Hot Rod Power Tour: Day 4

By | June 9, 2015

Ranken Technical College

Day 4 of the Hot Rod Power Tour began in St. Louis, Missouri at Ranken Technical College for some networking and mentoring with students in the Automotive program.  Having gone through a technical program and having been in many technical schools, I can honestly say that Ranken is one of the most impressive programs and facilities I’ve seen.

Ranken Tech Upholstery

Ranken’s program is supported by Toyota, Honda, Ford, and General Motors with many of the students having job placements ready and waiting at graduation.  Programs range from general repair, overhaul, collision repair, and our favorite… performance.  After an excellent tour of the facilities, we had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the students and shed some light on the opportunities that are out there.  In our group we have two custom shop owners, a manufacturer’s rep, a product engineer, and several marketing and sales professionals.  Having worked as a manufacturers rep, I know first hand the great demand for skilled and reliable technicians and having that technical knowledge is a solid foundation and increasingly important and beneficial in almost any job in our industry.

To many young enthusiasts and professionals, SEMA is nothing more than the Waffle Houseannual show in November in Las Vegas.  The fact that SEMA is responsible for the growth, protection, and promotion of the automotive aftermarket is often unknown.  Networking with SEMA members and seeking careers with SEMA member companies is also often a question mark.  As members of the SEMA Young Executives network, we’re happy to help remedy this issue.
After our visit at Ranken, we headed south to Memphis for stop number four of the tour, after a quick stop at Waffle House of course!  Stop four brought with it an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the worlds largest burnout, which was accomplished with 118 cars.  After the show we retired to Beale street, birthplace of the blues where select long haulers displayed their cars.  We enjoyed good food, good company, and of course, great cars.

1955 Chevrolet

Tomorrow the tour route will take us to Birmingham, Alabama where we’ll work with a Local High School and continue our quest to work with future young professionals.








2015 Hot Rod Power Tour: Day 3

By | June 8, 2015

1975 Dodge D100 Wind, hail, and even a tornado slowed us up on day 2 but the sun rose in Champaign, Illinois this morning to mostly clear sky’s and dried out our rides in no time.  We quickly hit the road for Madison, Illinois (just across the river from St. Louis) for stop number 3 at Gateway Motor Speedway.  Instead of autocross this time we got to enjoy some 1/4 mile drags where Hot Rod Power Tour participants got to test their reaction times and horsepower against fellow enthusiasts.  A pair of Chevrolet S10 pickups were the fastest that Keith McWilliams and I saw for the day, tipping the lights at 10.4 and 10.5 seconds.

In search of young enthusiasts and young professionals/future professionals, Keith and I came across Andy from Atlanta Georgia.  Andy and his friend are making the long haul from Madison, WI to Baton Rouge, LA as well in a Fox Body 302 Mustang.  Andy lit up when we told him that we were looking for enthusiasts that wanted to know more about SEMA and getting into the industry.  “I’m definitely interested” he said.  Andy currently works for a restoration shop that specializes in restoring Mercedes-Benz’s, specifically the legendary 300SL Gullwing, one of my favorites.  While Andy’s in the industry, networking with other professionals and SEMA members can help him advance in his career quicker than he would otherwise.

Comp Cams

Keith and I were also able to meet the guys at Fusion Motorsports.  Better known as the dudes that build the Shelby GT500 Eleanor replicas.  They’d been scheduled to show their Shelby that’s making the trip at a drive-in showing of “Gone In 60 Seconds” last night in Champaign but got washed out.  At least we got to learn more about the car in detail at the show in St. Louis.

Tyler Wesley, of Speedway Motors had a chance to visit with Austin Dicus.  Austin is 19 years old and will soon be taking over the family business, Dicus Designs.  The Dicus family runs a custom auto shop and are sponsored by Ford.  They’ve built several one-off builds for Ford that have been featured at the annual SEMA show in Las Vegas, NV.  Austin is only 19 years old and already involved as a SEMA Young Executive.  Bryan Harrison, our SEMA Director of Networks, connected Austin with another YEN member that is with us on the trip, Tim Brueggemann.  Tim runs a successful custom shop in Nebraska and had some good Tips for Austin who is already well on his way in having a positive impact in our industry as a professional and an enthusiast.

SEMA Young Executives Network

The automotive industry is for passionate people and that’s what makes it such a great space to work in.  Our purpose as SEMA Young Executives is to lend a helping hand to those looking to enter the industry.  Looking from the outside in as an enthusiast it can seem impossible, like a dream, only for those with connections and the right amount of luck.  I’ve been there, I know how it feels.  Our goal is to help provide those connections, remove the barriers and misconceptions and help ensure the bright future of the automotive aftermarket.  SEMA’s current crop of young professionals will need to the pass the torch and we’re looking for the enthusiasts that can take us to the next level.



2015 Hot Rod Power Tour: Day 2

By | June 7, 2015

B Line Auto Company

Just as the Hot Rod Power Tour is the Mecca of car cruises, the Midwest is home to some of America’s most extreme weather.  Our group of SEMA Young Executives hit the road this morning at 9:00 AM, in hopes to reach Champaign, Illinois soon after the show at Parkland college opened it’s gates at 12:00 PM.  After a beautiful drive through SE Wisconsin, including Lake Geneva, we had a hospitality stop at Heidts Engineered performance. Heidts, located in Lake Zurich, Illinois, manufacturers and distributes hot rod and muscle car products.  After a brief stop for some food and tour of their facility, we were back on the road.

