We’ve all been there at one time or another. It’s not a happy place to be.
You’ve traveled to a dirt track for a night of family fun. It’s a beautiful evening, and you and the entire family are really excited. There’s a great field of cars in the pit area. Everything seems perfect, so what could go wrong?
The first green flag of the night waves and just like that, the night takes a drastic turn for the worst. Red plumes of dust are hurled at the grandstands. In the blink of an eye, your entire family is covered in a layer of dirt.
You instantly rub your eyes to remove the grit, and even after you do, you still can’t see a thing on the track because of the dust. Your drinks are ruined. Your nachos are ruined. Your kids are crying. The night has instantly turned into a complete disappointment.
This very type of experience motivated Dane Miller with VP Racing Fuels to discover a solution.
“I had moved to South Carolina a few years back and decided one night to go to a local dirt track,” remembers Miller. “I was pretty excited to check out the local racing scene, but my excitement was quickly vanquished. The dust was so bad that I couldn’t even see the front-stretch. It was a pretty miserable experience.”
Miller had experienced dirt racing in other parts of the country, so he knew this wasn’t the norm. He also knew there had to be some type of remedy to alleviate some of the problems both racers and fans were experiencing with the dust.
“I wasn’t naïve to the fact that the soil that most tracks have to use in the Southeast is less than ideal, but I still thought that a solution could be created to improve the overall experience,” says Miller.
In Spring 2014, his research began. He collected samples of dirt from different tracks in the area and initially experimented with how they reacted with just water. From there, Miller began experimenting with adding different types of dish soaps and laundry soaps — that many tracks claim they use — to the dirt samples to see how it affected moisture and consistency.
“My goals from the outset were pretty simple. First and foremost, I wanted to reduce the rate of drying in the samples. Secondly, I wanted to find combinations of additives that would also aid in compaction, which would result in wider, racier surfaces,” recalls Miller.
Miller also knew it was important to make sure the formula for his additive was environmentally friendly, so that it wouldn’t create any issues with tracks and the EPA. Through diligent research, he was able to create a combination of additives that wouldn’t contaminate soil or groundwater.
By late 2014, his product was ready for testing, and he took it to Modoc Speedway (Modoc, South Carolina) to give it a try.
“Mr. Cushman, who owns Modoc Speedway, has battled a dust problem since he began running the place, and he was desperately looking for solutions,” remembers Miller. “I took a gallon to him, and we worked it into the track surface with his water truck and track prep equipment. The next race night was the proving ground, and Mr. Cushman couldn’t have been any happier. The dust was much more manageable, and the flying grit was considerably reduced as well. He ordered two more gallons immediately.”
Miller also introduced the StayWet additive at Cherokee Speedway (Gaffney, South Carolina) late that year, and the results were much the same.
“The track staff at Cherokee used StayWet for the first time at the Blue/Grey 100 that same year, and again, the results were obvious immediately,” says Miller. “Lenny (Buff) told me that the dust was considerably reduced. He also told me that they had been having trouble with the track coming apart, but this wasn’t an issue whatsoever after adding the StayWet. It was smooth, and the groove was much wider.”
Drivers also made comments on the noticeable change of the track surface at Cherokee Speedway.
“It really caught my attention, when Jonathan Davenport and Kevin Rumley came up to me and said, ‘Man this track was 100 percent better than normal tonight.’ That’s when I knew I was really onto something.”
With momentum in his corner, Miller spent the winter of 2014-2015 doing more research and improving the product. The 2015 racing season found StayWet gaining traction with tracks across the country; more than 50 tracks have now implemented it.
Miller is quick to note StayWet can serve many purposes.
“Initially, I developed this product to reduce dust, but it’s quickly grown to serve several different purposes,” says Miller. “It also improves compaction and consistency of the track surfaces, which makes tracks racier by widening the racing groove. In addition, some tracks use it during intermissions, just before the main events, to bring the surface back to life, top to bottom.”
Different types of surfaces require different amounts of the additive and different preparation techniques. Miller works with tracks to find that magic combination.
“No two tracks are going to need the same amount of StayWet, nor are they going to need the same type of grading and tilling,” notes Miller. “There are slight variances across the board, but the one common denominator is that I’ve yet to have a track tell me that it hasn’t helped with their issues. Whether it be dusty compaction, or narrow racing grooves we’ve been able to solve a lot of issues with StayWet.”
It might surprise people for a race fuel company to become involved in promoting a track conditioner like StayWet, but VP Racing Fuels president Alan Cerwick points out VP has always been on the leading edge of technology with products that improve individual racers’ performance, and racing in general.
“That includes our fuels as well as our Lane Choice traction compound for asphalt tracks,” he says. “When we saw the technology behind StayWet and the benefit it offers to the racing community, we were convinced it’s a perfect fit with VP’s product portfolio.”
While StayWet is already making a big splash in the dirt track world, Miller concludes with what he finds to be the most exciting aspect.
“I’m so very excited on what we’ve accomplished so far, but what gets me even more excited is that we are working daily to make it better and better. The bottom line is that our pursuit of ideal, track conditions will never end.”
Source: VP Racing Fuels StayWet, staywetxtc.com