Six-time and defending Randy Dorton Engine Builder Showdown champion Scott Vester first won this event in 2006, noting that terrific partner communication is key. Vester teamed with Jeffrey Heinz of Hendrick Chevrolet in Cary, North Carolina to win last year’s event with an impressive build time of 22 minutes, 58 seconds. Personally, Vester says that his parents have always taught him to strive to be a better person than the day before. One of the coolest things in his NASCAR Cup Series career at Hendrick Motorsports has been the ability to be a part of winning so many championships. Vester talked about what advice he gives, “The best advice for a new technician is to stay positive. That mentality will take you farther in life.” Vester would like to visit all 50 states and his favorite car is one he doesn’t have to work on. He is dating his girlfriend Leslie and together they have a son named Weston.
Joe Gagatch, a service technician since 1984, has been married to his high school sweetheart for 31 years, they met when they were 14. Together they have three boys, Nick, 27, is a First Sergeant in the Us Marine Corp. Joseph, 25, is a construction project manager for a large construction company. Matthew, 19, is serving in the US Army currently. This will be Joe’s fourth time competing in the Randy Dorton Engine Builder Showdown. In 2017, Sam Vernatter and Joe placed third which is his best finish to date. “From my previous experience, I have learned that preparation is very important. I am fortunate to be from a shop that has produced several participants including one champion (Anthony Dowless participating again as an alternate) and Jerry Hilson who was a competitor many times,” Gagatch said. “We take this very seriously. We train and practice. We have fabricated practice props to help us prepare. I am very excited and blessed to be a competitor again this year. Fewer nerves and more confidence this time.”
Joshua is married to his wife Lillian, together they have one child named, Lawson. Speir competed in 2015 and has worked in support since 2013. Over his years competing and observing he has learned that it takes teamwork, lots of focus and tool placement to be a top contender. The North Carolina resident is very thankful to be a part of Hendrick Motorsports. The family values Mr. Hendrick instills throughout the organization have influenced Joshua’s outlook on his career. One of his biggest career accomplishments has been being part of Chase Elliot’s first championship in 2020. Speir’s favorite vehicle is a Mustang, he grew up around them and enjoys the driving experience. In the future, Joshua would like to go to the Grand Canyon. “Listen to the old-timers you might learn a few things,” Speir states.
Jonathan Wock, who will be celebrating 34 years with his wife in December, have two, twin adult children who recently graduated from college. Drew graduated in December while Rachel walked across the aisle this past May. (The Wock’s are now empty nesters!) Jonathan has competed in several Engine Builder Showdowns over the last 20 years, 2002-2006, 2012 and most recently in 2017. Wock recounted his previous builds, “I have to say the EBS is always fun and has always left me with the thought that I want another try.” “In my career as an automotive technician, many people have influenced and helped me become a better technician. In my first year with Hendrick Automotive Group, I had a mentor that helped me many times with decisions and diagnostic experience he was willing to share. In the years since, the largest impact in my career was the service managers that invested in my training to make me a better technician. I’m excited to continue to grow and become better until I’m no longer in the field.” Jonathan’s favorite vehicle is a motorcycle.
Tyrus Gillen competed in 2015 and has assisted with the teardown team. Over the years, the biggest thing Gillen has learned is that communication is key, “You need to communicate with your partner the entire time during the build.” One of his best career accomplishments has been winning races with his childhood hero, Jeff Gordon. When asked about his career, Tyrus offered some inspirational advice, “When starting in this industry my advice is to stay hungry. Never stop learning and always be willing to pass your knowledge to someone new. “David Evans has been the most influential person in my career. He gave me my start at Hendrick Motorsports,” Tyrus added. On the personal side, Gillen loves anything Chevrolet and would love to one day play at St. Andrews golf course.
