The average person who uses their vehicle for transportation doesn’t think about shocks and struts until someone tells them they need replacing. Then they flip out because they cost so much money. We’re not that person, except for getting from Point A to Point B at the drag strip. Horsepower and torque will get you down the race track, but your race car’s suspension plays a big part in how quickly you get there. And if you’re only thinking of your car’s engine and power as the primary factors in the entire process of a run, you need to adjust that line of thinking. Have you really thought about your race car’s shocks and struts? You probably haven’t given them as much thought as JRi Shocks.
It’s in the name, JRi Shocks; all the company does is build shocks and struts. That’s the focal point. And what we’ve learned from talking to them is that they eat, sleep, and drink shocks and struts. And their goal is to make your car quicker at the drag strip — a point we’re putting to the test as we’ve bolted up a set of their shocks to our Project BlownZ Street Outlaw Camaro for the 2015 season.
Shock and Strut Options
JRi has shocks and struts for a variety of performance levels, from Sportsman racers up to Pro Stock and Pro Mod cars. The Sportsman line of shocks is a budget-minded offering, yet it’s still a gas-pressurized, double-adjustable shock with an aluminum body. Of course, compression and rebound are adjusted separately, and the Sportsman comes with a coil-over kit. The company’s double-adjustable shocks and struts are the most popular. The double-adjustable shocks are both offered as part of the Sportsman and Pro Series lines. Ultra Street racer Mark Rogers, who runs 4.90s in the 1/8-mile, has JRi shocks on his car, but they’re equally at home on an 11-second car. And that’s the magic of JRi; the company is small enough to cater to a large cross-section of people. “Every shock is custom-built for your application, and that is across the board,” JRi’s Drag Racing Market Manager Pete Brower says. That even applies to the company’s Sportsman line of shocks. This practice enables the company to build a shock to your specific application, and not just offer a one-size-fits-all design.
Compression and Rebound
A shock’s compression is self-explanatory. It’s when the shock is compressed because of a bump, or in the case of a drag car, when the rear end squats. Rebound is when the shock returns to its original state after being compressed. Like when this Camaro’s front end returns to earth, it will be compressed, then rebound to its original state.
3-Way And 4-Way Air Assisted Shocks
Once outside of JRi’s double-adjustable shocks and struts, you get the company’s air-assisted 3-way and 4-way adjustable options (there are also 3- and 4-way non-air assisted, as well). Air-assisted shocks feature an external line in the bottom of the shock, and that line is connected to a reservoir, which allows you to leave the line at full stiff. Then, at a preset time decided by the end user, the shock dumps the air, allowing the shock to go full soft.
“The advantage is down track. In Pro Mods, they found it best to release the air right before the gear change. Releasing the air allows the tire to follow the race track. It makes for a smooth ride when the surface is less than glass-smooth,” Brower says. This technology is used mainly in Top Sportsman, Comp Eliminator, Pro Stock and Pro Mod. “If you’re at a fairly smooth track, you may not need the air-assist to kick in as fast,” Brower says. “The faster you go the more you want to think about an air-assisted shock.”
JRi also has a 4-way adjustable air-assisted shock. With the double-adjustable shock you only have a high-speed rebound adjustment and then an “air dump,” as Brower calls it. Also, with the double-adjustable air-assisted shock, the compression adjustment is based off the shim stack within the shock. If you were to take a shock apart, you would see a set of shims, similar to the thought of how you set up shims on a rear end pinion gear. These are different sizes, and their thickness determines the shock’s compression rate.
The double-adjustable air-assisted and the 4-way adjustable air-assisted shock differ in the fact that the 4-way has a low- and high-speed rebound adjustment, and a low- and high-speed compression adjustment on the canister. The air assist is in the rebound, and there’s a rebound adjustment on the shock, as well. The high-speed adjustment is at the launch when the shock is moving more than 4-inches per second, while the low-speed adjustment is more for down track when the shock isn’t moving as much, and at a slower velocity.
“When people make adjustments with their shocks the most important thing is that they can tell a difference, right or wrong. – Pete Brower
The 4-way adjustable air-assisted is more of a shock for Pro Stock and Pro Mod teams. Brower tells us, “There’s a learning curve with the 4-way adjustable air-assisted shocks that many people can get themselves turned around pretty easily because they’re unsure of how to best tune the shock to their car.” Plus, the 4-way adjustable air-assisted is simply more shock than most people need, and Brower is a big believer in not selling a shock to someone who “doesn’t really need that type of shock.”
JRi is working on applications for the new Mustang, Camaro, and Challenger for both street and drag applications. The company offers a single- and double-adjustable shock and strut for these cars already, but JRi can build drag-specific shocks and struts from those designs.
