Which Aluminum Track

Discussions on buying, building or rehabbing a race track. Topics like plans, materials, tools, construction, finishing, commercially available tracks, and so on.
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DerbyStanger
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Which Aluminum Track

Post by DerbyStanger » Fri Nov 09, 2007 9:07 pm

Anybody know the differences between a Best AL track and the AL tracks at Pinewooderbytracks.com?

The latter is a litttle more money for the same size...May be getting one of these and selling my wood track.

Thanks
RC


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Stan Pope
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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by Stan Pope » Fri Nov 09, 2007 11:30 pm

Decide what kind of transition area you want for your track! Some have a short, nearly circular section with a longer straight ramp leading from the start line. (This is the style shown in the BestTrack site at http://www.pinewoodderbytracks.com/.) Others have a more gradual curve that begins very near to the starting line. (This is the style shown in the Cub Scout Leader's HOW-TO Book and used in the respected wood Piantedosi tracks.)

The short circular transition makes the weight distribution of the car less of a factor that the longer, more gradual transition section. Weight distribution is still a factor, but other factors are increasingly important. You need to know what you want the track to measure so that you can select the correct track!


Stan
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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by gpraceman » Fri Nov 09, 2007 11:42 pm

DernyStanger wrote:Anybody know the differences between a Best AL track and the AL tracks at Pinewooderbytracks.com?
They are one and the same since pinewoodderbytracks.com (with the S) is really a Best Track website.

Anyways, why is it that pinewoodderbytracks.com takes you to Best Track, while pinewoodderybtrack.com takes you to Piantedosi Oars? I'm rather surprised that this came about (and still continues).

They are both good tracks and each has its fans. It boils down to which features you like best. There have been several comparsions between the two in other threads here, so make sure to check those out.


Randy Lisano
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Awana Grand Prix and Pinewood Derby racing - Where a child, an adult and a small block of wood combine for a lot of fun and memories.

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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by DerbyStanger » Sat Nov 10, 2007 6:08 am

I appreciate the replies....but neither actually mentions specifically which track does which and what "factors" EACH brings to the table to help decide.

I want to test cars for our AWANA kids at my house. We use a wood track to race them...NOT The steep drop...but my wood track at home is too big and bulky. Im guessing the gradual curved one would be more applicable to that, but I dont know if there are any other factors to consider, like ease of assembly, weather resistance, etc.

THanks
RC


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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by Stan Pope » Sat Nov 10, 2007 10:27 am

DerbyStanger wrote:I appreciate the replies....but neither actually mentions specifically which track does which and what "factors" EACH brings to the table to help decide.
You are correct, of course. But please help us help you by narrowing the field.

You will get the best results by selecting a track with performance characteristics exactly like the track on which you will compete.

Here are some aspects to cite:
What is the competition track profile (slope formula, starting line height and angle, racing surface length)?
What kind of lane guides does the competition track use? center strip or side strips?
What are the competition track surface and lane guides like? Smooth, Rough, Gouged?
What is the starting gate characteristics? Manual with speed controlled by operator? Spring-open?
What is the finish line sensing like? Is there a nose height above which the front of the car may be missed?

As the season heats up, more folks with experience will be checking in and able to weigh in on your questions.


Stan
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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by gpraceman » Sat Nov 10, 2007 11:38 am

DerbyStanger wrote:I appreciate the replies....but neither actually mentions specifically which track does which and what "factors" EACH brings to the table to help decide.
Maybe you haven't see the BestTrack vs Piantedosi threads, like these:

http://derbytalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=2935
http://derbytalk.com/viewtopic.php?t=1209

In that first thread above I did a summary comparison of the two. That is more objective than subjective. You will also find subjective opinions in those threads as well.
DerbyStanger wrote:but I dont know if there are any other factors to consider, like ease of assembly, weather resistance, etc.
Unless you will be storing the track outdoors unprotected, I would not worry about weather resistance. With the aluminum tracks, you won't have the issue of warpage that you would have with wood in some of the humid regions of the country.

On initial assembly, I personally think that the Piantedosi track is easier to put together.

Once the initial assembly is complete, then assembly for a race would be faster with the BestTrack. Though, I do think that trying to assemble the track upside down and flip it over can be a pain. You need more than one person and I'm not a fan of the spring clips, which can pop off when flipping the track over. I do wish they would come up with a more secure way to keep the sections joined and to do it with the sections right side up. The guy that I work Awana races with has a BestTrack and skips using the spring clips altogether. The problem with that is that a section can get bumped out of alignment (not perfectly in line with the other sections), which I saw at one race. That can cause the track to run a bit different after that.

