Davis Profiler Part 2: Hands-On With Drag Racing’s Game Changer

PROFILERPT2LEAD

In the fall of 2013, Pro Extreme star John Stanley set a new quarter-mile world record for a full-bodied doorslammer with a revolutionary new device from Davis Technologies onboard his supercharged Camaro. Outspoken technology and electronics guru Shannon Davis was tight-lipped at the time, but heralded his latest traction control device as a certifiable game-changer, and since its public unveiling and launch to the masses, it’s proven itself as exactly that.

Last spring, we took an in-depth look at the device that became known as the Profiler, diving hands-on into how it works, the control that it provides to a tuner, and just how it could — and truly already was — changing the face of drag racing. Since that time, racers like Brad Edwards and renowned tuners like Patrick Barnhill have gained extensive experience with the Profiler, while our own team has worked first-hand with the Profiler on our 275 drag radial project vehicle.

With the ability to advance and retard timing based on a profile utilizing a sensor from the driveshaft, the Profiler is a true wheel speed management device that takes tuning, data acquisition, and consistency to a whole new level.

With the ability to advance and retard timing based on a profile utilizing a sensor from the driveshaft, the Profiler is a true wheel speed management device that takes tuning, data acquisition, and consistency to a whole new level.

With that, we’re following up our original piece highlighting the Profiler by talking with Davis, Edwards and Barnhill to get their thoughts on the device that has given them a degree of control and consistency unlike anything that was available to them before. At the same time, we’ll also share with you some of the data we’ve gathered in our time with the Profiler.

The Profiler

The Profiler is the most advanced unit developed by Davis Technologies to date, and unlike the company’s previous traction control devices, it is advertised as a true wheel speed management system. It has the ability to remove or add power to maintain a target wheel speed, all of which is entirely configurable by the tuner.

This example of a profile displayed at the PRI Show in indianapolis in 2013 is straight from John Stanley's former world record-setting Camaro.

This example of a profile displayed at the PRI Show in Indianapolis in 2013 is straight from John Stanley’s former world record-setting Camaro.

“The basic premise of the Profiler is that you plot out a driveshaft RPM profile that you want the driveshaft to run. You take past runs out of the data system or however you choose to do it, and you use that to create a profile,” explains Davis. “It makes a profile with hundreds and hundreds of data points per second — it’s really high resolution. You then set up ranges above and below that profile of how much leeway you’re going give things, or how aggressive you’re going to be with the corrections.”

The basic premise of the Profiler is that you plot out a driveshaft RPM profile that you want the driveshaft to run. You take past runs out of the data system or however you choose to do it, and you use that to create a profile. – Shannon Davis

Corrections above the profile can be done with timing retard or cylinder dropping, using a feature called “Smart Drop”, that allows the user to program the aggressiveness of a rev limiter — no more than four out of eight cylinders, never dropping the same one twice — and as few as a single cylinder. Corrections below the profile can actually give timing back to the motor to make power where it’s needed to catch the driveshaft up to the profile. By having two variables in play, one can lean on the dropping of cylinders in cases where pulling additional timing to slow the driveshaft RPM would only further hinder engine performance.

Where the Profiler has truly gone above and beyond Davis’ past systems is in this potential application of power, which adds a whole new dynamic to tuning. As an example given by Davis, if you leave the line with a dead-hold and the car is too slow because you have 14 degrees pulled out of the motor, the Profiler can put more power into it when the tuner otherwise might have just missed the setup for the race track.

“If a blown Pro Mod leaves the line with a hole out, it kills 500 horsepower. So obviously that first 10 feet isn’t going to go as planned,” Davis explains as an example. “Even if that hole lights back up, you’re behind. But, here you are behind, and you have grip there — you can give it some timing and pick it back up. This is the first product that can do that.”

And, amazingly, the Profiler is doing this at 1,000 times a second within one RPM accuracy, which according to Davis, he claims is faster what other devices in the same category on the market are currently capable of.

Brad Edwards, the first racial tire racer in history to record a sub four-second pass, was one of the first competitors to test the Profiler during its development, and has an estimated 200 runs with the device in his twin-turbo Ford Mustang.

