Practice & Notes
Before attempting any chassis adjustments it is important for you as a driver to know & understand what your car is doing on the track. The only way to understand how your car is reacting is through seat time. The more laps you turn, or practice you get; the better off you will be in deciding what your trouble points are on the track.
Learn how to hit the same line lap after lap with the default setups packaged with NASCAR Racing before attempting any other adjustments. The biggest mistake rookie drivers make, are trying to adjust a chassis for what they believe is an ill handling car. I get so many emails from drivers that think the default easy, intermediate or fast setups that come with the sim are terrible because they cannot drive them. You must become comfortable with these default setups before you should even look into tinkering with any adjustments in the garage. Begin with the easy setup, then graduate to the intermediate setup and lastly the fast setup. Only when you can run clean consistent laps with the easy setup, should you move up to the intermediate setup. The same goes with the intermediate setup before graduating to the fast. Only when you can run competitively with the fast setup against the AI at 97% without spinning out, should you attempt to make any adjustments in the garage. There are nothing wrong with the default setups in NASCAR Racing. If you cannot drive them properly it is because you simply do not have enough seat time and or experience.
I can't stress enough the importance of adjusting only ONE component at a time. Making more than one change is nonproductive because you won't be able to determine what change made the car better or worse. Be sure to have plenty of paper & pencil on hand. It is critical to take notes after every adjustment you make. With all the adjustments available to make, it's real easy to forget what adjustment you made 3 practice sessions ago. Record keeping is important. If you do go the wrong way with an adjustment you can always set it back to where it was before making the change by simply referring back to your notes. By tracking & logging information, it also allows you to refer back to them to see how you progressed to cure your handling problem. These notes could be useful for setups at tracks with similar configurations which can turn out to be a real time saver. By keeping track of adjustments, you will be able to refer back to your notes to see what worked & what didn't. This will help you decide what to adjust if a similar situation arises at another track.
One of the more overlooked aspects of chassis setup is the driver himself. More so than ever it's critical for drivers to run the same line over & over when practicing & adjusting. If you're entering the track low in turn 1 & the car is loose, don't make an adjustment then start entering the same corner in the middle. This again is nonproductive & you won't know if it's your line into the corner that has helped or made your condition worse or if it's the adjustment itself. Driver consistency is very important when trying to determine how a car is reacting throughout a corner. Smooth & gradual throttle, brake, & steering inputs are required. Gone are the days of barreling into a corner, slamming on the brakes, & cranking the wheel hard left.
As a driver it's very easy to mislead yourself into believing how your car is reacting through a corner. If your loose going into a corner then push in the middle & once again get loose exiting, it could very well be your driving habits. I see many drivers getting loose into the corners. When this situation occurs, the obvious reaction is to brake & turn into the spin in hopes of catching the back of the car. If you do manage to correct it, chances are you'll have a push in the middle as the car sets & grabs from you turning right in an effort to save it from corner entry. Now in an effort to get back low into the racing-groove, you jerk the wheel hard left applying throttle causing yourself to be loose. You may think your setup is all out to lunch when the fact of the matter is that it's you causing two thirds of the problem all because your loose entering the turn. You may still have cornering problems in the middle & exiting, but because of your looseness going in, you yourself could be making the rest of the corner a problem when in fact it really isn't.
Because of this, it is important to divide each corner into 3 sections. The entry, middle, & exit. Each section of the turn will be effected by how you negotiated the previous section. Corner entry is where you begin your chassis adjustments. If you can't get into a corner, don't bother adjusting for the rest of the corner. Don't mislead yourself into believing the car is doing something that it isn't. In the above example you must take care of the loose condition entering the corner before you setup for the rest of the corner. Once your happy with the setup entering the corner, work on how the car feels in the middle. Only after you have a neutral handling car entering the corner & through the middle do you attempt to work on adjustments exiting the turn. Many times by simply curing your corner entry problems, you'll cure your middle or exiting problems. This is because you won't be making corrections to either loosen or tighten up the car based on corner entry problems.
If you can always remember to divide each corner into sections, & work on entry before worrying about the rest of the corner, it should go along way towards simplifying the whole setup process. Be consistent & smooth with your driving inputs.
Within the garage area of NASCAR Racing we are given the option of keeping track of our adjustments during practice sessions. Due to the importance of good note keeping, I'm going to once again remind everyone the importance of keeping track of various adjustments made throughout practice sessions.
It is critical to take notes after every adjustment you make. With all the adjustments available to make, it's real easy to forget what adjustment you made 3 practice sessions ago. Record keeping is important. If you do go the wrong way with an adjustment you can always set it back to where it was before making the change by simply referring back to your notes. By tracking & logging information, it also allows you to refer back to them to see how you progressed to cure your handling problem. These notes could be useful for setups at tracks with familiar configurations which can turn out to be a real time saver. By keeping track of adjustments, you will be able to refer back to your notes to see what worked & what didn't. This will help you decide what to adjust if a similar situation arises at another track.
Top speed & or lap times is also a must to keep track of. I also like to keep track of how the car reacts as tires wear, as well as how it performs with less fuel in the car. How bad do lap times decrease over X number of laps. What chassis adjustments could I make during a pit stop to help counter react the way the chassis performs with less fuel. Perhaps a track bar or tire pressure adjustment would be the way to go when pitting after so many laps. All these types of questions I have answered before entering a race because of good note keeping. Keeping track of these types of notes in the setup notes section of the garage area will allow you to perform better on the track & could even get you a win by knowing how your chassis will react before even turning a lap.
After running so many different tracks & working on so many different setups, it's real easy to forget how one setup reacts over another. Simply reading your setup notes will remind you once again what you can expect from the setup you will be running before even getting on the track. If you have multiple setups for various weather conditions reviewing these notes will allow you to choose what setup to run given the current track conditions.
The track notes section of the garage area go hand & hand with the setup notes section. If you haven't yet read the setup notes section please do so now. Proper note taking is the most overlooked aspect of chassis setup. You can never have too many notes. Without proper note taking your always trying to find a needle in a haystack. With proper note taking you will at least know in which part of the haystack to begin your search.
It's also a good idea to keep track of how you like to enter or exit the corners with the current setup. Making notes of braking & acceleration points with the current setup allows you to know what to expect from the car before hitting the track. What is the best line around the track to take with the current setup? After loading a different setup you should refer to both the setup & track notes sections to review how that setup performs under "such & such" conditions. Enter a race informed of the situation at hand. Unless you've got a photographic memory, proper note taking is the only way to remember all these past adjustments & changes made from track to track. Proper note taking will keep you one step ahead of the competition.