Patrick Ashford is married to wife, Angela. Together they have three kids, Emily, Kylie, and Grant and a golden doodle named Ellie. He competed in the 2011 and 2018 Randy Dorton Engine Builder Showdowns, finished second both times, “I have learned that teamwork and endurance are very important to perform at a high level in the engine build competition.” Ashford credits his service manager, Kam Cheung, much of his success. Having worked with Kam at Gwinnett Place Honda for almost 13 years, Kam embodies Hendrick Automotive Group’s core values, he cares about everyone and if there is anything he can do for you he will. “When starting as a technician, automotive training and education need to be focused on,” Patrick said. “Being able to compete in the Engine Builder Showdown is one of the coolest opportunities. Hendrick Automotive Group is the only company that would do something like this for its technicians.” Patrick’s favorite car is his Ford Bronco. It was the first car he got 27 years ago and hopes to one day fully restore it.
Sam Vernatter has been married to his wife Ashley for 11 years. They have two children, James 7 and Gabe 3. He has competed in 13 previous Engine Builder Showdowns and expects to win during his 14th. “Communication with your partner during the build is the most important aspect of the build. Pre-build plans generally go awry within the first few minutes and being able to adapt is the key to success. Tool management is also paramount. Mistakes can be minimized if partners communicate and aren't looking for tools and focus on the build.” Vernatter advises. Vernatter advises anyone starting in their career to listen to the older teammates that have experience. They can help steer you in the correct direction both professionally and personally. Away from work, Vernatter is excited to check a bucket list item off in 2023 when he goes elk hunting out West with his dad. One of the best moments of his career was eating BBQ ribs with Dale Earnhardt Jr. in his hauler at Talladega.
Lee Steffensen is married to his wonderful wife, Deanna. Together they have a 13-year-old daughter named Brianah. Lee has completed in the 2015 and 2018 Engine Builder Showdowns, stating that the Engine Builder Showdown is the coolest experience of his career. Steffensen enjoys being able to see more of the company than you normally would get an opportunity to see and the experience along with the drag racing is always a highlight for him. “Speed and correctness are the biggest factors in competing,” Lee said. “You have to go as fast as you can, but you need to only go as fast as possible without making a mistake. Mistakes cause penalties, and penalties will kill your time.” Steffensen talked about the advice he gives to younger people, “The best advice I can give a starting technician is you have to slow down to speed up. That means slow down and make sure you are doing your job correctly. Once you get good at your job you will naturally get faster at it.” Lee’s favorite cars to work on are Toyotas.
Jason Ingle grew up in Alabama and served in the Army for eight years before starting work at Hendrick Motorsports in 2005. Jason is married to wife Stacy and they have two boys Colt 8 and Knox 3. Ingle is competing in his ninth Engine Builder showdown, having participated in 2006-2009, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020, “When in the build you have to talk to your teammate about what you are working on and what is next in the build to succeed.” Jason, who began his career at Hendrick Motorsports cleaning machines, credits Larry Zentmeyer as having the biggest impact on his career. One of Ingle’s best moments was winning races with Jeff Gordon. “One of the best pieces of advice I can give someone starting their career, have your eyes and ears open and keep your mouth shut,” Ingle said. His favorite vehicle is a Jeep Gladiator because you get the best of a Jeep and a truck.
Dave Frey competed in the Engine Builder Showdown for the first time in 2018, learning that the biggest thing you need to account for is the unexpected, “We had a little stumble which threw off our timing, and while I feel we did a decent job to recover, it ultimately cost us a shot at the championship. The Engine Builder Showdown is by far one of the coolest events Hendrick Automotive Group does.” He feels Hendrick Automotive Group has made the biggest impact on his career by building a support foundation that has led to success. It’s allowed Dave to help others along the way, “The biggest piece of advice for a new tech would be, put down your phone, focus, and take pride in what you do.” Dave hopes to win the lottery one day. Dave is married to his wife Stephanie and together they have two kids, daughter Jordyn 11 and son Jackson 9.