Brad Edwards, the first racial tire racer in history to record a sub four-second pass, was one of the first competitors to test the Profiler during its development, and has an estimated 200 runs with the device in his twin-turbo Ford Mustang.

A Game Changer

With such precise control over a race car, regardless of which side of the curve the combination is on, the Profiler has been heralded as a game-changing device since its unveiling, and many racers and tuners agree that it’s significantly impacted some classes in heads-up drag racing. As Edwards, the first radial tire racer into the three-second zone in the eighth-mile claims, “Either you’re going to buy one, or you’re going to lose to somebody that does have one.”

Edwards has been working with Davis since the early stages of the Profiler’s release on his big block, twin-turbocharged Mustang that charged into the history books last fall with a 3.99 at the Huntsville Dragway in Alabama. Edwards received one of the first units Davis produced, and has an estimated 200 runs on the device, between testing and competition. If anyone knows the Profiler and how to exploit it on radials, it’s Edwards.

Realistically, it’s nothing more than a tool in your toolbox. If you don’t know how to tune your car and can’t put two-plus-two together and figure out what your car needs, then this isn’t going to help you any more than anything else. – Brad Edwards

“This thing, for all intents and purposes, is just that — a game-changing device,” says Edwards. “Realistically though, it’s nothing more than a tool in your toolbox, and it’s only as good as you know how to use it. If you don’t know how to tune your car and can’t put two-plus-two together and figure out what your car needs, then this isn’t going to help you any more than anything else.”

For Barnhill, who along with Jason Lee, operates PTP Racing, one of the sport’s leading tuning consultant operations with their magic behind hundreds of race cars, the Profiler is a device that, in addition to consistency, helps a racer get a handle on their car quicker.

“In my opinion, it changes not necessarily the dynamic of tuning, but it does change the thought process of doing so,” says Barnhill. “As a tuner, you still have to know what you’re doing and be able to put the tune-up in it. It’s just helping you get there quicker, because it’s showing you what the engine actually wants for a given driveshaft speed.”

As one of the sports' leading tuners-for-hire, few individuals -- if any -- have more experience with the Profiler than PTP Racing's Patrick Barnhill.

As one of the sport’s leading tuners-for-hire, few individuals — if any — have more experience with the Profiler than PTP Racing’s Patrick Barnhill.

As a tuner, this presents a more efficient and cost effective way of figuring out a race car, because only three passes may be necessary, rather than ten or more.

Barnhill points to changing track conditions early in the run as one of the most significant advantages of the Profiler. As the track changes from round to round, when the driveshaft speed gets over by 25 rpm or somewhere in that range, the Profiler can pull it back down and control the power by pulling two to three degrees of timing. Vice versa, if the driveshaft speed is low by 30 rpm, for example, it can add two or three degrees back to get the driveshaft speed back on target.

Say Edwards, “If you can figure your car out, and know what the Profiler is telling you and how to judge what to do based on the information being presented to you, then there has never been a better tuning device that I’ve ever seen.”

Consistency Is The Name Of The Game

The Profiler was onboard Jason Michalak's supercharged Corvette in Memphis in March when he made the quickest radial tire pass in history at 3.97-seconds.

The Profiler was onboard Jason Michalak’s supercharged Corvette in Memphis in March when he made the quickest radial tire pass in history at 3.97 seconds.

Like any traction control system, the Profiler can’t make a race car quicker than the potential it already has. It’s not free horsepower nor is it magic potion. What it can do is correct for mistakes in the tune-up or misreads in the track prep and track surface and make a bad run better. At the end of the day, it comes down to two key advantages: consistency, and helping one to figure out their car in less time.

“The Profiler will never make the car quicker,” says Edwards. “The quickest passes I’ve made that were unexpected were when we turned the car up, increased the profile to kind of get it out of the way and the car took it and stayed off the Profiler entirely. If the Profiler gets to it, it’s going to slow it down. The fact that it can add timing only helps if you’re statically pulling timing when you shouldn’t be. Until you sort your car out, can it make it faster? Of course. From that point on though, once you have a better handle on your car, it’s really just a safety net.”

