NASCAR Cup Series
How to watch 2023 Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown
Nov 7, 2023
The Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown brings together Hendrick Motorsports team members with Hendrick Automotive Group technicians, leading to both intense competition and newfound friendships.
While the NASCAR Cup Series season wrapped up on Sunday, there is at least one more victory being chased at Hendrick Motorsports this week.
On Wednesday and Thursday, November 8 and 9, the Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown takes place. The competition pairs 12 Hendrick Certified Master Technicians from dealerships across the country with 12 team members from the Hendrick Motorsports engine department.
The Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown puts a spotlight on the team members working tirelessly in the shop during the season to power the team’s NASCAR entries.
“We have a wonderful group of guys that work hard and do a great job,” said Kevin Webber of Hendrick Motorsports. “People come through and see just how complicated it is behind the scenes. We’re not just a bunch of grease monkeys. We’re trained technicians that are highly skilled.”
While those team members are the “experts” at putting together the 358-cubic-inch Chevrolet engines that resemble the powerplants utilized in the NASCAR Cup Series, the Hendrick Automotive Group technicians step their game up every year in Webber’s eyes.
“They keep getting better because we video it every year, and it’s on the internet. People are able to watch closely at what other people are doing, how they’re doing, how they might do it different. The Hendrick Automotive Group keeps getting better and better, and we keep seeing returning guys, too.”
Roger Mesiemore, the vice president of fixed operations at Hendrick BMW Charlotte, believes the ability to pair the Hendrick Automotive Group technicians with Hendrick Motorsports is part of what makes the event special.
There’s really no other event that brings together the two entities like this. You have the opportunity for our technicians to enter the campus, the world, the culture of Hendrick Motorsports.
“There’s just no other opportunity to do this at this level. The beauty of it is, a lot of relationships develop out of it that will last for a lifetime.”
One example of that is Kelly Brandt, the technical team lead and service center shop foreman at Rick Hendrick Chevrolet in Charleston, South Carolina. In 2017, Brandt won the Engine Builder Showdown while teamed with Danny Emerick. While they are both in this year’s contest on separate teams, they have remained friends since that victory.
“It’s such a great team-building thing between Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group,” said Brandt. “I’ve met some people that have become lifetime friends. Danny Emerick and I keep in touch after we won the competition. He’s such an intelligent guy and he has a passion for being the best.
“I love that, because I feel like I’ve always been the same way. Why do it if you can’t be the best? Whether it’s working on cars, playing a sport, cleaning a toilet, I don’t care. Let’s try to be the best.”
A massive adjustment for all of the competitors is the race to build the engine. When traditionally their job requires precise work to ensure a reliable product, the Engine Builder Showdown demands that the 243-piece puzzle comes together in less than 30 minutes. The record build in the competition was 21 minutes and 40 seconds in 2014.
“It has to run for a minute once you’re done,” explained Brandt. “You get docked any time you leave something loose or something isn’t torqued properly. It’s very easy to go quick and leave things loose and then lose the competition at the end if you’re not being thorough.”
“It really is hard to get your mind around that, especially if you’re a gearhead and understand the workings of an engine, how the tolerance works, how the torque works and all of that,” added Mesiemore. “We have to tell our folks, throw all of that out. This is a puzzle, slam it together as quickly as you can. It only has to run 60 seconds.”
In the end, everyone involved is a competitor at heart. While the Engine Builder Showdown takes place on a shop floor instead of a race track, the energy and excitement is no different than race day.
“It’s probably the most exciting event we do on an annual basis,” said Mesiemore. “When you get in that room and the energy level raises, there’s all of a sudden, a distinct smell to it, and sounds to it that get you excited. We had one guy record the starting of the engine and make it his ringtone. It’s just so unique and such an experience you can immerse yourself into.”