CONCORD, N.C. – Move over Jeff Gordon, there’s another four-time champion at Hendrick Motorsports.
Engine builder Danny Emerick, paired with technician Keenan Lau, captured his fourth consecutive title in the annual Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown Wednesday on the campus of Hendrick Motorsports.
Gordon won four Cup titles and 93 races with Hendrick before retiring as a full-time competitor in NASCAR in 2015.
Emerick and Lau beat HMS engine tuner Brian Franklin and technician Patrick Ashford in the finals with a time of 25 min., 2 sec.
Franklin and Ashford completed their task in 27 min, 40 sec.
Teams must assemble the 243 engine parts and successfully fire the engine, which must run for 60 seconds. Failure to tighten bolts/nuts and other oversights result in penalties.
Emerick, who has now won with four different technicians, said preparation is the key to success.
“I study,” he said. “I go back and look at all the footage from every build, break it down bit by bit. If somebody’s faster than me in one segment, I’ll find out why and then I try to work on that. Over time you just try to optimize every little area.
“I have videos to watch that I commentate, show him ‘hey this is a common mistake.’ Give him a lot of information. Some other competitors go to that level, some don’t. I wear it on my shoulders that he’s prepared. If he leaves something loose, I treat it as if I left it loose because I didn’t prepare him.”
The Showdown, now in its 17th year, pairs 12 HMS engine department employees with 12 certified master technicians from Hendrick Automotive Group dealerships. Lau is employed at Hendrick Lexus North Lake.
The competition consists of two rounds with the fastest two teams in the qualifying round advancing to the championship.
Lau said he knew Emerick was a past winner before the pairings were announced on Monday evening.
“There were a few guys I was keeping my eye on and hoping I would get,” Lau said. “He was definitely on top (of the list). Before we even knew we were paired together, we were sitting in the audience just talking with each other and just hit it off. When we heard our names, we were like ‘Awesome. it’s on; game on now.’
It was Lau’s first Showdown appearance; nerves weren’t an issue, he said.
“I tried to keep my cool, tried to stick to my normal routine. Just go into it knowing that I know what I’m doing,” he said.
Randy Dorton was head of the HMS engine department, joining the organization in the mid-1980s. He was one of 10 people killed in a 2004 airplane crash near Martinsville, Va.
“Randy Dorton was the foundation of this place,” Rick Hendrick told those in attendance Wednesday. “We had like six people, this little engine shop. He helped build it, not just the engine shop but the whole organization. These guys pay tribute to him every day. It’s such a nice way to present the best of the best and have a build-off in Randy’s name.
“These are the best engine builders in racing in the world. And the best technicians in the world. To get here, you’re not a loser.”
Emerick and Lau advanced to the finals with a Wednesday morning qualifying time of 24 min., 39 sec. The time include a penalty time of 1 min., 30 sec.
Franklin and Ashford advanced with a qualifying time of 24 min., 40 sec. on Tuesday.
Emerick and Scott Vester are the only multi-time winners of the Showdown. Vester, an engine assembler, is a five-time winner.
It’s a mark Emerick likely knows.
“We get invited to do this,” Emerick said. “You can decline if you want but I don’t think I ever have. I’d like to get one more win.
“Everybody wants to win; you’ve got to outwork the next guy.”
Hendrick Motorsports fields four teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: The No. 48 Chevrolet for seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson; the No. 9 of Chase Elliott, the No. 88 of Alex Bowman and the No. 24 for William Byron.