The quickest passes I’ve made that were unexpected were when we turned the car up, increased the profile to kind of get it out of the way and the car took it and stayed off the Profiler entirely. – Brad Edwards

If you ask Edwards, the Profiler is, at its core, a data acquisition device, and the biggest thing it delivers to the tuner is information. “You can call it traction control if you’d like to, because that’s what its intent is and how it works, but the dominant feature is that it’s a data acquisition device. It tells you when you need to be putting more power to it if you’ve pulled power, and it always tells you when you have too much power and therefore wheel speed.”

For Edwards, the Profiler has been about pure consistency for his program. It’s not only more quick runs, but more complete runs to the finish line in general. As he explains, by having his car abort fewer passes, he’s been able to gain more understanding not just of power management, but of all the other intricate components of the car, such as how each converter affects the tune-up on a given track.

The Profiler is capable of many things, but Davis is clear that it can't make a car any quicker than the potential it already has. The advantage comes in consistency -- racers that can complete more runs not only go more rounds, but as Edwards points out, gain additional data they wouldn't otherwise if they were aborting attempts.

The Profiler is capable of many things, but Davis is clear that it can’t make a car any quicker than the potential it already has. The advantage comes in consistency — racers that can complete more runs not only go more rounds, but as Edwards points out, gain additional data they wouldn’t otherwise if they were aborting attempts.

Implementation

There are, of course, a number of ways to implement the Profiler from a hardware perspective, and even more ways to go about approaching your tune-up with the box in the car. Do you set the car up “hot” and let it pull the timing when it hits the profile, go conservative and let it add timing where needed, or try to nail the combination right down the middle and only utilize the Profiler as a source of very minor (if any) corrections?

Without going to extremes, one can make any of the above work to an extent while they learn the car, but as Edwards and Barnhill tell us — and as the records show — getting a handle on your car without leaning on the Profiler is the best approach.

“We’ve tried to set the car up for a 3.75 pass and let the Profiler contain it at 3.98. But it doesn’t work that way,” says Edwards. “With these radial tires, you can only tame the monster so much. Fact is, if you spin off the line, your tires, your axles, the driveshaft, the converter, the weight of the gears in the transmission, the crankshaft, everything — if you truly spin the tires, you already have several hundred pounds of mass that has inertia behind it. That mass already has energy spinning, and you could turn the motor off and your tires would continue to spin.”

To create a profile in the Profile software, these hundreds of points known as "grips" are laid out to create a desired driveshaft RPM profile for the run, beginning at 0.0 seconds with the release of the transbrake. Driveshaft RPM data from a Racepak or other data acquisition device will provide a pretty good picture of how this profile should be set up.

To create a profile in the Profile software, these hundreds of points known as ‘grips’ are laid out to create a desired driveshaft RPM profile for the run, beginning at 0.0 seconds with the release of the transbrake. Driveshaft RPM data from a Racepak or other data acquisition device will provide a pretty good picture of how this profile should be set up.

As Edwards goes on to explain, if you’re just slipping the tire, you can catch it. With that thought process in mind, he says he has to tune his car as tight, if not tighter, than he would without the Profiler.

Late last fall, Edwards returned to Huntsville for a semi-secret test session, where he stormed to a 3.94 and a 3.95. He tells us he could’ve “sat the Profiler beside the car” on the .95  — there wasn’t even a blip on the screen —  but tapped into it all the way down the race track on the .94. — he estimates perhaps 200 times in 660-feet. That’s because, as you’d guess, he put more in the tune-up (albeit less than a full pound of boost), which overpowered the surface. That’s how on-the-edge his car was.

In this graph taken right from a pass on our BlownZ 275 Radial Camaro, you can see how the profile made in the image above becomes a complete set of zones from which the Profiler operates. While the driveshaft RPM is within the light green range, the timing will remain as-is. Once it reaches the yellow an red zones, timing is pulled in increments from the engine. Likewise, in the dark green and blue zones, timing is advanced to bring the driveshaft RPM up to the desired speed. The wavy line is our actual driveshaft RPM recording from the run.

In this graph taken right from a pass on our BlownZ 275 Radial Camaro, you can see how the profile made in the image above becomes a complete set of ranges from which the Profiler operates. While the driveshaft RPM is within the light green range, the timing will remain as-is. Once it reaches the yellow and red range, timing is pulled in increments from the engine. Likewise, in the dark green and blue ranges (below the profile), timing is advanced to bring the driveshaft RPM up to the desired speed. The wavy line is our actual driveshaft RPM recording from the run. As you can see, the driveshaft RPM only peaked above the profile at two short points, requiring only small corrections from the Profiler.

