The racing bug has a strong bite, and for Brandon Auman, its venom stung hard. We talk to the dirt track racer about his current car, and what got him into the sport.
“We’re right in the heart of dirt track racing country here,” says Brandon Auman. A registered nurse by day residing in Tower City, Pennsylvania, Auman tells us that competition gives him a chance to let loose. “It’s where I go to let my hair down, I guess you could say. I can’t really show up to work covered in grease!”
While the hospital might not look favorably on dirty fingernails, Brandon’s family already knew what came with the territory when he got involved in motorsports.
“My dad used to race Street Stocks, right up until I got involved in racing,” he explains. “I got a bit of a late start though – I joined the Army right out of high school. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I got back, that I started talking to my dad about it. I was stationed down in North Carolina and I caught a lot of Late Model racing while I was there, so the sport never really left my life.”
In 2015 Auman would get his first taste of circle track competition, running in the Street Stock class. “That’s a fendered car that weighs about 3000 pounds,” he notes. “They have a stock front clip and use 8-inch tires all the way around – it’s more like a production-based class. You couldn’t take an ’84 Camaro and turn it into something you could race in the class I compete in now.”
Auman currently races in the Sportsman Modified class at his local tracks, Big Diamond Speedway in Minersville, PA and Bechtelsville’s Grandview Speedway. While both Street Stock and Sportsman Modified are circle track race cars, the design and setup of the two are significantly different.
“Like sprint cars, we use a staggered tire setup between the left and right-hand side of the car, front and rear,” he says. “It helps the car turn. On the front tires the difference isn’t much – the tire on the right side of the car might be an half an inch to an inch taller than the one on the left. In the rear, it might be anywhere from five to six and a half inches of stagger. We can also do different wheel offsets as well, and that helps coming out of the corner. I run a four-inch offset on the left rear of the car and a four inch offset on the right rear wheel.”
In terms of chassis setup, Auman says he uses coilovers on all four corners of the car, but that’s not typical for Sportsman Modified. “We can run torsion bars as well, so there’s no spring on the rear of the car,” he says. “They allow for some fine tuning that some guys prefer.”
And like a sprint car, the driveline in the purpose-built, 2,375-pound Sportsman Modified tube chassis cars runs right between the driver’s legs. “It’s a center drive car, so you’re not sitting to the left side like you would in something like a Late Model,” he notes. “Your throttle pedal is on the right and brake is on the left.”
Motivation is provided by a naturally aspirated 358ci small-block V8 that’s power-limited by a two barrel carburetor, but anything goes in terms of modifications to the production-style cylinder heads. “It really just depends how much money you want to spend,” he points out. “My motor, with the two barrel, dynoed at 495 horsepower, which is pretty good for that rule package.” That small-block is hooked up to a 1:1 direct drive transmission that sends the power to the rear wheels.
As you’d imagine, a setup like that and the format of circle track racing – which keeps these engines at wide open throttle through most of each lap – can take a toll on engine internals, so durability is key. “These Wiseco pistons – I love ‘em. That’s what I used in my first Street Stock motor, and that’s what I use now,” Auman says. “I never had any issues with them, even turning the motor as high as 8,200 rpm. It’s what I’ve been running since I started racing, and they’ve held up to the abuse I’ve put them through so far. You don’t really realize what these cars go through until you own one or help someone who owns one. Even when you finish well you still put a beating on it – you’re out there pushing a piece of machinery to its absolute limits.”
Brandon says that outside obligations caused a late start to this race season, but things are picking up again in the fall. “Honestly we weren’t even sure if we were going to race much this year,” he says. “I graduated from nursing school in the spring, so I was busy getting everything started on that front. But sitting on the couch on Friday and Saturday nights knowing that the other guys are out there racing – it does something to you when you’re a driver. It makes your core body temperature go up.”
Although he hasn’t parked the car invictory lane yet this season, Auman says they’re on their way. “This is only our second season in Sportsman Modified, so we’re still learning a lot about the car. A lot of these guys have been doing this almost as long as I’ve been alive!”
Whether or not he’s in the points hunt this season, Brandon says the experience of wheel to wheel racing is reward enough. “One of the moments I’ll never forget is the first time I got to race with my dad,” he recalls. “Not many people get to do that. Getting to line up next to him in a race was an incredible experience. He jumped the start, by the way. He beat me to Turn 1 and he never lets me forget it, but he also went three car lengths before the cone!”