It’s hard to believe that five years of the Performance Engine Builder of the Year competition have already gone by. We’ve had the luxury of seeing some extremely qualified candidates both win and lose.
The 2016 competition was again sponsored by Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ brands Speed-Pro POWERFORGED Pistons and Fel-Pro Performance Gaskets. The winner of the 2016 performance category was Larry Pritchett, of Mid-South Racing Engines in Clarkrange, TN. Pritchett was presented the award by Engine Builder magazine publisher/editor Doug Kaufman at a press conference Friday, December 8, 2016 at the Performance Racing Industry Show (PRI) in Indianapolis.
Mid-South Racing Engines is owned by Pritchett’s daughter Elizabeth and son-in-law Ian Landies Jr. Pritchett started his career as a drag racer, racing in Stock Eliminator, Super Stock and Comp Eliminator series. Along the way he also built winning race engines leading to 30 race wins and 32 records in NHRA competition. His need for speed and his appetite to always go faster developed at an early age.
“All my life I’ve been interested in cars,” Pritchett says. “When I got out of high school, I got married to my wife Eunice, and went to vocational school for mechanics. When I got out of vocational school I got involved with making race engines and making them run better and faster.”
Most of the engines that Pritchett has done over the years have been specialty type engines. In 1990, he started racing Competition Eliminator and to this day he still does a lot of engines in Comp, Super Stock, Super Gas and series like those.
“In 2006, my son-in law Ian Landies, Jr., decided we needed a shop to work out of to be more versatile,” Pritchett says. “We have a state-out-the-art honing machine and a dyno and we do a lot of the work ourselves now. We build some circle track motors, some super stock motors, a few competition eliminator engines, and some pulling truck motors. It’s just me, my son-in law and my daughter, Elizabeth.”
Back in the early days, whatever machine work Larry couldn’t do he had to take it elsewhere to get done. His shop now has a honing machine, a Bridgeport, a lathe, a cylinder boring machine, as well as block deck, intake and head surfacing machines, and a good dyno.
Mid-South Racing Engines is a customer of Federal-Mogul’s, but Pritchett also utilizes parts from Diamond, CP-Carillo, Trend, VP Racing Fuel, T&D Rocker Arms, MBE cylinder heads, Jericho Performance, Dyers Rods, Manley, Crower crankshafts, Jesel and others. “I’m sure I’m leaving somebody out,” he says.
While Larry enjoys doing engine work, he is extremely passionate about putting the engine to use in his racing.
“My favorite class is Competition Eliminator,” he says. “I still run and I’m still competitive in it. I just set the record last season in AC Modified at Rockingham at 7.75 seconds in the 1/4 – mile with a naturally-aspirated engine that makes 1000 hp. I’m still active in racing and I like it. I don’t know how much longer I can do it, but I like it. Racing is a lot of work just like building engines for people is a lot of work.”
Larry says he has no plans of stopping his racing activities any time soon, but he did hint that once his 4-year-old grandson Joseph is old enough to drive, maybe he would hand off the keys to the racecar. “It’s still too early to tell what he’ll want to do, but we’ll see,” Pritchett says.
As winner of the 2016 Performance Engine Builder of the Year, Pritchett received a cash prize, a recognition wall plaque, two nights lodging during the 2016 PRI Show, as well as a prize package from Federal-Mogul Motorparts’ brands Speed-Pro POWERFORGED Pistons and Fel-Pro Performance Gaskets.
“We’re definitely one of the little guys who do this kind of work, so it meant a lot to me that I was named the winner,” he says. “It was a humbling experience to even be mentioned with some of the other winners of this award. I was honestly shocked to learn I was even considered, let alone be the winner, so I’m extremely grateful and thankful that I was chosen. So many of those other guys run a bigger facility and they work on more engines than I do, so it leaves me without words to be in this position.”
Mid-South Racing Engines doesn’t have elaborate plans to expand or purchase any new machinery next year, but Larry and his son-in-law do plan to continue to work on engines to make them run faster and win more races.
“We plan to keep striving to make motors run better, faster and make more power for our customers. If we can keep the work flowing between Ian and I, we would both be happy with that.”