Heidts Hot Rods

Not long after leaving Lake Zurich, we ran into the mother of all storms.  Lightning (not of the Ford SVT variety) followed us clear to Champaign.  Even now, we are under a tornado warning.  Keith and I took the lead after Heidts in the Stingray and relied on RainX to keep our vision clear.  Tim Brueggemann’s (B-Line Auto) 1953 F100 has some issues with fogging up the windows and so he and Cathy Clark of Bob Cook Sales had some wet backsides by Champaign.  Needless to say, we found which cars had leaks :/.



Stop 2 at Parkside College was called early due to the weather and by the time we go to town, it had been packed up.  We weren’t able to network with any future professionals in our industry but we certainly had an adventure.  Tomorrow we’ll be headed for St. Louis, Missouri.  Follow the rest of our quest to network with the industries young enthusiasts and future professionals with #YenPowerTour!

2015 Hot Rod Power Tour: Day 1

By | June 6, 2015

2015 Hot Rod Power Tour

Several months ago I was selected to join the SEMA Young Executive Network on the 2015 Hot Rod Power Tour.  For any car guy, the Power Tour is a chart topping bucket list item and I have been looking forward to the trip every since.  The Hot Rod Power Tour is touted as the worlds larges road trip.  For those that make the entire trip from start to finish (7 cities in 7 days) it’s over 1,500 miles and in total there are over 2,000 cars making the trip.

Today marks the end of day 1 of #HRPT15 in Madison, Wisconsin.  It was hands down the biggest car show I’ve ever been to.  As a SEMA YEN member, one of my tasks on this trip is to seek out other young enthusiasts and help foster the future of the automotive aftermarket.  The way we see it, the upcoming generation, even my generation, is the future of the industry.


My partner in crime this week will be Keith McWilliams, a product engineer from with the Comp Performance group (commonly known as Comp Cams).  We’re hitting the road in his 1976 Stingray Corvette along with 8 other SEMA Yen Members.  Near the Autocross track, we ran into Zac and & Jess.  A couple of local boys to Madison, WI with a pair of SVT Ford Focus’s.  Finding young enthusiasts under the age of 35 can be tough at a show of this size that is predominantly made up of the older generation that can afford the type of cars that are common to the Hot Rod demographic.  In truth, there is a place for everything at a show this size… as you can see here in the upside down Ford Bronco.

Upside Down BroncoNeither Jess or Zac work in the automotive industry, Zac works in plastic engineering and Jess is in the food service industry.  That doesn’t stop them from being involved.  Both cars completed the autocross course in less than 26 seconds, quite a bit faster than the majority of V8 cars they were up against.  While Zac and Jess don’t work in the industry it doesn’t mean they couldn’t if they wanted to.  The truth is, we need more enthusiasts.

Though I wanted to, I haven’t alway worked in the automotive industry.  A lot of networking in the industry has helped me to achieve many of my career goals and those connections are helping me to advance and gain valuable experience.  More importantly, they are helping me to enjoy my career more every day.  The goal of the SEMA Young Executive Network is to help people like Zac and Jess to realize this and provide networking opportunities for them to get into the industry should they choose.

SEMA Young Executive Network

We met a lot of unique enthusiasts today and will meet a lot more throughout the trip.  Stay tuned for some more in depth stories as we go along and be sure to follow our adventures on Instagram through #YenPowerTour.  You can find me at @ISpeakPerformance.


In Photos: 2015 NASA Utah Round 2

By | May 31, 2015

NASA Utah Region Round 2

NASA Utah Region Round 2

Yes, I know we’re behind in posting these photos..can I blame it on the rain?? How about blaming it on Rio (crude / obscure 80′s reference)??? No??

So, instead of talking about seat time, and learning your car, and advancing you knowledge of performance driving, I’ll just point you to NASA’s website for all the delicious details in what they offer up the wannabe racer to the experience racer.

And for those that attended the event, here are results.

Thanks again to the NASA Utah folks and everyone at Miller Motorsports Park!

[photo | Chance Hales | Mike Gillilan]


Racing Blip: 2015 Chevrolet Sports Car Classic

By | May 30, 2015

No. 5 Action Express Racing @ Belle Isle

No. 5 Action Express Racing @ Belle Isle

Welcome to Motor City – aka Detroit, Michigan! Welcome to the 5th stop on this year’s IMSA/TUDOR schedule.

Similar to Long Beach, at this stop, IMSA/TUDOR is not the headlining event. It’s performing in a supporting role this weekend to IndyCar. For those in attending the race in person, you’ll also be treated to SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road racing and the GT and GTA classes of Pirelli World Challenge running on the same street circuit. And speaking of classes. Only P, PC, and GTD of IMSA/TUDOR are racing on the streets of Belle Isle this weekend. What Happened to GTLM, for most of the teams, they’re off in France prepping for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Some things to look for:

As this is a street race, with no run-off areas, 3 classes running..yeah, there will be some cars kissing the walls. Happened during qualifying, happened during practice sessions, it’ll happened during the race tomorrow.

Also note that this is a shorter race then the “normal” races. At a 100 minutes, this will be more of a sprint race then a moving chess match that is a 12 hour race. Meaning, pit strategy, tire strategy, driver changes are less of an issue.

In P (prototype), a good battle between WTR Racing and Action Express Racing, lap after lap with the two swapping places for faster lap. In the end, Action Express Racing, at the hands of Christian Fittipaldi, turned the fastest lap – to the tune of 0.05 secs faster then Ricky Taylor of WTR Racing.

In PC (prototype challenge), the battle for pole came down to the VERY last lap. With the No. 38 Ric-Man Detroit ORECA edging out RSR Racing by 0.004 seconds. Let that sink in for a moment. 4/1000ths of a second separates first and second place car in this spec class!

The race starts on today (5/30/15) at 12:05pm ET – head on over to IMSA for the verity of ways to view this race.

And this wouldn’t be a racing blip without a link to the spotters guide!

[photo | IMSA]