Applications have closed, the Horsepower Wars and COMP Cams staff have drilled down the talents of the entries, and the stage is now set.
The new COMP Cams Dream Team, which is hoping to build on the success of last year’s squad that nearly pulled off the upset in the $10K Drag Shootout, has been decided. Five members from a range of backgrounds and experiences but all with one common denominator — drag racing — will join COMP’s Research and Development/Testing Manager Dave Henninger for the 10-day build-off.
This group, which was determined through a painstaking process by members of the Horsepower Wars and COMP Cams teams, includes two very talented and accomplished racers and three engine and chassis builders, fabricators, and tuners. Each has a wealth of experience, drive, and determination. And each earned the right to represent COMP Cams on the Dream Team in this unique drag racing competition.
Dream Team leader, COMP Cams’ Dave Henninger.
The Dream Team will take on returning champion Team Bigun, along with the young-guns of Team Midwest Mayhem and Team Enemies Everywhere, hailing all the way from Australia.
Henninger, who will serve as team leader with Jeff Reed in a consulting role, also has his share of engine building and drag racing experience. That background will likewise prove invaluable to the team’s pre-build planning and success. Henninger says he’s excited about the potential of the squad that’s been assembled.
“I got to talk to everyone, and I feel really good about this group. We definitely have some passionate people on the team who really want to win, and I think they were some really great choices among the applicants we had to choose from.”
Driver - Keith Berry
Fans of LS-specific and outlaw-style drag racing are certainly familiar with this colorful Georgia native, a two-time NMCA Radial Wars champion, the Lights Out 7 Radial vs The World champion, and a former LS world record holder who will mark his return to driving at the $10K Drag Shootout.
Part of a family-owned engineering and manufacturing firm that specializes in chicken processing on an international scale, Berry’s business acumen and professionalism will prove highly valuable to the Dream Team’s success. But so too will his championship-winning driving talents.
“It seems like a fun, good-hearted deal. I am freaking pumped, I’m really, really, really excited about this. Win, lose, or draw, it’s just going to be a lot of fun. It’s like being a kid again. And I think this thing is going to be a big chess match from day one,” Berry says.
For Berry, the $10K Drag Shootout will mark his triumphant return to driving after a three-year hiatus — and it will come on a stage he’s quite familiar with at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
“I’ve had a couple of really good offerings to come back to racing, and I was interested, but it just didn’t light the spark. But there’s just something about this deal that’s cool,” Berry explains.
“I think I’ve still got it,” he continues. “I’ve been off of Red Bulls for about six months now, but I promise you come No Mercy, I’m going to pound about 12 of those b****es like I did at Lights Out 7 and whoever is in the other lane, they better be ready because I’m going to bust their ass. I’m a winner, and we’re going to come in there and win, but we’re going to have a lot of fun doing it.”
Jim Styke - Engine Builder/Driveline
This 62-year-old Michigan native will serve as the primary engine builder for the Dream Team, borrowing from his more than two decades of experience as the proprietor of an engine dynamometer facility and an automotive repair business. Styke has been around drag racing for much of his life, and the $10K Drag Shootout is sure to test his abilities.
“I’m from the old school work ethics of hard work and perfection is a great reward,” Styke says. “I think outside the box, I have good mechanical knowledge and common sense, and I can take just about any thing apart and put it back together. I’m a team player.”
Jesse Adams - Fabricator/Tech
This California native established himself as the kind of team player you want to go into the foxhole with — not only is he a wiz at fabrication, but he’s in-depth with planning, budgeting, and problem-solving necessary to build a car in 10 days surrounded by strangers. As a returning member of the team, Adams also brings the experience needed for success as a new crop of Dream Team members take on three other stout teams.
Adams, for his part, is not only a great builder, but is a highly successful drivers, as well, competing in Top Dragster, Stock Eliminator, and a host of other cars and categories.
Donald Abenante - Fabricator/Tech
This 31-year-old Florida native who will serve as both a mechanic and fabricator on the squad is an engineer by trade who builds race cars at night, performing engine builds, fabrication, and chassis design. Abenante began racing at 16, following in his father’s footsteps into the sport; he purchased a Chevelle and has spent years steadily improving its performance.
“I have physically done all the work on the old girl this time around. I designed this badass custom air-to-water intercooler for it and at this moment I am upgrading the fuel system to an Aeromotive brushless and then I am sending this thing to the moon on C16 and 30-pounds of boost. My goal is to drive it to the track a 100 miles north of me and get a 7.90-8.30 and then drive back. The car has taught me so much about life and helped me not give up and I am so lucky to have cars in my life, because honestly it saved me.”
Abenante adds, “I don’t know it all but I am honestly so passionate about this and strive every day to learn how to make cars faster. I was lucky to find out what I like and the last few years I have been so passionate having a shop of my own to build cars — not hot rods, not ghetto-gliders, but just off-the-wall, high-horsepower street cars.”
Jorge Ramos - Tuner / Parts Manager
Last but certainly not least, the final member of the Dream Team is Laredo, Texas’ Jorge “Geo” Ramos, a lifelong racer and follower of the sport with a wealth of building experience. Ramos, who competes in no-prep drag racing events and other genres of auto racing, operates Top Gun Performance Tuning by day, in addition to his talents as a certified driving instructor and a medic.
Ramos has built vehicles for SEMA and been honored with a spot in the SEMA Battle of the Builders along with the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational.
“I was exposed to drag racing at the young age of six when my father would take me to the drag race events that he would compete at. I immediately began in my own quest at drag racing at the age of 15. I’ve built several cars along the way and have raced my motorcycles, cars and trucks. I’ve used nitrous and turbo systems along with auto and manual transmissions. I not only build all my vehicles, I am also the pilot and the tuner for each one. I run in no-prep events, arm-drop races, flashlight races and Texas bracket races. I have also literally raced in Mexico at an old airplane landing strip.”
“I bring knowledge in the tuning field and experience as a pilot, plus I know every trick in the book when it comes to drag racing!”
“I’m really looking forward to working with these guys,” Henninger shares. “Keith’s an engineer and so he knows a thing or two about problem-solving and getting things done. He’s colorful, but he’s got a lot of class and he’ll bring a business sense to this whole thing … he’ll be all over it. Jesse is super level-headed, he’s rock solid, straightforward, a great thinker, and he has a lot of drag racing experience. He eats, sleeps, and breathes it. Donald is great with welding aluminum and really thinks outside the box … he’s pro-LS and he’s done a lot of different stuff, which is what I think you need in a competition like this.
“Everyone sounds like they really want to work together, and I think we’re going to have a good team that won’t have much infighting or anything like that. I feel the personalities we put together are really going to gel,” he adds.
Henninger feels his team is a winner, but recognizes the challenge ahead and is hesitant to claim victory ahead of the build, commenting, “I’ll let you know as soon as we have a car and an engine.” Nevertheless, he believes the talent on his squad, coupled with returning member Jesse Adams’ experience and that of former team leader and consultant Jeff Reed, that they’re coming in at an advantage.
“I honestly think the other two teams are really going to be at a handicap compared to Bigun and the Dream Team, because of the our knowledge of what transpired last year,” Henninger says.
Keep it tuned to Horsepower Wars as these teams compete head-to-head for the right to claim their car and the $10,000 prize that goes along with it in the $10K Drag Shootout!