Students travelled to Indianapolis during the week of the PRI Trade Show to compete in the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge Dual Championship.
With the first four spots in the Engine Challenge Finals filled from SEMA competition, 17 additional teams came to compete for the final four spots at PRI. From Tuesday (Dec. 8) through Friday (Dec. 11) they competed in performance engine rebuilds, looking for sub 20-minute completion times.
In the PRI Dual Championship, teams completed in a total of four rebuilds. The top three were then averaged to determine overall winners. Team Weld Racing from Eastern Oklahoma County Tech Center, Team Hypertech from Forsyth Central High School, Team Mahle from Burton Center for Arts and Technology and Team Moroso from Elkhart Area Career Center topped the leaderboard in the second half of the Dual Championship to fulfill the final Elite Eight spots.
On Friday the Elite Eight Showdown began. Three rebuilds determined who would be the 2015 Engine Challenge National Champion. Teams were not allowed to throw out their worst run of the Showdown, as they had in the Dual Championship rounds. The first two rebuilds were completed on Friday before one final run on Saturday.
Once the dust settled, Team Weld Racing reached to the top, led by instructor Jim LaFevers. The average time of their three performance engine rebuilds was 18 minutes and 19 seconds. LaFevers and his team are consistent top finishers. They were one torque wrench penalty away from winning last year and did capture the title in 2013.
Team Hypertech, led by coach Marlo Miranda, achieved an average time of 19:32-enough to secure second place in the National Championship.
Another of Miranda’s teams, Team Howard Cams, finished ninth in the nation, just missing the Elite Eight Showdown.
Chris Overfelt took his team all the way to National Championship honors last season and returned this year to finish third. Coming in just behind Team Hypertech,Team Mahle had an average time of 19:44.
The top four was rounded out by National Record holders Team ARP and their coach John Rickerson. Team ARP captured the national record during one of their runs in the SEMA Show Dual Championship. In between SEMA and PRI, one of the five members of their team became ill and the team had make a substitution. Despite the last minute adjustment, Team ARP still averaged a time of 20:23.
Finishing out the top eight in the nation were Team B&M Racing from Franklin County Career & Technology Center, Team K&N Filters from Loara High School, Team Moroso from Elkhart Area Career Center, and Team Taylor Cable from Belvidere North High School, in fifth through eighth respectively.
“We are always blown away by the dedication and performance of these students,” said Rodney Bingham, head of the program. “Year after year they continue pushing the envelope, upping the level of competition and then going on after the program to do incredible things within the automotive industry. This was the reason we started the Engine Challenge, but we never really envisioned that it would rise to this level. Congratulations to Team Weld Racing and all of the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow competitors.”
The days spent at the SEMA and PRI Shows offer far more to these students than just competition. Students attend seminars by industry leaders, meet and greet with companies in attendance at the shows, and, new this year, tested their skills through interviews and a written exam.
Ryan Gortney of Racing for the Record led the students through a life motivation seminar. Teams also heard from Indycar’s Don Lambert and drag racing’s Mike Lewis. Arguably the most impactful seminar was held by Jay Blake from FollowADream.org. When a forklift tire blew up in Blake’s face, he endured 10 hours of surgery just to save his life, but lost his eyesight in the process. Through a fated series of events, Blake found himself relearning his way around a car. He soon formed a Top Alcohol drag race team where he now serves as Car Chief to the team, while his brother drives the dragster on the NHRA tour.
One of the most important aspects of the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow is the scholarships offered by several of the top automotive colleges in the nation, according to the program. It is only through these scholarships that many of the students have the potential to continue pursuing their dreams after high school.
During the PRI Show these colleges took time to speak to the students, encouraging them and educating them on life after high school and the possibilities that await within the automotive industry. A new partner this year, the Universal Technical Institute held a luncheon for teams and staff on Friday before the Elite Eight Showdown kick off.
Over $4.5 million in scholarships opportunities have been awarded this year to Hot Rodders of Tomorrow teams, according to the program.