For much of the past week, Hamner Racing Engines founder Jeff Hamner has remained on the figurative sidelines working to deal with the technical fallout from the S.E.A.L. committee’s decision to depower his Super Late Model engines in participating sanctioning bodies.
That meant allowing new owner Justin Oertel to handle the public approach.
That approach on Thursday was to suggest that the S.E.A.L. agreement was fundamentally flawed and in need of an overhaul, if not needing an outright disbanding.
This was after chief technical inspector Ricky Brooks mandated a 1.350″ restrictor plate following a dyno test following the Snowball Derby in December.
“I don’t believe it’s fair,” Oertel told Speed51.com. “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.”
Hamner says he attended a S.E.A.L. meeting on March 11 with Oertel to attempt to mitigate the group’s decision against the company he founded.
He says that meeting didn’t go well from a Hamner standpoint.
“I explained to them where I felt like the increase in power came from and all I got was being accused of lying about all of it and I could tell right away this was a well-planned out attack to discredit myself and our product,” Hamner told Short Track Scene in an emailed statement. “It was suggested to me that we had over 50 percent of the field at the Snowball Derby and that I was manipulating the system to get all of the business, etc.
“After all of the criticism and accusations. I simply said ‘All that I am asking is let’s fix this issue inside this room and not directly involve the racers.”
Hamner takes exception to the claims of McGunnegill Engine Performance owner Dewaine McGunnegill that Hamner engines made up to 18 additional horses compared to his and Progressive Engines.
Hamner provided the following details:
“Here is a breakdown of what we are talking about,” he wrote. “I will give the differences and not the actual numbers to protect the whole program. And will not put any brand names on any of it.
“From the top engine there was a difference of 5hp to second in line, then 6hp more to the third spot. The next drop is pretty significant, and he has been making some changes to close the gap.”
Steve McInnis of Progressive Engines said the Hamner Engine made 18 horsepower more than it made the last time it was dyno’d, and that his own engine remained within two percent of the last dyno test.
McInnis claimed that the advantage was generated due to the secret creation of custom pistons, ported intakes and extended rod lengths that were not made with the consultation of the entire S.E.A.L. group.
Hamner said Brooks and the S.E.A.L. committee were made aware of every change made to the HRE engine over the course of late 2014 and into early 2015.
What were those changes exactly?
“I had a cast 2925 Edelbrock intake, we were allowed to do a CNC profile program,” he said. “I advised them that this would be a 7-10 hp increase but mainly was done to equalize the intakes. In late 2014 the manufacturer informed us that the current ring package was being replaced with a smaller package. This was common knowledge in the industry and everyone was allowed to go to the new package including the SSPE Engine.
“Over the ring that we had been running the manufacturer estimated a 10-12 increase in power. One of the other sealed engines had a larger package to start with and should have seen even a larger increase that that.
“Why the other builders did not see the increase I can’t answer that. However, if they did as they should have, we probably would not be dealing with this.”
Hamner also said that any of his customer’s engines that did not have those updates received them at the time of the rebuild at no additional cost to teams.
“Some of these engines are still making their way in to this day,” Hamner said.
Hamner says everything else in his engine is exactly the same as it was in 2008 when he first submitted his engine to Brooks at the time of S.E.AL.’s founding. And he invited S.E.A.L to their shop in 2018 to see his engine components completely stripped down to make sure everything still met their satisfaction.
He says no change had been made to the Hamner Super Late Model engine since 2015.
Hamner said he received no complaints from Brooks, Southern Super Series promoter Tim Bryant, CRA Super Series promoter RJ Scott or CRA official Eddie Chew after his show of transparency in 2018.
Hamner still believes in the viability of the S.E.A.L. program despite the latest hurdles. He just wants to see the engine builders, promoters and Brooks get together and solve the engine issue before it further divides an already strife-ridden garage area still fighting over bodies.
“This has been a very good engine program for quite some time now,” Hamner added. “I feel like everyone has done a good job at making that happen. However, if anyone thinks there haven’t been minor changes in all of them from day one is sadly mistaken.
“There has always been situations arise in either dependability or availability that would require some adjustments. One engine supplier (McInnis) claims he hasn’t had any changes in 18 years. I know of at least four and they were justifiable, but still a change and a little bit of a performance change. Everyone in the program has experienced that.”
As for the insinuation that Hamner Race Engines should have been tossed from the S.E.A.L. program just like Brooks expelled Jimmy Cope from the Florida Late Model approved sealed engine program in 2016, Hamner says this isn’t remotely close to the same scenario.
“Unlike the Cope situation as stated by our competitors, the bigger bore exceeded the cubic inch regulations,” he said. “These changes in our engine did not exceed any of the limitations of cubic inch, compression, camshaft profile, rocker ratio, cylinder head type, etc.”
Again, Hamner just hopes for a quick and reasonable solution in the coming days.
“I really hate that this situation, being so minor, has divided the program so much,” he said. “It was not necessary to handle it this way and I did all in my power not to let it happen. I was willing to do whatever everyone was OK with to close the gap on everyone.
“However, they would not have it any other way (but to make the decision public) and I feel like they were thinking of how they could benefit from it and never considered the consequences that the tracks, racers and the group would face.
“I really hope there is a sensible solution to this issue. There will be people on both sides of the situation but in the long run nobody wins. Short track racing is having a hard enough time as it is and stuff like this doesn’t help anything.”