Billy Davis, married with two daughters, Andi and Ryan, will be competing in his fourth Engine Builder Showdown. One of the most important things Davis has learned through his past three engine builds is to stay calm and tool placement. Communication with your partner is also key. “Some of the coolest things in my career are winning the Coca-Cola 600 twice as an engine tuner in my hometown. I also won the Mahle 2014 Engine Builder of the Year Award,” Davis said. “I’d have to say building Jimmie Johnson's championship winning engine in 2016 at Homestead was the pinnacle of my experience as a technician.” Davis is most excited to watch his kids grow up and continue learning. His favorite vehicle is a 1969 Camaro.
Jim Stevens is married to partner Sandy and together, they have two boys Jason and Jake. Jim participated in the Randy Dorton Engine Builder Competition in 2018 as an alternate. A veteran service technician, Stevens began his career with Hendrick Automotive Group in 2016, “When starting your career, you want to study and learn electronics. Do it right the first time because the second time is for free.” Jim advises. He loves working and driving cars from the 60s and 70s era, and a prized 1970 Dodge Challenger 440 RT/SE is his personal favorite. Stevens built a street stock car from the ground up and ran it at his local dirt track until his second son was born.
Jerry Windell is married to wife, Lisa. Together they have a daughter, Lexie and a son, Tanner. This will be Windell’s third Engine Builder Competition. He has also assisted in coaching celebrity builds in years past. “I have learned it takes teamwork, dedication, communication and hard work to be competitive and win in the Engine Builder Showdown,” Jerry says. Windell states that all teammates he has worked with have impacted his career, and has been fortunate enough to win multiple championships at different organizations. Jerry’s favorite car is anything with a bowtie on it.
Anthony Dowless is married to wife, Alison of 16 years. Together they have three kids, Russell 14, Wesley 12, and Elise 10. Dowless was a part of the championship build team in 2011, and an alternate in 2020. The North Carolina resident credits Jerry Hilson for first getting involved and helping him to victory. After ever competition, Anthony has come away appreciating just how many extremely talented people there are at both Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrick Automotive Group. He looks forward to competing every time he can, “Mr. Hendrick is a very generous man and I appreciate that he puts this event on every year for us.” His favorite car is his Toyota Tundra because he’s able to load the entire family, all their dirt bikes and enjoy an afternoon of riding. One day he would like to see a MotoGP race in person. Anthony also provided important career advice, “My advice to new technicians is to be open-minded. Don’t think you know it all because there is always more to learn.”
Brian Franklin has been married to his wife Shannon for 12 years. Together they have two daughters, Lilly 11 and Shelby 8. Brian looks to his dad as the biggest influence in his life not just professionally, but personally. In 2018, Brian won the NASCAR Truck Series race in Martinsville, North Carolina and his daughters were able to join him in victory lane. He loves to work on any vehicle that has wheels and speed. This will be Brian’s ninth year competing in the Engine Builder Showdown. He has learned that preparation is key along with being able to have good communication with your partner throughout the build. Also being able to make changes on the fly if needed will help you win. As for career advice, Brian is very practical, “My piece of advice I would give to someone just starting would be, to just stay humble and have a good attitude, and take every chance to learn,” Franklin says.
Jamie Hairr is married to wife, Aimee. Together they have three kids, Landen 10, Jackson 8 and Jaxson 7. By always having his back, pushing him to do his best and supporting his goals, Jamie’s supportive nature has been a huge part of his success over the years. “The advice I would get to the upcoming technicians is to obtain all knowledge you can and get all the hands-on training you can,” Hairr stated. He has been an Engine Builder Showdown alternate the past three years and has learned that communication, teamwork and tool management are the most important things to have a successful build. His favorite car would have to be a Corvette, having owned many over the years. He has also been the Corvette technician at Jeff Gordon Chevrolet since 2007. One day he would like to go to space.
