Drag Racing: Schmidt’s passion is in dissecting the numbers
Brainerd's Greg Schmidt sets world record.
BRAINERD — For the sports fan, data and analytics are viewed in two different ways.
To some, it is the prime example of how things are going in the wrong direction and not putting the focus on a person’s experience. For others, it is looking through a new lens grounded in numbers and technology.
For a driver of a dragster hot rod, maneuvering their car down the 1.8 mile stretch of asphalt, those numbers can be the difference between a successful run and failure.
The numbers are a key part of Greg Schmidt’s Bad Influence Garage Camaro performing at a high level, which was the result in Georgia earlier this winter when Schmidt set the world record for a Radial Tire Blow Thru Carb dragster with a run at 4.067 seconds, driving at a speed of 187.73 miles per hour. After the record-setting run, Schmidt’s focus is still on the performance of his car.
“I have been dissecting the data since I got back a month ago from Georgia just trying to figure out what I am missing in the car and where can I look to make it faster,” Schmidt said. “
The record came on the third round of eliminations and it was a contrast from the first two runs. The first run brought back some unpleasant memories for Schmidt, who rolled a dragster going 180 miles per hour at Brainerd International Raceway.
On his first round in Georgia, Schmidt’s Camaro started to experience tire shake and loss of traction.
“It shot me over towards the right wall and I was able to save it,” Schmidt said. “In the moment, I was joking with people that was my Minnesota driving in the winter instinct that took over.”
He admitted his thoughts went back to the rollover at BIR and not looking forward to that happening again.
“You make your adjustments as quick as you can.”
Said Schmidt who is the co-owner of Paradigm Automotive & Performance in Brainerd where he works alongside his father Al who is the co-founder of the business.
His passion for racing first came on the dirt at North Central Speedway at 8 or 9. At 16 he dove into drag racing while also still racing on the dirt with his dad. While attending college at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji his love of the sport turned toward drag racing.
“I started to enjoy the drag racing side more, due to the more open rules for engines and just flat out more horsepower and the idea of going fast,” he said.
His influences at the dirt track were Dan Yaunick, Nate Theisse and Dave Mass, but as he turned toward drag racing and building engines he looked to builders like Jason Line and Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins.
The second round on that winter day in Georgia didn’t count as he was late getting into the second beam at the tree, resulting in a run where he didn’t get a slip for the round.
Despite that failure, the team felt good about the car for the third round, based on the data they were receiving.
“Data is anything that happens to the car and on the car. We have computers and sensors that can record what the car is doing,” Schmidt said. “I have sensors that will tell me the temperature of the tire and the track as I am making the pass. At any given time on this car, I have close to 90 different sensors and data points.
“We knew we had the capability to take that record. The best way to tell people is that I had all the pieces to the puzzle, I just had to find the right order to put them in to make a pretty picture. I knew we had the tires, the suspension and the horsepower.”
“We now have the world’s record for “Fastest Drag Radical Car with a Blow Thru Carb,” since we do not use Electronic Fuel Injection. We ran a 4.067 at 187.373 MPH in the 1/8 mile. We were searching for our first ever 3.9-second pass and on that pass, it was on its way but we had a lead “cough” in the middle of the run and it slowed the car down. Once I saw that time on the board I knew we had the record. We weren’t able to pull off the three-second pass the rest of our time down there, so we have a goal to run it at BIR this summer with hundreds of our closest friends and fans.”
At the Paradigm shop, Schmidt does work on daily driven cars but there is also a performance shop which includes an engine machine shop for cylinder heads, which will soon be expanding to a full shop.
He also has a YouTube channel called bad influence where he focuses on building a car and moving through to the performance of the car on the track, along with videos of the pit at race time. It was on one of those videos where Schmidt shared his feeling after saving his car from going into the wall.
Some of the videos have up to 2,000 views.
“I don’t really do it for the views, though, I really enjoy the comments of racers saying, ‘Hey this solved my problem, thanks for the info’ or ‘Thanks for showing the suspension setup, this got me headed in the right direction.’ That stuff to me, means the time to make the videos was worth it,” he said.
A study of the data helps to provide the motivation for each road trip and weekend of racing.
“We look at our own program and how we can better ourselves and that is where that data dissection comes into the picture where we want to reset our personal best because if I can do down there and do that then it is already a win and the time we put into it has paid off,” Schmidt said.