While there are many more exciting announcements to come in the lead-up to the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout, none are more so than this one — the reveal of the starting lineup for the Dream Team presented by Comp Cams! COMP came up with the idea of creating a team with all-star builders and privateers and helping support them with coaching and some travel money, and there has been a huge interest from builders, tuners, and drivers all over the country.
A unique twist thrown in to the $10K Drag Shootout, the Dream Team comprised the fourth and final squad that will take part in this build-off battle royale that will take place in California later this summer, culminating with a thrilling head-to-head drag race that will take place in front of a live audience and to thousands on the web at the Shakedown at the Summit in Norwalk, Ohio in September.
The formula is simple: $10,000, 10 days, five members per team…build the fastest drag racing machine possible. Key sponsors like Summit Racing and Royal Purple helped make this possible, and as such, we received countless team applications for the Drag Shootout, which have been narrowed down to three via staff and popular vote. The Dream Team, meanwhile, is comprised of individual applicants from around the country who vied for one of five different roles on a hand-picked crew designed to make life difficult for the other three teams in the running. Among the list were members of teams that were eliminated, or were not chosen, but still ready to throw their hat in the ring individually and join a group of relative strangers, all with the hopes of collecting the $10,000 winner’s prize and the car in the end.
We assembled a panel of drag racing media and personalities to collectively curate the COMP Dream Team truly capable of winning the $10K Drag Shootout — after all, this is about competition. The panel was composed of:
Jeff Reed - veteran drag racer and Racer Support/Sales at COMP/TCI Automotive and “Coach” of the team
Andrew Wolf- Editor, Dragzine
Brian Wagner- Associate Editor, Dragzine
Mike Galimi - veteran journalist, Promedia Director of Content & Marketing and Editor of Race Pages Digital
Tyler Crossnoe- event promoter, track prep specialist and co-owner of Dream Team Motorsports Consulting
Together, this group assembled what was unanimously decided as an all-around, highly-talented and skilled group with all the makings of a winning team. This wasn’t about name recognition, but simply what they brought to the team, their experience in a given role, and their ability to intertwine into other roles to get the job done when called upon. And here they are….
“Big Daddy” Dwayne Gutridge - Driver
A legend in the sport of drag racing and one of drag radial racing’s true pioneers, Gutridge requires no introduction. Gutridge, a lifelong automotive enthusiast, has won virtually everything there is to win in all-Ford and small-tire drag racing, from Fun Ford Weekend championships to the famed World Ford Challenge and everything in between. He’s graced multitudes of car magazines, and holds the distinction of being the first racer into the 9—and 7-second zones on radials.
While the New Jersey native’s official role on the team is driving, Gutridge, who owns and operates Big Daddy Performance in Toms River and has been tearing down, building, and winning in race cars for decades, is sure to have a hand in every aspect of the Dream Team’s build process, from turning wrenches to tuning.
Jody Comer - Fabricator
While the end-game is to be as fast as possible, safety is of the utmost importance in the $10K Drag Shootout, and in addition to other fabrication needs that are sure to arise, the cars will need to be outfitted with roll cages during the 10-day build. And so the designated fabricator not only has to know their stuff, but they have to be able to work within a very confined schedule. And turning around a twisted, beat-up racecar in a matter of weeks is a pretty good proving ground for that, our panel decided.
Comer, who hails from Aberdeen, Mississippi, works for Southern Speed Racing, one of the sport’s top tuning, fabrication, and consulting firms. Comer is SSR’s go-to guy for fabrication and chassis work, and he played a key role in bringing Marty Stinnett’s Radial vs The World ride back to life after it impacted the guardrail at an NMCA event this spring. Comer put in countless hours — working day and night — to ensure a quick turnaround for Stinnett and the car didn’t miss a beat upon its return. That’s the guy the Dream Team needs.
“I am a third generation drag racer. I grew up watching and helping my dad and grandfather race,” Comer explains. “I have owned my own fabricating shop where I would do complete body-off restorations for street rods and classic rebuilds. I have left that behind to do what I truly love, which is building racecars.”