With the Piantedosi track, I can assemble it all by myself. With the help of my 12 yr old son, we can get everything setup (track, timer and computer) in 30 minutes. The flat sections assemble right side up and are securely fixed to one another with allen head screws and joiner plates.

The first two sections that make the curve have to be assembled on their side, which can be a pain unless you have a perfectly flat floor (few are). I really wish they would swap the position of the front legs and the joiner bracket near it, which would allow the legs to fold in the opposite direction, making it possible to assemble the first two sections right side up. Currently the front legs get in the way of trying to do that. It would require them to shorten up their leg braces a bit and would give the track a slight bit more of a curve, but that would not seem to be a problem. I sent that suggestion to Gary, but didn't get any response.

Also on assembly of the Piantedosi track, it requires the use of a small phillips head screwdriver, a socket wrench and an allen wrench. I've replaced the phillips head screws, for the leg supports, with wing screws and just use wing nuts for securing the start gate (instead of lock nuts), so the only tool we we need for assembly is the allen wrench. We only use the hand wrenches for assembly as even with a power screwdriver with a clutch the heads of the allen screws can be stripped out (been there, done that - not easy to remove after that point). We do use a power screwdriver to make disassembly go much faster.


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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by Stan Pope » Sat Nov 10, 2007 12:34 pm

DerbyStanger wrote:but my wood track at home is too big and bulky.
What aspect is "too big and bulky?" Is it too wide? Or too long?

If it is too long, then the remedy will not be satisfactory. Track length is often an issue in car setup. If you are good enough to set up the car on a 16 ft track so that it performs at peak on a 32 ft track, then you probably don't even need the 16 ft track!

So, it is productive to assume, for the sake of discussion, that it is the track width that is the source of your "bulky" problem. If the track is otherwise a good match for your competition track, then you have some alternatives. Replace the track with a narrower version from the same model (1 or 2 lane, depending on how you time the cars) or rework your track to make it into 2 or 3 tracks, each with a good number of lanes for testing, and sell the excess tracks! If your track is not a good match for the competition track, then move with a new track in that direction, reducing width but not length, if necessary, to aleviate the "bulkiness" problem. A match to the competition track is much more important than ease of assembly!


Stan
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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by DerbyStanger » Sat Nov 10, 2007 7:33 pm

Thanks Stan and Randy for the Info.. Stan.. IM taking about width, but I built the track using the plans on that one site that is always linked.. It has steel plates and 2 wood cleats that extend out another 8 inches, so each panel is like 8'8" instead of 8. Also, the stop lanes are not that great, and I have them raised way higher than the plans suggested.

I thought of a narrower wood track to buy, but I want to be able to leave it outdoors (covered patio of course) and the FL Humidity does not work to well with the wood.

According to what Im seeing, it may be worth the extra few dollars to buy the paintedosi track because of ease of assembly and matching the of the curve slope.


Are there plans available to build a 2-lane track?


One more off topic thing..RANDY: I emailed you about the software Im trying out for our AWANA group. Is there somewhere on the net where I can get more info or easier-to-read info?? Im having a hard time trying to figure that program out.

THANKS AGAIN!
RC


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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by Stan Pope » Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:06 pm

I'd feel comfortable with the Piantedosi Aluminum if it matches your competition track's length, height and curvature. Since you probably want to put electronics on the track, I'm not comfortable with leaving it outdoors completely assembled, even under cover, for a couple days!

I'd also feel comfortable with removing the steel plates from the old track, ripping the track into one or two lane sections, having the steel plates cut by a commercial shop (they can do that pretty easily and cleanly as compared to one of us with a hacksaw), and rebuilding the support and starting gate (spring open). If you are going with a timer, then you probably want to replace the starting gate anyway. But this approach ends up with an indoor track, albeit one that is easier to walk past!

For plans, I'd feel better about working from what you know, based on your experience with the current track, than working from someone else's plans. Scaling track and support width is an easy pencil and paper exercise! You never really know the qualifications of the plan's author.

Dunno which site "is always linked" so I can't comment.