Shane Parsnow has competed in 14 Showdowns and has learned there is always something new to learn about your partner, tool placement, etc., “It's all about communication and not making mistakes.” Throughout his career, Shane credits Alan Kulwicki and Randy Dorton to his success, but his biggest supporters have been his parents. They supported Parsnow from day one and have been there for the past 30 years of his career. “My advice to someone starting their career would be to take your time and do the job one time and do it properly. Also, listen to the veterans and learn from them,” Parsnow states. One of the career highlights is that he is able to meet new people and strive to be better than the competition. Shane is married to wife, Tami and have a daughter named, Shana. In the future, Shane would like to catch a 1000 lbs. Blue Marlin and fish in every ocean on earth.
This will be Karl Siegel’s first year competing in the Engine Builder Showdown and he’s excited for the opportunity to partner with Hendrick Motorsports technicians. Siegel thanks his dad for having the largest impact on his career, telling him about the Toyota automotive school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and encouraged him to enroll. “Try to ask as many questions as you can because you're never done learning. It's hard at first, you must stick with it and believe in yourself. If others can do it, then you can do it too,” Siegel advises new technicians. Karl likes modified compact cars because they are cheaper to build, still get good gas mileage, power and handling. One day Siegel would like to go on a hot air balloon ride. He is excited about this opportunity to compete.
Jay is married and has two children, Jesse 26 and Josh 37. The two-time Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown champion won the inaugural event in 2001, winning again in 2013. “Its about teamwork and communication,” Wiles said. The people that have made the biggest impact on Jay’s career are all his teammates at Hendrick Motorsports. Mr. Hendrick, Randy Dorton and Jeff Gordon have been his biggest inspirations, “To anyone starting their career simply dream big, work hard and be kind.” Wiles’ favorite cars to drive and work on is, “anything fast, from Cup cars to small tire drag cars.” The veteran tuner would like to be a part of 200 Cup wins with Hendrick Motorsports - he’s currently at 189. One of the best experiences of Jay’s career has been winning the NASCAR All-Star Race in a backup car with Jeff Gordon.
Chris Baggott is married to wife, Karen and they have a stepson named, Nathan. This will be his first year competing in the Randy Dorton Engine Builder Showdown, “This opportunity to compete in the Engine Builder Showdown is the most unique experience I’ll be able to be part of in my career.” His father has had the greatest impact on his career. He was an aircraft technician in the military and from a young age taught Chris the basics of mechanics and has spent time helping others, “My advice to those just starting is to absorb as much information and training as you can. Develop a great work ethic and take pride in the work you do.” Chris’s favorite vehicle is a Chevrolet Silverado, he prefers the trucks and loves working on them. He has been a technician for Chevrolet since 2002. One day Baggott would like to move to the country and own a lot of land. He has three wonderful dogs and loves to kayak, fish and compete in tournaments.
John Boydston has two children Carter and Wesley. He has competed twice in the Engine Builder Showdown in 2017, winning the event in 2019. During his experience, he has learned that staying calm when things don’t go right and focusing on your build are two keys to having success. He has been part of 40 wins and four championships with Hendrick Motorsports. The North Carolina is always quick to offer career advice for those wanting to get involved in the sport. “For anyone starting in a new career, work hard, don't expect anything to be given to you and work to earn what you want,” John said. Boydston’s favorite type of car is anything with a carburetor, “They are much easier to work on.”
Brian Myers has been married to his wife Izzie for almost 20 years and have a dog named, Legos. Brian has already participated in the 2011, 2017 and 2018 Engine Builder Showdowns and feels strongly about what it takes to win this event, “I've come to know that to win this competition, you must be fast, efficient, & most importantly thrive in a teamwork setting.” He was not always a technician, but has had an interest in vintage cars, rebuilding them himself. Having his dad as inspiration, Brian has an impeccable work ethic in everything he does. Brian is 100% a Dodge person and enjoys working on Vipers the most. The work is more unique and interesting than standard repairs. “If I could advise a new technician, I would emphatically tell them that you will only get out of it what you put into it. Use your resources to keep learning & training on the ever-changing technology. You can go as far as you want if you are committed.” Myers said.
