Sealed Engine Alliance Leaders (S.E.A.L.) announced a change Wednesday that has created quite the stir in the Super Late Model world.
Following an off-season dyno test, S.E.A.L. announced that all Hamner sealed engines must now use a 1.350” restrictor plate in order to achieve the competitive balance the organization is charged with ensuring.
When making the announcement, S.E.A.L. described a “slight increase in performance” in the Hamner sealed engine that required them to “take a small action” to level the playing field with other engine builders.
S.E.A.L. consists of industry leaders from some of the most prominent Super Late Model touring series in North America. Members of the committee include R.J. Scott of the Champion Racing Association (CRA), Tim Bryant of the Southern Super Series and Snowball Derby, Greg McKarns of the ARCA Midwest Tour, Larry Collins of the SPEARS SRL Southwest Tour Series, Jack McNelly of the CARS Tour and technical inspector Ricky Brooks.
In the press release issued by S.E.A.L., Brooks acknowledged that the slight increase in performance would not equate to an advantage at most of the short tracks that Super Late Model compete at. However, he explained that the restrictor will put the performance of the Hamner engine back in the range of others when Super Late Models visit the bigger tracks in the country.
Speed51.com spoke with Justin Oertel, the owner of Hamner Racing Engines, Thursday afternoon to discuss the decision made by S.E.A.L.
“Whether I’m okay with (the decision) or not, it’s not about what I want. It’s what the racers want,” Oertel began. “I don’t believe it’s fair. I’m going to get to the bottom of it and fix this problem. It’s a program that has been broken for many years and never had a sense of direction or anything in black and white to say what engine builders – including Hamner, Progressive and McGunegill – they never had nothing in writing to say what you could or couldn’t use for parts in motors and what was legal and wasn’t legal.
“It wasn’t that we used anything illegal in any of our motors, it’s just that we put more time and preparation into building better quality and reliability for our customers. We’re being penalized for that.”
Oertel attended the meeting with S.E.A.L. and the other engine manufacturers Monday afternoon.
“We can go on for hours about the situation, what happened, what brought it to this and why it is the way it is. The process that they did, was it unfair? I can’t say it was unfair or it was fair. I don’t believe that the tests were done the way they should have been done at a neutral facility where guys could actually get a fair chance with what was going on. Whether our stuff is bad or Progressive’s stuff is bad, there is another way to go about doing this and I intend to do it that way with all the motors.”
When asked by Speed51, Oertel was not able to present numbers in regards to the horsepower advantage found with the Hamner Racing Engines during the dyno test. However, he did indicate that the dyno test was completed at RW Racing Engines, a Seymour, Tennessee based company owned by Robbie White, a competitor in the engine builder business.
“There are a lot of rumors out there that go from three horsepower to sixteen horsepower,” he said. “Does anybody know the exact numbers of what it really was except for the people that attended there and a piece of paper that they showed us? What’s the truth to this? What made those horsepower numbers? Was everything consistent? Did all of the motors have the same parts in them? You have four different engine builders. The whole purpose is to not have the same stuff. Why can’t we build a product that is better than something else so people do buy it? Obviously, that’s what this is all about.”
Since the announcement has been made public, a number of drivers – most notably those who use Hamner engines – have been vocal about their displeasure with the new rule.
One driver who planned to compete in this weekend’s Rattler 250, the season opener for the Southern Super Series, went as far as to say he’ll be skipping this weekend’s event due to the rule change.
“The (Approved Body Committee) and Sealed Engine Alliance leaders are turning Super Late Model racing into crate racing,” Donnie Wilson said via his Facebook page. “All of these engine builders are winning races every year but all of a sudden making one engine builder run restrictors, which in my opinion is totally BS.
“Four different engine combos can’t make the same (horsepower) and torque. We all know that. But at the end of the day all of them are winning races and they want to handicap one of them. This is unacceptable in my book, maybe the other (three) engine builders should work harder on their product. My (two) cents.”
Bubba Pollard, who recently spearheaded a passionate meeting at CRA SpeedFest about the future of Late Model racing, also chimed in on his Twitter page.
“Everyone can say all they want to about Hamner Race Engine, but at the (end) of the day they are still going to kick your cry-baby a----,” Pollard said.