Stan
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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by DerbyStanger » Sat Nov 10, 2007 8:29 pm

My Track IS from someone else's plans. When I built it, I just spent a day buying al the parts, the cutting all the wood and labelling the pieces. ( I dont like to cut as I build). Obviously, I can change the width according to plans, but the first piece with the legs would be a little more of a challenge.

When I kept the wood track outdoors for about a month, I just left the FIRST 2 segments set up and removed the timer each time.

I think the "typical" wood track fits the dimensions of the Painedosi track better.

Thanks
RC


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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by Stan Pope » Sun Nov 11, 2007 12:41 am

DerbyStanger wrote:My Track IS from someone else's plans.
But, having built it, you have a better understanding of the forces and concerns, especially in the flexed portion of the track ... a good base to build upon!
DerbyStanger wrote:I think the "typical" wood track fits the dimensions of the Painedosi track better.
I have only seen a few pix of wooden tracks with a "locked" small circular section. Storage for that permanently curved chunk must be interesting!

Al that notwithstanding, I typed "pinewood derby track plan" (wtihout the quotes) into a Google search and the first page (after the 3 "paid entries" included a half dozen or so track plan web sites. I recognized the sources of most of these a probably reliable. One even included a scan to zip file of the Cub Scout Leaders HOW-TO Book plan for a track! So, that search looks like a good source for plan alternatives.


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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by gpraceman » Sun Nov 11, 2007 12:45 am

DerbyStanger wrote:One more off topic thing..RANDY: I emailed you about the software Im trying out for our AWANA group. Is there somewhere on the net where I can get more info or easier-to-read info?? Im having a hard time trying to figure that program out.
Have you been through the Quick Start Tutorial? The other documentation is the software's help file and the FAQ's on the software website. The help file (which includes the tutorial) and FAQ's are searchable, but it does help to first go step by step through the tutorial.

If you have any questions on the software, you can always call, email or PM me.
DerbyStanger wrote:I thought of a narrower wood track to buy, but I want to be able to leave it outdoors (covered patio of course) and the FL Humidity does not work to well with the wood.
I don't know that I would ever want to store a track long term outside, even under a covered patio. That is regardless of what it is made of. It's too much of an investment to leave out exposed like that.


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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by Darin McGrew » Sun Nov 11, 2007 4:16 am

Stan Pope wrote:I have only seen a few pix of wooden tracks with a "locked" small circular section. Storage for that permanently curved chunk must be interesting!
Ours is like that. It really isn't that big a deal, compared to the rest of the track. But each track section is 4" thick (since each track section has a frame made of 1x4" boards), so the cabinet needs to be pretty tall anyway. So first we stack the straight sections (2 for the ramp and 3 for the level), and then we stack everything else on top of them (the curved section, the electronic finish gate, the home-brew display for the electronic finish gate, etc.).

But with that said, I would not recommend this design to others. I'd build the traditional plywood base, where the curve comes from the plywood flexing. To raise the track off the floor, I'd place it on separate tables (custom-built if necessary). It isn't worth building the legs and frame into the track (or building the track into the tables, depending on your point of view).



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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by DerbyStanger » Sun Nov 11, 2007 7:29 am

If you have any questions on the software, you can always call, email or PM me.
Thanks I will try that...I may be calling you soon. Maybe you can come take a mini vacation to S. FL in January and help us out. :mrgreen:
I don't know that I would ever want to store a track long term outside, even under a covered patio. That is regardless of what it is made of. It's too much of an investment to leave out exposed like that.
Not to store it...But to leave it a week at a time under a covered patio then again covered with plastic just for the period of a week or so when I am testing cars.


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Re: Which Aluminum Track

Post by Stan Pope » Sun Nov 11, 2007 10:15 am

Darin McGrew wrote:But each track section is 4" thick (since each track section has a frame made of 1x4" boards), so the cabinet needs to be pretty tall anyway. So first we stack the straight sections (2 for the ramp and 3 for the level), and then we stack everything else on top of them (the curved section, the electronic finish gate, the home-brew display for the electronic finish gate, etc.).
With cabinet! :) Really "top drawer!"

I can readily visualize the magnitude ... I have 9 "pit tables" ... 7-plus feet long by 16" wide by 3 inches thick (1X3 frame around edges, routed to enclose 1/4" stranded board) with folding legs (homemade). One of 'em doesn't seem very big, but stack all 9 up and it is imposing! :)


Stan
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