Bringing It to the Streets

Nov 20, 2009

We feel we have a lot to offer the aftermarket. We are used to dealing with race teams who want a very specific product, very quickly, with no room for error. We are bringing our expertise serving that market to the automotive enthusiast. We will deliver on time-¦that’s our NASCAR training.

– Joey Arrington, CEO of Arrington Engines

Who hasn’t dreamed of dropping a motor from a hot NASCAR engine builder into a personal ride, or of hooking up a loyal customer with one of the very same motors burning up the ovals under the klieg lights of  national television?

Now that dream is a turn burn close to reality with Arrington Engines, nationally renowned builder and researcher for Dodge NASCAR engines and  three time Dodge Manufacturing Award winner, jumping into the aftermarket by offering their race-tough Hemi engines and customized automotive parts to the public.

“We feel we have a lot to offer the aftermarket,” said Joey Arrington, CEO of Arrington Engines and son of NASCAR great Buddy Arrington. “We are used to dealing with race teams who want a very specific product, very quickly, with no room for error. We are bringing our expertise serving that market to the automotive enthusiast. We will deliver on time-¦that’s our NASCAR training.”

The Martinsville, Virginia based company with over 30 years of racing experience now offers street-legal Hemi engines, producing up to 600 horsepower using NASCAR-proven technology and assembly. The great thing for the smaller, independent Speed Shop is the engines, such as a new Hemi 426, are available on Arrington’s new e-commerce site,, to make ordering easy.

The Hemis will be tooled at Arrington Manufacturing’s 100,000 sq. foot facility completed in 2000 to house the company’s race engine development, manufacturing and testing program. Nor does it hurt that the plant is a stone’s throw from what could be argued is one of NASCAR’s best circle tracks in Martinsville. Today, depending on the time of year, Arrington employs right around 25 employees at the plant.

“We use our racing experience and data to develop custom engines and aftermarket parts at the leading edge of technological innovation. NASCAR remains our number one priority, but we believe the automotive aftermarket will become a significant portion of our business,” said Arrington. Above all, this move into the aftermarket WILL NOT effect the race program Arrington Engines prides itself on, Joey said.

So how exactly does a top NASCAR engine builder have time to devote to churning out crate motors for the aftermarket? There is actually some “down time” at the plant around the NASCAR schedule that they hope to fill with the aftermarket version of the Hemi.

“Racing is a lot like farming,” Joey said. “When it’s time to plant, you have to plant, and when it’s time to get the crop in you have to do it right then, you can’t leave it in the field. It’s the time in between we hope to fill with the Hemi.”

Working with NASCAR teams also means not working too far into the future with rule changes right around turn two.

“We can’t stock up too heavy for fear a rule change will catch us heavy on a design or product that can’t be used anymore. We find ourselves creeping along sometimes just waiting for  a rule change. We don’t want to run a plant like that.”

While the move to serve the aftermarket may be a big one for Arrington Engines, Joey points to one of the bigger-than-life names in race engine building, Roush, that is now a common name in the automotive enthusiast market.

“You can’t compare us to Roush yet, but look how visible they are in the automotive shows, in the hot rod market and even the OEM market. There is room for those of us who began in professional motor sports in the aftermarket.”

The out of the box muscle cars from the OEMs is just one of the factors that helped drive development of Arrington’s Hemi 6.1.

“We needed to have a solid motor available for the hot rod builder to work with,” Joey said. “It had to be a solid motor and be affordable. When a hot rod builder can go spend $30,000 and get a fast car out of the box off the showroom floor-¦it doesn’t make sense to be $100,000 into a hot rod that will do the same thing. Then again there is that satisfaction of doing it yourself that you miss when you just go to a dealer.”

In efforts to compete with that $30,000 street rod market, Arrington Engine is extending to the public some of the same financing terms as it does the big race teams.

“We are trying to treat the guy who has a 66 Challenger in his back yard that needs a hot motor the same as some of the bigger race teams we work with,” Joey said. “It’s a lot like going to the grocery store. We know not everyone can walk in, fill a cart and not even look at the prices. Most of us pick and choose according to a budget, and we want to help those people go fast too.”

Another interesting part of Arrington’s move to the aftermarket is that the company is partnering with consumer/race hybrid companies to make sure the consumer is supplied with all the parts necessary to drop the Hemi into a project vehicle. That list includes Mopar, Fuel Air Spark Technology, MSG, Superchips and K-1.

“These are all companies we have developed working relationships with over the years on the track,” Joey said. “We will look to them for guidance in how to develop and distribute our products to the aftermarket.”

Arrington isn’t plunging blindly into this new business development.

In 2006, AMI agreed to sell a stake in its business to Pendergast Partners, LLC, a Connecticut-based private equity group that brings strategic, operational and financial support to companies in which it invests.

“We believe this will be a great partnership. Joey Arrington, founder and CEO, has built a first class engineering support team that, together with his personal racing experience, has kept Arrington competitive in NASCAR for 30 years. We believe that together we can be an even stronger presence in NASCAR and expand into the high performance aftermarket.” PPL’s Managing Partner, Kim Pendergast said on Arrington’s website.

Joey, however,  is quick to turn the talk of business development and manufacturing statistics back to the street legal Hemi he is so proud of, calling the engine a “modern twist on the classic 426 that dominated NASCAR and the road in the muscle era.” Its stats are impressive, with the Arrington Hemi boasting a 30 percent increase in torque and power over a stock 6.1 Hemi, power that hits the dyno at 580 horsepower. And it’s smooth power to boot.

“We have installed this engine in a Chrysler 300C and run it as an everyday car,” Arrington says. “The engine is comfortable and quiet with normal use, but ready to jump out of any stoplight and tear up the middle lane. We have also run it at NASCAR’s Martinsville Speedway here, and the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte to test it under more extreme conditions with great success. This engine is truly a great combination of power, performance and comfort.”

As far as an aftermarket business model, Joey plans to stick to the tried and true motorsports mantra of “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.”

“We know that reality. When we announced our sales of the Hemi, and then turned around with success at Charlottesville, our orders were off the hook for the Hemi. Motorsports enthusiasts want to see that kind of success from a company.”

Anyone scratching the surface will quickly find evidence of motorsports success at Arrington Engines. Arrington was the 2004 and 2005 winner of the Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturers Award and the 2002 and 2004 Engine Builders Award. The company’s list of clients is impressive, with names like Penski, Ernie Elliott, Petty Enterprises, Ganassi, Evernham, McGlynn Racing, and Bobby Hamilton Racing turning to the builder regularly.

A smaller Speed Shop should not be intimidated by that list, but encouraged by it.

“Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone, we are here to help and to listen, just because we have a race background does not mean we don’t take every customer very seriously,” Joey said. “This move to the aftermarket is exciting for us, and we want to make it work for all the independent Speed Shops out there as well.”