For racers and car enthusiasts alike, these are intriguing and exciting times. The technology, the know-how, and the forward-thinking ingenuity all exist to develop new products that most of us never knew we needed to do things we never thought possible, and to create solutions to improve or solve virtually any problem area we can imagine. This infiltration of modern technology has completely changed how drivers drive and tuners tune in drag racing, making for a high-tech hobby light years from its origins.
The Bump Box was originally developed as a solution for turbocharged Pro Modified racers, who were resorting to other measures to keep from rolling through the lights as they built boost and tripped the stage bulb. But the benefits were soon realized by everyone from the blown and nitrous competition to bracket racers and everywhere between.
Two years ago, auto racing electronics wizard Shannon Davis set out to develop a first-of-its-kind product designed to alleviate a common problem for drivers of turbocharged race cars, and in the process, he created and mass produced what has become a vital tool for drag racers at every level and with every form of engine and power adder combination.
The Bump Box, so named for its use as a device to assist in the staging process known as “bumping in”, is the newest product from Davis Technologies, and not only has it cured the ills of turbocharged Pro Modified racers who were in dire need of a solution, but its found its way into untold numbers of race cars, from bracket racing on up. For many, this relatively simple device that uses just the push of a button to roll a car forward a specific distance, is a tool many are unsure how they ever did without.
The Bump Box Story
It’s not automatic nor is it magic. You just push a button and it moves the car forward half an inch, instead of letting off the brake and moving forward an unknown amount and hoping you don’t roll the beams.
Although an unadvertised product at the time, the Bump Box first made waves at the PRI Show in 2011, where Davis set the record straight from curious show-goers wondering if the device made cars capable of staging and launching on their own by explaining that, “…it’s not automatic nor is it magic. You just push a button and it moves the car forward half an inch, instead of letting off the brake and moving forward an unknown amount and hoping you don’t roll through the beams.”
Davis originally developed the Bump Box for turbocharged racers who were having difficulty with the staging process. These racers had to hold the car against the brakes, spool the turbos, and then try easing off the brakes to bump into the stage beam, all while holding back a couple thousand horsepower. Problem was, the brakes either wouldn’t hold the car at all, or when released, wouldn’t re-grab and cause the driver to either deep stage or jump through the beams. As Davis tells us, many of the top racers — from doorslammer newcomers like Melanie Troxel and Leah Pruett to experienced drivers like Todd Tutterow — all commented how easy it was to use, calling it a no-brainer tool in their arsenal.
Not only did the Bump Box help them stage the car, but it allowed the precision of staging exactly the same way pass after pass, and as Davis explains, that’s when the bracket racers came calling. “The bracket racers saw this thing and how well it worked, and it opened up a whole new market. We probably sell more of them to bracket racers than we do turbo racers, because it makes staging both simple and incredibly consistent and precise. And the first comment we hear from every racer that uses one is that it reduces their stress level — they aren’t worried about using the transbrake or foot braking and rolling in too deep or going through the beams.”
You can see here just how small the Bump Box truly is, neatly tucked away in the El General twin-turbo Pro Modified owned by Joe Gonzalez and driven by Eric Dillard.
As veteran racer David Hance shared with us, “There were specific things we had to do with our car to help with staging before we had the Bump Box. We ran bigger brakes and dual rear calipers, which resulted in more weight and extra hardware. And that’s all obsolete now.”
How The Bump Box Works
So you’ve heard what the Bump Box is designed to do, but how does it work? Let’s answer that.
The Bump Box is a stand-alone device that uses your transmission’s transbrake solenoid to control the forward motion of the race car. Davis, one of the best with electronics in the business, set out to create a product that could deliver a very brief signal to the solenoid, allowing for a more precise range of movement — a pulse, of sorts, so minuscule that it could harness thousands of horsepower ready to pounce and make it roll forward as delicately as a toy pushed by the wind if you choose to set it up that way.
“It can be made to move smoothly or it can be hard if you want it to be that way. Some like it to set up hard because they think it preloads the tires and suspension, but others think that’s part of the problem. For drag racers, there’s a thousand ways to do everything.”
Some like it set up hard because they think it preloads the tires and suspension, but others think that’s part of the problem. For drag racers, there’s a thousand ways to do everything.
The Bump Box essentially delivers all of the power from the transmission to the tire, for a very brief amount of time, allowing it to move forward a specific distance into the stage beams. This movement is controlled by a button in the cockpit, generally located on the steering wheel, that’s wired into your transmission’s transbrake solenoid. A single press of the button moves the car forward the intended distance, and does so regardless of how long you press the button.
One press equals one increment of forward motion. So if you intend to deep stage, for example, you could quickly press and depress the button two or three times to bump the car forward one or two extra increments.