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Noah Gragson, whose Hamner engine was one of those taken to the dyno following his victory in December’s Snowball Derby, also shared his thoughts on the new rule.
“Everyone (two) months ago saying Ty Majeski should have won the Derby because he ‘dominated’ the race and had bad pit stop at the end,” Gragson began. “We beat him off pit road running third all race. Now they are saying that my Hammer motor is what got the (Snowball) Derby win. Pick one or the other people.”
He later went on to Tweet a photo of himself with the Tom Dawson Trophy at Five Flags Speedway.
“Thanks Hamner Racing Engines. #Legal #HardWork.”
Stephen Nasse, a driver who rarely shies away from controversy, added his two cents into the discussion.
“So you’re saying the other three engine builders should cheat like Hamner did to get more power? It’s simple. They all definitely do it, but the point is of it being LEGAL, 18 (horsepower) is a ton.
“You and I both know that and to say that (it) hasn’t helped every Hamner motor win the races it has over the past two years is silly. Cheaters get tossed. It’s as simple as that and that’s why they are doing.”
Nick Murgic, who owns a Hamner engine, attempted to shed a little bit of light on the situation and explained why he believes the Hamner engine out-performed the competition on the dyno.
“I don’t have all the info but a few years ago, they had cast intakes. As the years went by, they updated out of necessity due to the manufacturer not producing the original part,” Murgic explained. “They now have a CNC ported intake that, no doubt, makes more power that originally intended by the S.E.A.L. committee. There may be more parts like that, but they are probably negligible in the power department. I bet if the other manufacturers could bolt a CNC’d intake on their motors they’d be more than happy to, but this methodology of leveling the playing field makes the most sense economically speaking.”
When asked about Murgic’s assessment, Oertel claimed that every engine manufacturer in the market had the opportunity to use the same approved parts.
“Say you bought a Hamner motor and it goes to Progressive and that customer wants to get it freshened up. He’s unhappy with Hamner and wants to change or jumps ship so he takes it over there and they rebuild the engine with all of our same parts in there. If that motor is rebuilt and redone and has all Hamner parts in it – heads, intakes, pistons, all that good stuff in there – what’s the difference? Everybody else has all our stuff on their motors anyways.
“There is different things but everything that was done or changed on any motors that we have done, there has been an approval on it. Has the approval process been right? No, that’s what’s been messed up for twenty years. It was always agreed upon by one person making the decision. That one person, and I’m not going to blame that one person, that one person had a lot of stuff thrown at his lap and a lot of responsibility to take on when it shouldn’t have been that way.
“I’ve been working with Ricky Brooks, CRA and everybody that was part of this committee to resolve this situation. They have been very cooperative listening to me to resolve this. There are a lot of suggestions that I made that they are going to move forward with to get these restrictor plates off, get to the bottom of what is wrong and what is right, and help the future of the S.E.A.L. program before it is ruined.”
The Rattler 250 this Sunday, March 17 will be the first race with the restrictor rule in place for Hamner sealed engines
Oertel told Speed51.com that he does believe adding the restrictor on the engines will have a big impact on the performance of the Hamner engines. As a result, he’s now flying south to Alabama to assist his customers and deal with the situation this weekend.
“What’s happening right now is a lot of the guys aren’t going to the race track because of the disadvantage that they’re going to have with this restrictor. It’s going to hurt in ways and it’s not going to hurt in ways, some places are going to be worse than others. They haven’t had restrictors or had this problem in twenty years and now all of a sudden somebody is b------- about it and now they want to say, ‘Let’s choke these guys a little bit and slow them down.’
“They’ve got a lot of people upset over it. I’ve got to fix it for the racer’s side of it. My side of it being a race car driver, to owning teams and now owning a lot of these facilities that manufacture and build a lot of this different stuff in the racing industry. It’s my job to fix it for all the racers out there, whether I like them or not I’m going to go to bat for them and get this taken care of, get to the bottom of it and make it right again. Fix this S.E.A.L. program, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Speed51.com will continue to cover this story and will deliver updates as they become available.
Technical Inspector Ricky Brooks has agreed through text messages to appear on Speed51’s The Morning Bullring Monday morning at 7 a.m. ET to discuss his knowledge of the situation.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51