It doesn't matter whether it is Nextel Cup, ARCA, USAC, or your local Street Stocks. When the checkered flag drops on the winning car, there is one person who gets all the glory. The driver is the one who gets the trophy. The driver is the one who gets the big (in some cases) check. The driver is the one who gets to kiss (in some cases) the pretty girl. But while the driver is grabbing all the accolades, he or she couldn't have made it to Victory Lane without the help of a very talented and dedicated crew.
Even at the top levels of motorsports, those crew guys are often left in the background, toiling for hours on end with little to no recognition. That was a big motivating factor for the establishment of the Mahle Clevite Engine Builder Showdown back in 2000.
The battleground,a disassembled...
The battleground,a disassembled 800hp Nextel Cup engine.
Designed as a tiered four-round competition for professional engine builders who assemble race motors for NASCAR teams, the Engine Builder Showdown features teams of two engine builders who attempt to assemble and run a 357ci Nextel Cup Ford engine in the shortest time possible. Teams are pitted against one another in a single-elimination competition much like drag racing.
The first round of the Showdown is a timed elimination round in which each team builds against the clock in order to qualify for the quarter-finals. During the quarterfinals and semifinals, the qualifying teams face each other in a head-to-head competition, with the fastest team advancing to the next round. The competition takes place over three weeks and culminates in the aptly named Final Round Showdown, a brilliant display of speed and engine building mastery.
Spectators packed the NASCAR...
Spectators packed the NASCAR Technical Institute to watch the action.
Throughout the seven years the showdown has been held, the number of spectators has steadily grown. The 2007 event turned out to be the biggest to date in terms of spectators and participants.
"This year's event proved to be one of the most competitive and exciting that we have seen since we first hosted the Showdown in 2000," said Jesse Jones, director of marketing for Mahle Clevite. A record 19 teams from 10 of the best-known NASCAR engine shops registered to take part in the competition.
Kevin Webber and Scott Vester...
Kevin Webber and Scott Vester of Hendrick Motorsports hard at work.
The final round of the 2007 Mahle Clevite Engine Builder Showdown was held in the cavernous auto-motive service bays of the NASCAR Technical Institute (NTI) in Mooresville, North Carolina. The competition has developed a cult-like following of a wide variety of people. Former NASCAR driver turned broadcaster Jimmy Spencer gnawed on his trademark cigar as he watched the action. Wayne Jesel, the founder and owner of engine parts manufacturer Jesel, was there along with a host of other industry VIPs. But perhaps the most interested party in the room was the several hundred NTI students who jammed the seats to get a firsthand look at how quickly a professional builder can put together a Nextel Cup engine. These post high schoolers are studying automotive technology with a select group continuing their education in the field of motorsports.
Several weeks prior, preliminary competitions whittled the 19 teams down to just two. Kevin Webber and Scott Vester of Hendrick Motorsports went up against Dennis Borem and Darrell Hoffman of Pro Motor Engineering (PME). The winning team would split a check worth $26,000. The room got quiet-golf course quiet-when Clevite's Bill McKnight signaled the start of the competition. All that could be heard was the clanking of metal parts making their way into their prescribed spots on the block. The teams went about their business with lightning-fast speed, but amazingly, never uttered a word.
PME's Dennis Borem and Darrell...
PME's Dennis Borem and Darrell Hoffman five minutes into the build.
It became apparent that Borem and Hoffman had the upper hand when they spun their motor right-side up and slapped the intake manifold on well before Team Hendrick. The silence of the room was pierced by the thunderous roar of a race engine when Borem cranked up their motor. It was instantly followed by boisterous cheers from the crowd. By rule, the motor must run, uninterrupted, for a full minute before a team can be declared finished.
But there is more. Once each team has built and run its engine, a team of independent inspectors tears down each motor. Penalties can be assessed for improperly torqued bolts-one minute for non-critical bolts, two minutes for critical ones-in addition to other infractions. So just because you beat the other team to the finish line doesn't mean you won the race.