On the steering wheel of Troy Coughlin’s JEG’S Corvette, you can see how he’s arranged both the Bump Box and transbrake switches within close reach of this thumbs on the steering wheel.
The Bump Box and it’s button don’t replace your standard transbrake, but rather, work in tandem with it. To operate the Bump Box, the driver will inch the car into the pre-stage beam. He or she will then set the transbrake and begin building boost. With the transbrake engaged, the Bump Box button (can be a transbrake type button, a headlight dimmer, a horn button, or similar) is used to stage the car. Once in, the transbrake is released to launch the car, as normal. In essence, the Bump Box temporarily overrides the transbrake.
The Bump Box is adjustable, using a pair of knobs (both a “fine” and “coarse” adjustment) on the face of the device to make minute changes in how far the car rolls forward and at what rate it does it. The driver can also dampen the movement by “Bump Box’ing” through the brakes, as Davis explains it. While this rate of movement can be measured in actual distance, Davis (and the device itself) measure it by the length of time the signal i applied to the solenoid, which, combined with a number of variables from tire size to engine RPM, converter, and drag, create a specific distance the car will more forward based on one operation of the Bump Box.
The Bump Box is wired into the transmission's transbrake solenoid, and works by momentarily overriding the transbrake with a very brief, all-on/all-off signal that allows for very controlled movement of the car. With the transbrake engaged, a single press of the Bump Box switch moves the car forward one 'bump'.
The Racers Speak
Despite all the could’s and should’s that a product like the Bump Box has, the real verdict resides with the racers that ultimately use it. As you’ve already read, this tiny little black box has been met with a resounding thumbs up from turbo racers, blower and nitrous racers, and even bracket racers. For many, it’s a night and day type of product.
“The Bump Box is really a revolutionary product that solved a lot of the problems we were having,” says Hance. “It provided us a new level of consistency that improved reaction times made us capable of leaving the starting line the same way every run. When you’re consistent, you’re definitely better as a drag racer. It’s allowed us to do things we just couldn’t do before.”
[The Bump Box] provided us a new level of consistency that improved reaction times made us capable of leaving the starting line the same way every run. – David Hance
Hance was one of the early adopters of the Bump Box in his 1957 Chevrolet and has seen it through from its foundational point two years ago to the very refined product it is today, with its added adjustability. With the new adjustments, Hance has moved from a more violent move into the stage beams initially to that of more finesse today, telling us, “You don’t want it to be so soft that you run risk not getting the car into the beams, but it shouldn’t be so hard that it really upset the chassis. We like to pin about .4 to .5 G’s when pressing the button in — that seems to work best for our car.”
Proline Racing’s Eric Dillard was involved in the early development of the Bump Box, and he cites its use as a key part of his confidence as a driver and his knack for consistency at the starting line. “Once you’re consistent on your brake pressure, where you place the car in the lights, and get the values set up on the Bump Box, you really get confident on the tree because you’re in the exact same spot in the beams every pass. Of course you’re not always going to be perfect, but you do your best to get into the beams consistently.”
“Before the Bump Box, when we just used the footbrake, it was very hard to control the car on the starting line,” Dillard continues. “It can be done, and we did it for a long time, but when you’re rolling into that second beam trying to stop it in the same spot every time, it’s really difficult. The biggest plus of the Bump Box has been that consistency in staging every time, where I feel that my lights can be equally as consistent. In Las Vegas, I made eight straight runs between qualifying and eliminations with lights between .040 and .047. I was in the same spot in the beams every time and I felt confident each time I pulled up there that I could repeat — there wasn’t a worry of being too deep or too shallow.”
Proline Racing’s Eric Dillard was involved in the early development of the Bump Box with R2B2 Racing’s NHRA Pro Modified team, and having driven cars both with and without, hails the device as a confidence-builder for a driver, leading to far more consistent reaction times.
Like Hance, Dillard and his team have set the Bump Box up to roll the car forward at a rate that the chassis “doesn’t even know that it’s bumping in.”
“We don’t like for it to effect the shocks or anything during the process — we adjust it to where the car is smooth going in, to feel like it has dual-caliper rear brakes on it and isn’t lunging or bouncing forward. With the brake pressure and the Bump Box set up, we like to accomplish what we need in two ‘bumps’ and be in the lights ready to go. If you try to do it with one ‘bump’, it’s too aggressive.”
The Bump Box is one of many devices — the product of modern technology and solution-rich ingenuity — that’s improved the experience for both the driver in the car and the fan in the stands. The device has already been a big hit for Davis Technologies, and while many purists might argue otherwise, Davis emphasizes, “it’s still entirely up to and at the control of the driver.”
After all, says Davis in closing, “Who wants to watch a drag race where a guy messes up and rolls through the beams?”
The guy in the other lane with the Bump Box is our guess.