Chris Moroch is married with two children, James and Emma, and has competed in the Engine Builder Showdown every year since 2012. The North Carolina resident states that his dad has made the biggest impact on his career. Watching his work ethic over the years had an everlasting effect, helping him aspire to be the best he can be. “If there was one piece of advice that I could give to a technician just starting in their career it would be to first get affiliated with the Hendrick Automotive Group, so that you’re starting your career off in the right place. Then I would try and learn as much as possible by seeking out the veteran technicians in the shop to get as much guidance from them that you can.”
Tyler Johnson, who first competed in the Engine Builder Showdown in 2016, has learned quite a few lessons throughout his career. He’s always enjoyed taking a mentor role. “The largest impact of my career was having the opportunity to teach and mentor new technicians,” Johnson said. “I've found I learn and gain a deeper understanding of topics through teaching others. I would tell any technician who is beginning their career to never be scared to ask a question.” “BMW is my preferred brand to drive and work on. They have a driving feel that hasn't been matched, in my opinion,” Tyler said, who one day would love to drive a BMW M on the Nurburgring Nordschleife Grand Prix track in Germany. Speaking of speed, Johnson was able to attend a BMW performance driving event at the BMW center in Spartanburg. He called it, “one of the coolest perks of his career.” Tyler Johnson has been married for nine years.
Kevin Moler first entered the Showdown in 2008, competing every year since (outside of one). Throughout his experience, Moler realized that as a team you must work together for the best result. Moler’s career has been a continuous highlight reel, being part of numerous wins and championships at Hendrick Motorsports has been incredible. He is often asked how someone can work and get into the sport. “Anyone just starting in their career needs to focus and get all the training you can, knowledge is priceless,” Kevin advises. Kevin’s favorite vehicle is his Pontiac G8, and he has plans to find a low mile Chevrolet SS to put alongside it. He would one day love to go sky diving and go to Australia. Kevin has a son named Carter and they live in Concord, North Carolina.
Donovan Smith is married to his wife, Adrian. Together they have a daughter Savannah who is 12 and two stepdaughters Kaycee 14 and Kaylee 16. Donovan credits the foundation of his work ethic, his willingness to take care of the customer, his ability to diagnose processes and getting the most out of flat rate to his mentor, Mike Helper. Donovan loves driving anything that handles well and is nimble. If he’s able to corner at speed, he’s there. He participates in track days in his race-prepped Scion FRS and is an avid iRacer. One day he would like to get a group of friends together to drive an amateur endurance race. “My advice to anyone just starting in their career is to take pride in your work as not many people can do what technicians do. You must be a plumber, electrician, Hydraulic specialist, carpenter, machinist and an IT person all at the same time! Be proud!” Smith competed in 2013 and 2018, “It’s so special to be able to just attend the Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown. I’ve now had the opportunity three times and I’m super competitive and am excited to hopefully take home the championship this year.”
Jared Morris is married to wife Stephanie and together they have a son, EJ. Morris will be competing in his eighth Engine Builder Showdown this year. He’s learned from previous competitions that no matter how hard you try you can’t have a fast time without good partner communication. “The challenges of this build are a good example of life and our careers. You are going to make mistakes, your partner is going to make mistakes. If you let those mistakes compound, you will find yourself way down the time clock before you feel like you even get started.” Morris states. “The same thing can happen in life and your career. Everyone makes mistakes and if you don’t, you are not trying hard enough. You just have to be very careful to not let those mistakes build until you are way down the time clock.” Morris states that Jeff Andrews has made the biggest impact with his professionalism in his career. One day he would like to go to space. One of his biggest career accomplishments has been being part of 10 NASCAR Cup Series championship seasons. For eight of which Morris was the last to touch the engines before they went to the teams.