Brower says the company also has a new strut for Super Stock and Fox Mustangs. “It’s just a long body strut for travel,” he tells us. It uses a Strange GT housing with JRi components in it. “This one is different because these have a lot of compression since these cars wheelie, and the strut’s compression helps control the car when it comes back down,” Brower says. The adjustment within the JRi strut is to where you can loosen it up for a bumper-dragging competition, or tighten it up to the point where the front end won’t move at all.
The long-body strut is the latest product out from JRi, and the company is developing products for new applications. “We’re working on some drag radial applications with Team Z Motorsports right now, as well,” Brower says. JRi knows Team Z is already prominent in the drag radial world, so JRi is working with them to introduce a new product for that market.
JRi can also take other manufacturers’ shocks, and possibly build you a shock. “We do a lot of customizing stuff like that,” Brower says. “A better quality shock opens up more performance possibilities for your car, so keep that in mind when you order your next shocks,” he adds. To JRi, making people go faster is most important. At the end of the day, if a JRi customer is unhappy, Brower feels they didn’t give him the opportunity to make them happy.
How JRi Attacks A Suspension Set-Up
Speaking of a happy racer, we asked JRi’s Jeff Ryan how they attack a certain track scenario to get a car to go from A to B in the most efficient way. Ryan has been designing and building shocks for over 35 years. He says, “First off, every car has a need for suspension. I have always used the same logic for anything I have worked on. With a drag car it all happens so fast, but with every single race car in the world you’re trying to reduce tire load patch variance.” Meaning, with every race car you want the tire to have consistent contact with the surface. That is the goal.
When it comes to a drag car, there are usually three issues present that drive racers crazy. Those are smoking the tires, putting the car on the bumper, and tire shake. What we’re all looking for is that perfect launch where the front end comes up just a few inches, carries it out about 60-feet, and sets it down. However, those runs are few and far between most of the time. Even though Jeff Ryan is correct when he says, “You’re working with the same surface every time,” there are still times when a drag strip starting line is going to be better or worse than your last pass.
…with every single race car in the world you’re trying to reduce tire load patch variance. Meaning, with every race car you want the tire to have consistent contact with the surface. That is the goal. – Jeff Ryan
Are you going to have too much wheel speed and smoke the tires? Maybe you have the front end too loose, too much traction, and the power comes in all at the same time. That’s a recipe for dragging the bumper, and many times a costly return to earth. And then there’s tire shake, which has many causes, but the proper shock set-up can help alleviate that problem.
Still, Ryan says, “It’s easier to tune in a drag car as opposed to an open track or even a dirt track car. You have changes on the drag strip, but you’re working with the same surface,” he adds. When a traction issue is encountered, Ryan says, “You have to look at where was the chassis when whatever happened. If a racer has the wrong spring rate, you can really chase it. Working with the spring first, the rebound second, and the compression last. 60-percent at the rear, 40-percent up front. No matter what, you do need that transfer of weight.”
Our own Street Outlaw F-Body Camaro known as BlownZ has a set of JRi 4-way adjustable shocks bolted up, and we recently ran the car at the NMCA West Spring Nationals at Fontana, California. As JRi does for every one of its customers, the company provided us with a baseline set-up for the shocks. That allowed us to adjust them to the track conditions at Fontana. In our class, no one was getting down the track due to challenging track conditions, so we had our work cut out for us. However, the advantage we had is that we went with JRi’s 4-way adjustable shock. This allows you to adjust the high and low-speed performance of the shock for both rebound and compression, and we needed that adjustability at Fontana.
When we think about suspension set-ups in general, and applying that thought to our own experience, when the suspension ‘hits’ on the starting line at the release of the transbrake, you see high-speed compression followed by high-speed rebound. After the initial hit, the shock is generally in a low-speed scenario. This is all dependent on shock velocity, but when you have the opportunity to tune the dampening of the shock in both environments, you have a substantial advantage with certain suspension systems and in certain track conditions.
With the 4-way shock, we’re able to to fine tune the shock to get the optimum separation and shock profile. The downside to the 4-way shock is you can quickly get into no mans land because you have more knobs to turn. To sum it up, you really need a strong working knowledge of your suspension, a good read on track and power conditions, and know how to read the shock graphs on your Racepak to take advantage of a 4-way shock.
Even with the less-than-stellar track conditions we experienced at Fontana, we were able to tell a difference when we made shock changes, >which is what you want, and shows our JRi shocks were effective. Compared to our baseline for this specific track surface, which wasn’t very good, we had to loosen both high-speed and low-speed rebound. This gave the car the ability to separate the rear end. We have Racepak shock sensors so it gives us the ability to evaluate what the shock is doing. With the torque arm, we struggle to get the levels of separation that we’d like at the hit without the rear end over separating down track.
Our experiences with the JRi shocks on our Street Outlaw Camaro tell us the company is able to get you from A to Point B in the quickest way possible. No matter what your combination is, or your level of expertise, JRi has shocks to get it done and the know-how to assist you in getting there.