Michael Rozman - Engine Builder
The $10K Drag Shootout is going to place considerable demand on an engine builder, as only 10 days will be afforded to the teams to plan out, procure parts, assemble, tune, and complete a running, ready-to-race vehicle. This role needs a talented individual that can work under pressure, and it just so happened that guy came from the same camp as the Dream Team’s driver: Dwayne Gutridge’s team Dirty Jersey. Rozman, a New Jersey native, has had “fuel in his veins” from the very beginning, turning his interest in cars and engines at a young age into a career. Rozman obtained a degree in Automotive Technology and became an ASE Advanced Level Certified Master Tech in 1999. Following a tenure in general automotive repair, he shifted to motorsports in 1996 and has worked in in circle track, road racing, and drag racing in various roles.
Rozman has worked with Gutridge for 13 years, serving as a key part of his racing and record-setting ventures; he’s built over 100 street-strip cars, from 12-second daily drivers to 8-second twin-turbo machines. As he says, “I know the meaning of hard work and dedication.”
“I take great pride in my work and I’m always looking for that edge over the competition no matter how much hard work and dedication it takes,” he adds. “Failure isn’t an option for me. I’m well-versed in many different areas of building a race car including engine assembly, transmission installation, proper torque convertor setup and spacing, setting up proper driveline angles and rear end assembly. I also specialize in racecar wiring, including EFI systems, switch panels, along with the proper use of relays, lights and gauges, ignition systems, and most importantly battery cables and proper battery and engine grounds. I also have years of experience in tuning engines, whether carb or EFI naturally-aspirated, FI, or nitrous. On top of all that, I also have a lot of knowledge in tuning suspensions to get all that power to the pavement.”
Eric Kenward - Driveline/Tuner/Mechanic
Kenward was one of our early $10K Drag Shootout “team” applicants, making the final 10 with his team, EKR. An accomplished drag racer who can virtually do it all, the Vero Beach, Florida native has won NMCA and ORSCA titles behind the wheel.
“I was born in Detroit and started racing big wheels around Mt. Clemons circle track. I grew up watching my dad race circle track and race his street cars around Michigan and northern Ohio. I have been street racing and drag racing since I was 15 years old, so I have been involved for 30 years. I have driven circle track, mud drags trucks, street cars, bikes, motocross, but only won championships in drag racing. We have won and set records in every class and with every type of combination we have had and have won several championships, local and national.”
Keyword operates a performance shop, Eric’s Automotive Service, and is moving into the direction of being an automotive/performance instructor at Indian River State College. “I will always be building cars, but want to teach young people how to do the same,” he notes.
Jesse Adams - Driveline/Tuner/Mechanic
The Dream Team is rounded out by Yuba City, California native Jesse Adams, who like the rest of this squad, can build ‘em, tune ‘em, and drive ‘em, making this a very potent team.
Adams is third-generation drag racer with more than two decades of experience; like many, he began in high school and has since collected track championships, NHRA divisional titles, and top-five national points finishes in NHRA Top Dragster behind the wheel of a supercharged, Hemi-powered machine that he maintained and tuned. Adams now competes in Top Sportsman behind the wheel of another blown Hemi-powered door car.
“I have built and driven my own race cars, I have driven for many many car owners, have tuned for racers, and shared my knowledge and information with friends and competitors all across the country. I currently hold 11 different NHRA competition numbers/licenses and have driven everything from street cars to rear engine dragsters, front engine dragsters, blown doorslammers, Pro Stock-style Top Sportsman cars, Alcohol Funny Cars, and a nostalgia nitro Funny Car. I wish I had kept track of every race car I have driven throughout the years — I would expect the number to have exceeded 90 race cars.
“I’ve also won the famous “March Meet” three times, and was the Division 7 JEG’S Allstars Top Dragster representative in Joliet, Illinois in 2016 and 2017,” Adams continues. “On average I will spend between 25 and 40 weekends a year at a race track. Family comes first, but as long as family is healthy and happy, racing takes a very close second priority in my life.”