of CT in 1982, ATL had already worked to help solve that problem by offering crash resistant fuel cells, anti-spill “dump tanks” as well as Nomex fire suits for the driver and fueler.

ATL was one of the first dedicated fuel cell and safety oriented companies for all racing including short track racers. The advent of the fuel cell saved many racers then and now from injury due to fire. Here we see the ad run in the first 1982 issue of CT against the current 2017 ad.

Speedway Motors offered the seat belts, fire resistant “Heavy Nomex” driver suits and the “high back” fiberglass seat with rib and leg support. And all of the cars featured in CT in 1982 had the latest designed roll cages and door-bar layouts.

Parts Suppliers – In that day, by evidence of the ads we see in the first three issues of CT, few parts suppliers were in the business of short track racing. Most of the existing suppliers were basic automotive and hot rod suppliers who either changed to racing suppliers or were replaced by others who saw opportunity.

Speedway Motors out of Lincoln, Nebraska was an original advertiser in CT in 1982 and grew its business into one of the largest racing and hot rod retailers in the country. Many more would come, and go, and today we see both store front and online retailers vying for a piece of the racers marketplace.

Speedway Motors was maybe the first racer focused parts supplier for the circle track industry. There were a few other automotive parts houses around at the time of our beginning, but none that serviced the short track racers like Speedway did. They have grown tremendously and were the template for many others to come. They were there in ’82 with a simple but effective ad. And they are still with us and going strong in our 35th year.

Longacre was another supplier that was there with us in 1982 and has been there ever since. They are dedicated to the racer and also manufactured their own line of parts including scales, dash gauges, tire pressure gauge and tire pyrometers, even back then.

Longacre not only placed ads in the first issues of CT, they continued through the years to promote their products in our magazine. They have always been on the cutting edge for new and useful products that racers need and use on a daily basis. Here are the 1982 vs. 2017 ads.

Chassis Parts – By 1982, you could buy aftermarket upper and lower control arms. The fabricated front clips were becoming popular too. There weren’t many chassis parts advertised in CT in that year, but from looking closely at the various articles, we could see different suspension types.

The leaf spring rear was popular, but we did see a Z-link already in use as well as a three link economy chassis and an X-ray view of a “modern” 1982 Grand National race car. That GN car was the precursor to the present day Nascar Cup cars, except that the basic design has not changed one bit from then. It was/is a rear truck arm system with springs mounted on the arms and a double A-arm system at the front.

The bodies on the race cars were original OEM fenders, doors and roofs, but fiberglass was quickly becoming very popular and cheaper to produce. Looking through past issues we see where Five Star Bodies was advertising in 1988 and later on came AR Bodies.

Plastic replaced fiberglass at the front and rear to adsorb and survive the impacts that come so often. As time went on, body rules became more uniform and the body kits were made easier to assemble.

Conclusion– I encourage you to take a look at the ads we present from the 1982 era and compare them to today’s ads. What you will find is that short track racing was fairly sophisticates back in that day and time. And, some systems in use twenty or thirty years ago might just work well in today’s technical climate.

I wanted to note a special advertiser who was a part of the first issue. Steve Smith built a company whose focus was providing educational material to the racer. Over the years, SS stayed with us and continued to offer great books and videos to help our readers get started. He had almost no competition for all of those years. Thanks Steve.


AR Bodies


Capital Motorsports Warehouse


DMI / Bulldog Rear Ends


DRP Performance Products


Five Star Bodies


Intercomp Racing


Integra Shocks and Springs


Longacre Racing Products


Mittler Brothers Machine


Performance Friction Brakes




Quick Performance




Race Day Safety


Speedway Motors


Wilwood Motorsports


Winters Performance


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