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Showdown Pits Engine Builders Against Themselves

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For the 1,500 members of the cheering crowd, the battle was between two teams of professional engine builders, both of which have enjoyed great success building engines for some of NASCAR’s most popular – and successful – drivers.

For Lanny Barnes and Mike Maiwald, though, the real challenge wasn’t to beat the other, but NOT to be beaten by themselves.

Barnes, engine builder for Richard Childress Racing’s NASCAR Busch Series team, and Maiwald, who builds engines for Hendrick Motorsports’ NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams, faced off against each other in the final round of the Clevite Engine Builder Showdown at the NASCAR Technical Institute on Tuesday, May 25. With $20,000 and a year’s-worth of bragging rights on the line, the pressure to do the job right was tremendous.

How long would it take you to assemble a 351 cid Ford NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series racing engine? How about with legendary NASCAR owner Richard Childress or Crew Chief Chad Knaus (of the No. 48 Lowe’s team on NASCAR’s senior circuit) breathing down your neck? And remember, not only do you have to put the pieces together, you have to make the engine crank, start and run for a full minute.

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To speed the process, certain components are pre-assembled. for example, the rods and rings are installed on the pistons; valves and springs are installed in the heads; and bearings are pre-inserted. But most of the components – including the crank, main caps, carburetor, spark plugs and oil pan as well as nearly 150 assorted bolts, studs and fasteners await assembly.

Could you do it all in less than 20 minutes? Lanny Barnes did.

In fact, in less than 19 minutes, the engine built by Barnes and partner Todd Hamm roared to life, followed only seconds later by the engine built by Maiwald and partner Shane Parsnow. Following the required one-minute of run time, the engines stopped and the clocks held at 19:52 for Barnes and 20:33 for Maiwald.

What appeared to be a record-shattering build time was subject to the post-build inspection. Both teams waited anxiously while inspectors from Clevite Engine Parts tore the Fords down looking for infractions.

As SPEED TV captured the event for broadcast in July, the results were announced: Barnes had cross-threaded an oil pan nut, resulting in a one-minute penalty. Unfortunately, a loose intake manifold nut cost Maiwald a one-minute penalty as well, so the RCR team was victorious.

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Obviously, the Clevite Engine Builder Showdown does not translate directly to the real world. You may not have cheering crowds watching you work, and you may never need to build an engine in less than 20 minutes. But symbolically, it offers a valuable lesson:

Don’t judge your shop’s performance on what your competition is doing. Continue to do the best job you can, paying attention to the little details. You never know which seemingly insignificant part of your day can have a positive impact on your business.

Doug Kaufman, editor of Engine Builder magazine, thanks the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC, and its students for being such great hosts during the final round of the Showdown. You can reach Doug at: [email protected]

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