So how does one get a handle on using the Profiler? That’s a process we’ve had to tackle ourselves here at Dragzine on our Project BlownZ 275 Radial Camaro. As you can imagine, prior data is extremely valuable in this instance — if you have driveshaft RPM data from a given track to go on, that will assist in developing a profile. Such data can come from a Racepak or other data acquisition system. From that, you can build your “base” profile, and your above and below profiles. Barnhill, who has worked with the Profiler on many, many different cars, says he likes to keep the entire range of corrections within 140 to 150 revolutions of the driveshaft. So as an example, he might set up a profile with the first zone 25 rpm over, the next 45-50 over, and 80 over at the top of the range. Below, he’ll commonly set zones at 75 and 25 rpm and adjust incrementally from there.

We’ve tried to set the car up for a 3.75 pass and let the Profiler contain it at 3.98. But it doesn’t work that way. With these radial tires, you can only tame the monster so much. – Brad Edwards

Likewise, Edwards generally shoots for a good baseline run at a new track — somewhere in the 4.20 range — to help gauge the track surface. From there, he can get after it and begin to plot out a profile based on where he can and can’t get put power to it.

Barnhill takes the very same approach with any car he’s working with, setting the car up in a manner that it could be run without the Profiler. Were something to fail, he doesn’t want to rely entirely on the Profiler to get the car down the track, and thus, he “likes to run the car tight.”

As a perfect case in point, Barnhill was recently working with radial racer Nick Agostino, and at the conclusion of a 4.08-second run, found that the driveshaft sensor had failed at the launch, rendering the Profiler useless. Because the car was set up right and wasn’t relying on the Profiler as a crutch, the run wasn’t lost. “I don’t want to try to do what the car can’t do and rely upon the Profiler to make it go,” he says. “I want to know what the car can do, and then I tweak on my profile to make it just a little bit better each run.”

Displayed here is an actual engine timing recording from a run with our Camaro. The orange and blue-colored lines are the timing curves put into the motor on two back-to-back runs. On the first run (the blue line) the Profiler was merely observing the run for data acquisition. The second run resulted in the data stream you see, which illustrates the driveshaft RPM lagging behind the profile, which added timing to the engine at just short of half a second into the run, which caught the driveshaft back up our profile.

Displayed here is an actual engine timing recording. The orange and blue-colored lines are the timing curves put into the motor on two back-to-back runs. On the first run (the blue line) the Profiler was merely observing the run for data acquisition. The second run resulted in the data stream you see, which illustrates the driveshaft RPM lagging behind the profile, which added timing to the engine at just short of half a second into the run, which caught the driveshaft back up our profile.

According to Barnhill, the Profiler commonly is set up for the electronic fuel injection/engine management system to send the timing signal out, which the Profiler grabs and modifies before shooting it off to the ignition system. In Edwards’ case, his Profiler is wired right into his BigStuff 3 EFI system, which then works in conjunction with the crank trigger to modify timing. It can also be controlled through one’s MSD or other brand ignition box. On our radial car, the Profiler manages timing right from the MSD Power Grid.

Barnhill tells us he often take two different approaches with a car new to the Profiler. One, he’ll let the driver make a pass with the old setup and just let the Profiler data log but not make any corrections to ensure everything is set up right and working as it should. He’ll then use the data from the driveshaft to build a profile. The second way, if someone is trying to implement it on race day, then he’ll use past data, export it into the Profiler to create a profile from it, and take the timing curve they’ve been using and apply it into the Profiler and run it. He tells us either way works well, it just depends on the owner and what they want to do with the car.

With anything like this, you want it to be in the ballpark,” said Davis. “If you have some magic electronic adjustable shocks, they’re going to work better if they’re set up right. I get frustrated with guys that want to go out and get a handle on the car first, because why would you not want to use this great tool to help you get that handle? It can be a great tool to help you figure the car out, and as well, a way to make a figured-out car better.”

