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NASCAR Tech students build winning engines

By Deb Williams
Correspondent
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/22/13/18/w6ApK.Em.138.jpeg|254
    - NASCAR TECH
    David Tukua, a student at the NASCAR Technical Institute, works on a spec engine.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/22/13/18/1fRaDh.Em.138.jpeg|238
    - NASCAR TECH
    Doug Wolfe, left, an instructor at the NASCAR Technical Institute, watches as student David Tukua works on a spec engine.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/22/13/18/1ktOP0.Em.138.jpeg|285
    - NASCAR TECH
    A spec engine built by students at the NASCAR Technical Institute.

One championship, 14 victories and three rookie-of-the-year awards in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East are accolades that could belong to most any professional engine building company.

Instead, they came about through the work of students attending Mooresville’s NASCAR Technical Institute.

It was a request from Tom Busch – NASCAR drivers Kurt and Kyle Busch’s father – for the school to build an engine for his NASCAR K&N Series entry that spawned the idea for the program, which was created in 2009.

“We (NASCAR Tech) had purchased a few spec engines to use in the NASCAR classes and we decided to partner with Rev Racing, NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity team,” John Dodson, the school’s vice president of NASCAR and community relations, said. “They ran four cars, so our engines powered them to victory seven times in 2011.”

“Spec” engines are built to specific rules using parts that have been pre-approved.

The students’ engines also powered Kyle Larson to the K&N Pro Series East championship and rookie title in 2012, and Jesse Little to rookie honors in 2013. Alex Bowman earned K&N Pro Series East rookie of the year in 2011 with the students’ powerplants.

Entering the 2014 season, NASCAR Tech student-built engines boast a 30 percent winning average. K&N Pro Series East teams using the students’ engines this year are Team Little Racing, Rev Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises and Bill McAnally Racing.

Doug Wolfe, a veteran engine builder who formerly supplied engines to the late Dale Earnhardt when he competed in NASCAR’s Busch Series, oversees the 65 to 75 students that participate annually in the invitation-only program.

Students desiring to participate in the program must provide a signed letter of intent, have excellent attendance, a 98 percent grade in professionalism and a 3.8 GPA in the school’s core auto program. The must also be enrolled in the NASCAR program, which is a division of Universal Technical Institute. The applications for the spec engine building program are reviewed by a panel of instructors and education managers.

Dodson said the engines the students work on are not always a start-to-finish build because the NASCAR Tech courses are three weeks in length.

“A student will be at the school for about a year to a year-and-a-half, taking many three-week courses covering many different auto subjects,” Dodson said. “The NASCAR Engines 1 course is three weeks like all of the others, and top students in this course get to go into the spec-engine program. When they get into the spec-engine program the engines are in various stages of production. In most cases the students get to participate in start-to-finish builds, but sometimes the amount of engines being produced and the race schedule dictates the program of work.”

Students currently in the school’s only honors program have been preparing engines for the K&N Pro Series East season opener Feb. 16 at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway. Sixteen races comprise the 2014 K&N Pro Series East season, which concludes Sept. 26 at Dover.

Turner Scott announcement

Brandon Jones and Ben Rhodes, who each drove part time for Mooresville-based Turner Scott Motorsports last season, will return full-time this year in NASCAR’s K&N Pro Series East series.

Also joining the driver roster for the 2014 K&N season are Kaz Grala, Cameron Hayley and Scott Heckert.

Last year, in its inaugural season in the K&N Pro Series East, TSM captured a total of six victories and three poles en route to taking the championship with Dylan Kwasniewski.

Deb Williams is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Deb? Email her at dwilliamscltobs@gmail.com.
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