Tech Stuff

Racing Shocks Can Make a Difference

The SHOCKING truth: How one phone call

changed our win light percentage


Words and photos by Jok Nicholson

I wanted to write a short tech story on what I found out about racing shocks during the last race season. I am by no means an expert nor do I profess to even explain how racing shocks work in detail. I can tell you this though: I have probably bought 30 sets of racing shocks over the 50 years I have been drag racing. Some seemed to help the car hook better, some did nothing to change the car, and a few had so many adjustments I kept looking for the “magic setting” and never found it.

That said, I currently own just one race car, the mono-shock 4-link dragster we built online in this magazine starting in January of 2001. This is a short story on my last experience with racing shock absorbers.


I wanted to get the AFCO shock we had been using for about seven years rebuilt and recalibrated. We have had an issue: on the initial hit the tires seeming to shudder and the rear tires seeming to “bounce back” once in a while. We tried all sorts of different settings on the old AFCO’s but nothing really changed. It would be good one day and junk the next; it all depended entirely on the track.

The old shock just wasn’t consistent after seven years.


I was browsing through the Internet one day and read about a new custom racing shock builder, Competitive Suspension Solutions. I gave them a call and owner Shane Sweigert actually answered the phone in person and we had a short chat about sending the AFCO in for a rebuild.


About a week later Shane called and asked that dreaded question, “Just how old is this shock?” I said I thought it was about seven years old. Then he said he could not get it apart as the end cap had seized to the body of the shock -- he had broken a couple spanner tools trying to get it apart. We talked about just running it through the dyno and seeing if the adjustments built into the shock were close to what he would recommend. Couple days later he called and said the shock barely changed from the softest setting through 13 clicks to the stiffest setting and it wasn’t even close to how he would build a new shock for our chassis.


He told me about the different brands of shocks he used in his shop and we decided to give the JRi shock the job of controlling our 1,000 HP mono-shock 4-link dragster. He had me provide some measurements -- 4-link bar length, length of the shock mount “lever” on the anti-roll bar - so he could figure out shock speeds, rear gear ratio, tire, and normal stuff. I had the new shock back about a week before the season started and we bolted it on.

These photos show the shock on the Competitive Suspension shock dyno getting tested and re-valved to the specs they feel will be correct. A shock dyno is mandatory for trouble shooting and tuning a shock.


We had always had 12” AFCO springs on the old shock and this new Competitive Suspension Solution JRi has this little PAC spring on it. Looked like a valve spring compared to the great big AFCO spring! Shane sent us “dyno charts” and told me in detail about adjustments and how to make sure we wrote down any changes so we could get back to his “original setting”. Even though I probably sounded like I figured it would need adjusting, when we were on the phone he said it would be “damn close” out of the box.

RESULTS: Outstanding is all I have to say. The first weekend was opening weekend at a local track and the track was pretty iffy simply because the concrete was still COLD from the deep frost we had. The dragster had a decent 60’ on the first hit of 1.085 then it went 1.088. We softened the extension one sweep and it went 1.109. I texted Shane a short video on the 1.08 and the 1.10 runs and told him of the change. He said to go back to original and raise the tire pressure about a pound on the 150 runs old Lil Bubba M/Ts. We changed the setting back and 1.071 was the result.


The next time out the weather was more normal for Iowa in the Spring with sunny skies and temps in the upper 60s with track temps in the middle to upper 80s in the early afternoon and just over 94 by 2 p.m. The results we got on our first real “race day” track were outstanding: Every 60-foot time was between 1.055 and 1.059. Not a shudder of the tires; it just stuck the tire. Left the line and got right up on the tire and the ETs were looking like they came out of a copier.


We used the shock during the 2018 season at about 18 races. We had the most consistent race car I have ever owned. It printed out 1.05 60-foot times everywhere it went and I cannot remember anything slower than 1.063 or faster than our best of 1.047 from May through October. I am not going to tell you I know all about shocks, converters or tires, but I can tell you this without any reservation: Competitive Suspension Solutions enabled us to have a great season on old tires with no 4-link adjustments. If we let go of the button on time, Old Red was going to run the number.


I can’t thank Shane Sweigert enough for the personal assistance he provided and the terrific product he sold us. You can contact them at 484-529-3501 or support@competitivesuspension.com  


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