After more than 4 decades, the Rahilly brothers still enjoy building race engines
07/29/2014 12:00 AM
07/23/2014 11:27 AM
Ever since brothers Bob and Dick Rahilly were teenagers, constructing powerful racing engines has consumed their lives and provided them with hundreds of trips to victory lane in several forms of racing.
Their efforts began with late-models in south Florida, grew to include off-shore powerboats, then migrated to North Carolina and NASCAR’s Winston Cup circuit.
From 1978-92, Bob Rahilly and Butch Mock co-owned Concord-based Rahmoc Enterprises, a team on NASCAR’s top circuit that fielded cars for drivers including Neil Bonnett, Dave Marcis and Lake Speed. Their victories included the Coca-Cola 600, a Daytona qualifying race, the Busch Clash and a NASCAR exhibition race in Australia.
However, when Bob Rahilly and Mock dissolved their partnership and Mock formed his own Cup team in 1993, the Rahilly brothers decided to again make engine construction their sole business.
Today, Concord-based Rahmoc Racing Engines possesses track records at the majority of speedways on NASCAR’s Whelen Southern Modified Tour and at Winston-Salem’s Bowman Gray Stadium. Drivers using their potent engines lead the Southern Modified and Bowman Gray Stadium standings.
During the last seven years, Rahmoc engines have helped win three modified championships at Bowman Gray with driver Tim Brown and three in the Whelen modified tour.
One of the Whelen titles came with Mooresville resident L.W. Miller, and the other two with George Brunnhoelzl III. Brown also produced the only sub-13-second lap at Bowman Gray with a Rahmoc engine, running the flat quarter-mile track in 12.96 seconds.
“When they throw sand on me I hope somebody reminds them (of that), because that was a big one for me,” said Bob Rahilly, 61, who lives in a condominium in uptown Charlotte. “Bowman Gray is very, very important to me.”
The Rahillys also furnish engines for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s two late-model teams. Josh Berry piloted his JR Motorsports late model to the track championship at Motor Mile (Va.) Speedway in 2012.
“I remember being in the pits at Charlotte when I was in my mid-20s and Dale Earnhardt was just a kid in his 20s,” Bob Rahilly said. “It’s kinda cool now that we’re building engines for Junior’s late-model team. That means a lot to us.”
The two Rahillys also take care of Jim Rosenblum’s entry in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, and assist Bryan Dauzat with his ARCA entry.
It’s the modifieds, however, that get their primary focus. The brothers have 12 to 15 modified engine customers and around 25 engines in the field that they rotate. Dick Rahilly said they gravitated to the modifieds because they were the closest thing to the racing the two watched as children.
“We watched super modifieds race in south Florida, and the modifieds are very similar to what an old super modified used to be,” said the 59-year-old Dick Rahilly, who lives in Concord. “Cup racing was strictly business, a lot of money on the line and a lot of pressure.
“I think a lot of the problems we had when we raced our Cup team were the result of us being a very small team, 18 to 20 people at the maximum. The workload we took on led to sleep deprivation and an enormous amount of stress. It wore everybody out. It was a very difficult life.”
The brothers still work about 60 hours a week, but both say they’re having fun.
“Every time we take an engine apart, we advance and make gains,” said Dick Rahilly, who built his first engine at age 13. “If I take apart an engine I built one year ago or 18 months ago, to me it looks obsolete, and there’s room for improvement.”
Bob Rahilly built his first engine at 15, and he still finds the profession challenging.
“I know that doesn’t make sense,” Bob said. “How can you do something for 40 years and it still have challenges? But I think what it boils down to is we keep asking more of the engine. The drive to be better is what keeps it interesting.”
Bob Rahilly says building engines actually was a hobby that grew into a profession.
“We started out when we were kids building engines for local late-model stocks around South Florida,” Bob Rahilly said. “Then in the late ’70s, early ’80s, we built a lot of offshore powerboat racing engines, and we won races all over the world with them. We were also doing a lot of stock car racing.”
In 1985, the brothers moved to North Carolina to be closer to the Cup team they then fielded with Mock. Today, Bob said he and Dick complement each other.
“He’s probably a little more balanced than I am,” Bob Rahilly said. “When I start to get off-balance, he can step in and say, ‘No. Slow down. Let’s get back to basics.’
“Our dad was an orthopedic surgeon, and I think we were bred to work with our hands. We can fix anything and we can make anything out of nothing. Dick and I aren’t in business to be a production line. We try to build the best product we can.
“Personally, I draw a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that we give our customers, in terms of dollars, the best bang for their buck. That philosophy has kept me busy and it’s kept me broke.”
One day the brothers probably will decide to stop building race engines, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop working on powerplants.
“We’ve got lots of engines to build,” Bob Rahilly said with a grin. “We’ve got about 50 old-time engines from cars in the ’50s that I’ve got stored away in a barn that I’ve been collecting for 20 years. When we get really old and no one wants us anymore, we’re just going to dig one out each month and rebuild it until we can’t work anymore.”
Concord’s fall series begins next month
Concord Speedway’s fall series for Bandoleros, Legends and Mini Cup kicks off Aug. 8 at the quarter-mile track.
Bandoleros and Legends will be the only classes competing on opening day, with Mini Cup joining the schedule on Aug. 9. The fall series runs through Nov. 2.
Monster trucks return to Dirt Track at Charlotte
The Back-to-School Monster Truck Bash at the Dirt Track at Charlotte is scheduled for Aug. 9. The 11-foot tall, 2,000-horsepower machines are expected to compete in head-to-head challenges and in freestyle.
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