Late last season, we got our hands on the Profiler to put it to the test in our Project BlownZ 275 Drag Radial Camaro. The Profiler works in conjunction with our Holley Dominator EFI system to manage timing during the run. As you can see in the image at above left, the Profiler fits conveniently right on top of the MSD Power Grid in our electronics panel.

Late last season, we got our hands on the Profiler to put it to the test in our Project BlownZ 275 Drag Radial Camaro. The Profiler works in conjunction with our Holley Dominator EFI system to manage timing during the run. The Profiler fits conveniently right on top of the MSD Power Grid in our electronics panel.

The system, according to Barnhill makes him better as tuner, while at the same time helping to overcome any small mistakes that he or the car might make. As he says, “it’s the greatest tuning tool we’ve had in the last five years, as far as how you approach your race car.”

What’s Next?

Davis himself shared that he still continues to learn the intricacies of the Profiler and how to best use it in real-world situations. Notably, he says he and his customers have learned that running the profiles very tight is key, as both Edwards and Barnhill have pointed out. That means plotting the profile to what you want to run, and then maintaining tight tolerances on the addition and removal of timing. In doing so, the car should run right on the profile.

Grips For Grip

The software for the Profiler is quite powerful and feature-packed. The basis are the “grips” shown here plotted into a profile. These grips can be laid out and modified from imported run data. The software includes features to automatically “smooth” the profile, and even average a collection of driveshaft RPM data from several runs to create an average profile. Sections of “grips” can also be selected and re-plotted based on your desired driveshaft RPM range.

Davis and his team have, since the initial launch of the Profiler, added new tools for editing the profile; in particular, the profile can be modified to produce a run (in theory) a percentage faster than the run before, by adjusting the entire profile in one single, minute increment.

In terms of functionality, Davis shared that he hopes to eventually tie the Profiler into other systems of the car, allowing one to utilize boost controllers, progressive nitrous controllers, and even torque converter pressure, in addition to timing, to control power. The degree to which teams will use such features remain to be seen, but Barnhill believes timing alone is still the best way to go about making corrections, simply because it’s more instantaneous than wastegates and nitrous controllers.

Engine timing for each range on the profile is programmed into the system in these zones, using the drop-down tab options. In Zone 1, for example, which covers just the first 0.2 seconds of the run from the release of the transbrake, the Profiler is set to advance as many as two degrees and retard as much as three degrees across the full range of the profile.

Engine timing for each range on the profile is programmed into the system in these zones, using the drop-down tab options. In Zone 1, for example, which covers just the first 0.2 seconds of the run from the release of the transbrake, the Profiler is set to advance as many as two degrees and retard as much as three degrees across the full range of the profile.

An interesting function that Barnhill is hoping to see implemented into the Profiler as well is a feature designed to prevent blowover-type crashes like that experienced by DeWayne Mills in South Georgia in February. Such a system could use a simple ride height sensor that would trigger once it exceeds a specific distance from the ground and cut timing, cylinders, or some other power-inducing system in the car to bring it safely back to earth — doing so perhaps even quicker then the driver could react.

In addition to wheel speed management, the expandability exists to bring safety features to the Profiler, including, as Barnhill suggested, the use of a ride height sensor that could cut power in the event of a wheelstand to avoid blower crashes like the one DeWayne Mills endured in February.

In addition to wheel speed management, the expandability exists to bring safety features to the Profiler, including, as Barnhill suggested, the use of a ride height sensor that could cut power in the event of a wheelstand to avoid crashes like the one DeWayne Mills endured in February.

Such concepts are proof positive of just how revolutionary a device the Profiler really is, and the kind of potential that exists in the future with it to bring even more power management and safety enhancements to the hands of a tuner. True, the Profiler is a traction control device, but in reality, the sky would seem to be the limit.

As Edwards tells us in closing: “everyone is using some form of power management — a form of traction control. Whether it’s active or pre-programmed or a combination of the two. And the fact is, this has just become a part of our sport. It’s a known factor, and within the next couple of years, you’ll either buy one, or you’ll lose to someone that did. There’s not an in-between. Because it’s about consistency, and because you make more good runs, you learn so much more about your car.

He continues, “It is not a be-all, fix-all device, but it is a phenomenal data device.”

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About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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