Shane Flake, a two-time Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown competitor (2015 & 2018), is no stranger to the competition, “You have to be smooth with no mistakes to win.” A 20-year employee with Hendrick Automotive Group, Shane credits his career to high school shop teacher, Mr. Webb, the only person who would make him, “toe the line no matter what.” His favorite manufacturer is Toyota (of course) and when asked what advice he’d give to someone just starting in their career, he said, “work hard and learn all you can, and the money will eventually show up.” Shane, his wife and six children thoroughly enjoys everything the outdoor life has to offer, often taking part in activities such as camping, kayaking, hunting and fishing. One of the family’s bucket list items would be to visit and explore every national park in the U.S.
Mike Maiwald has competed in all but one Engine Builder Showdown since it began in 2001. Career wise, Randy Dorton made the biggest impact, teaching everyone how to look at things from multiple points of view and to listen to the people on your team, “You can learn a lot from listening. “One piece of advice I would give is to be open-minded and listen to the experiences of the people around you, it will usually give you a different way of looking at things than you originally had,” Mike continued. The Dallas, North Carolina resident’s favorite vehicle is his Denali 2500hd, he loves the diesel power. One day he would love to drive coast to coast. Over the years of his career, Mike has won the NASCAR Engine Builder of the Year Award (2003) and in 2006, won the nationally recognized Mahle/Clevite Engine Builder Showdown with Shane Parsnow. Mike is married and has four adult children, Tyler 27, Keahan 28, Stephanie 32 and Cameron 32.
Adrian Constantinidis competed in the Engine Builder Showdown in 2002, 2012 and 2018, “I learned communication between your partner (is) crucial and a very important part of being effective.” Mr. Hendrick has made the biggest impact on Adrian’s career. He instills great qualities that have made him a better person in daily work activities and at home, “One piece of advice I would offer a new technician is to never stop learning and be confident in your work.” His favorite car to drive is his 1940 Chevrolet Pickup truck. Adrian enjoys working on older Chevrolet model vehicles. One day he’d love to be able to cross deep-sea fishing off his bucket list. Adrian has been dating his girlfriend, Dana Conner for 11 months, they have known each other for over 20 years! He has one daughter named Megan, who is a proud mother of his new grandson.
Danny Emerick, a four-time Randy Dorton Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown champion from 2015-2018, is married to his lovely wife Crystal and together they have a five-year-old son, Everett. Over the years of experience at Hendrick Motorsports, Emerick has learned how the culture is a primary reason for success across all of Mr. Hendrick’s teams. Throughout his career, Danny credits Mr. Hendrick, Randy Dorton, Jeff Andrews, and Chad Knaus for making the biggest impacts, “They set a high level of expectation and leadership that has proven to be successful in this competitive industry.” Emerick’s favorite vehicles are early 1950's Chevrolet trucks. He loves their simplicity, beauty and the era they represent. One day he’d love to see the Northern Lights. Danny is thankful for the career Mr. Hendrick has given him. “One of the best pieces of advice I can give to someone starting their career is to stay focused, surround yourself with the best and utilize all your resources.” Danny states.
Jay Nolan is married to his wife Dee and together they have three boys, Michael 14, Camden 7 and Eli 5. His family has been an incredible influence in his life and career. For those wanting to become technicians, Jay is quick to point out the importance of education, “Any new technician needs to be able to be humble and be willing to reach out to veteran techs. Experience is the most valuable thing you can have, and veteran technicians have probably seen it all.” He’s competed in the Hendrick Engine Builder Showdown the past three years, “I've learned to always expect the unexpected, but that also makes the Engine Builder Showdown exciting. A new partner and new challenges are always exciting to think about.” His career with Hendrick Motorsports has given him many memorable experiences, but one of the best was being able to spend a day at Fort Bragg. Time with our soldiers and hearing their experiences along with being able to participate in some of their training was extremely memorable. One day Nolan would like to cage dive with great white sharks.