The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

May 2, 2014

Racing veteran Campbell keeps up with latest technology

DANVILLE — He may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but 32-year dirt-track veteran Steve Campbell, of Danville, is making sure he’s keeping up with today’s racing technology.

The Campbell family has been racing at Selinsgrove Speedway since 1977. Steve started at the track in 1982 in the limited late model (wedged-shaped cars) division.

He’s won three track titles: one in the limited lates (1983) and two super late model titles (1995, 1999). He is currently tied for second in the late model points behind Selinsgrove’s Jim Yoder.

The family has carried the No. 2 on their cars since they began racing. The number came from Bobby Abel, who raced during the 60x90 era; Steve’s older brothers were fans of his.

Bloomsburg businessman and sprint car team owner Jeff Creasy painted Campbell’s car in 1982 and with no sponsors at the time, he threw on the Superman logo. It has been on his cars ever since.

There was a point last season — the second time in his career that he drove for someone else — where Campbell thought about hanging it up.

“We stopped racing in the middle of June,” he said. “We had a lot of drop outs. We did win at Bedford, but it wasn’t going the way we thought it should.”

Campbell was racing at Bedford and Port Royal Speedways in 2013, but his heart was still at Selinsgrove.

“Of all the years that we’ve raced, I wouldn’t want to quit that way,” he added. “There was a time last year where we sold our cars and engines and we had nothing.”

His wife Denise sent him out of the house in early November to buy a car for the 2014 season.

The Campbell family made and sold their own chassis design during the 1990s.

“Back then, we sold the chassis for anywhere between $10 and $12 thousand dollars,” Campbell said.

With the influx of NASCAR drivers owning dirt track teams, advances in technology have been made. The use of the wind tunnel by those teams has had a dual impact on the sport, according to Campbell.

“If you look at our car this year compared to last year, there is no more covered area where the back windows are,” he said. “They learned that the wind will come through the car better with the windows open. They found that with the windows closed, the air would deflect off the spoiler.”

Campbell went on to say the cost of the wind-tunnel testing had to be passed on to the end user.

“You’re looking at $25, $35,000 today for a car and that’s without an engine and transmission,” he said. “They had fine-tuned everything from the front bumper to the rear bumper.”

Another area of advancing technology are racing shocks.

“Back in the day, you had a couple of different shocks for each wheel, now, there are endless amounts of adjustments and changes you can make from inside the car,” he noted.

To learn more about the shocks he uses, Campbell spent Wednesday with the general manager of the company that manufacturers them.

“I think the driver was a little more important a long time ago,” he said. “Now, the technology has replaced the driver a little bit. It’s a big deal where you have to keep up with the technology or follow the cars that are keeping up with it. I care not to follow too much.”

In 1982, Campbell said his racing seat was made out of fiberglass and he had no head rest. The steering column back then was a solid shaft whereas today it’s a collapsible piece.

“The cars didn’t have the traction they do today and they slid around the track,” he said of the differences between today’s car and cars of 30 years ago.

Campbell said he’s been spending a few hours each night on the phone trying to get a handle on the new car updates. This is on top of working on the car and his full-time job.

Two weeks ago, he scored his 46th career late model win at Selinsgrove. He is fourth on the track’s all-time late model win list and second on the combined win list with 81. He told the crowd in victory lane that had he not won this year, he was done.

“We’ll be back for 2015,” he went on to say. “We’re back home where we belong at Selinsgrove.”

For now, Steve Campbell is focused on learning all there is to keep up with the latest late model technology. He’s not letting any kryptonite end his career before he’s ready to do it on his own terms.

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