As the old saying goes, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” However, SAM Tech has taken that idiom, and made it a fallacy, over and over again. The school’s teaching method has always involved being a part of the actual areas of the industry which they are providing instruction in.
Whether it’s being part of record-setting, class-winning drag racing programs or fielding teams for national dyno competitions, the school is ever-present in actual motorsports completion. To quote another idiom, “Competition breeds innovation,” and it also proves that the school is on the cutting-edge of the industry.
After winning the 2019 Engine Masters Challenge Extreme LS division, a second team of students, led by engine building instructor Aaron Kuhn, headed to Charlotte, North Carolina to compete against some of the best engine builders in the industry at the VP Racing Fuel Race Engine Challenge. For this competition, they dusted off a proven combo in the shop – the 403 cubic-inch, SB2-headed small-block Chevy, which won the 2012 Engine Masters Challenge.
“Engine Masters and Race Engine Challenge are always a true test of not only the instructors but also the students,” Kuhn says. “It’s one of the few events where we’re going to be here late working on it. It’s not something we can work on a lot during the day. I definitely didn’t have any weekends off for a while. That’s part of the fun, though, trying to find all the extra power and trying all the different ideas.
With the more restrictive rules in place for this competition, the SAM Tech Race Engine Challenge team had quite a bit of redesigning to do on the engine. “Through the course of development we went through two or three different variations of cams,” says Kuhn. “Little changes were made to intake centerlines, lobe separation, and some minor changes to the lift numbers to stay within the rules of the competition.”
The way the competition is judged affected the team’s overall strategy for the event, since it’s not peak horsepower that earns you points, but rather, average horsepower, through the formula: (Average HP x 1,000) / Displacement in cubic inches = Final Score.
“At one point, we had a camshaft we thought was perfect, but it wasn’t within the rules,” says Jack Druley, one of the students on the REC team. “So we had to modify it to still work and be within the rules. Getting to work on an SB2 engine has been an absolute dream for me. It’s something that not a lot of people get to see, much less work on. Being able to be a part of something like this has been a great experience.”
After the first round of competition, the SAM Tech team found themselves right at the top of the list, with peak numbers of 788 horsepower, 643 lb-ft of torque, and an average power of 665.35. The only engine ahead of them was eight points ahead. That led to a night of “scheming,” as Kuhn calls it, to figure out how to step up their game in the final head-to-head showdown.
After a few tweaks and a significant change in the air, The SAM tech team posted a final score of 1,636.4, which works out to an average horsepower of 659.47 horsepower. Their competitor posted a final score of 1641.2 for a difference that equates to approximately two average horsepower difference for the win.
A silver medal is nothing to scoff at, and a Second-Place finish out of 13 of the strongest engine builders in the industry. The strong showing by Jud Massingil’s school proves that they not only practice what they preach, but that they are staying on the cutting edge of the industry, and aren’t afraid of a challenge.
When you watch the video above, make sure your speakers are up, because there is a lot of sweet, sweet dyno pull symphony in this video.