The people at Speedway Engineering eat, drink and breathe racing. The walls of the front lobby are covered with framed pictures of cars and drivers running Speedway Engineering parts to reach the winner’s circle. People like NASCAR Winston Cup greats Rusty Wallace, Darrel Waltrip, Robert Yates and Bill Elliott … Speedway parts were on the Winston Cup car that won the Brickyard 400 last year … Richard “The King” Petty won his last national championship with a Speedway Engineering chassis ... Bobby Labonte took the pole at this year’s Daytona 500 with Speedway parts ... and the list goes on.
Speedway Engineering is the life’s dream of one skilled welder and machinist named Frank Deiny; a man who had a passion for auto racing and the courage to follow his vision. The family-owned small business has been making premium quality driveline components for auto racing since 1964. Throughout the years, growing demand for Speedway parts has steadily increased revenues. With the recent addition of a Haas VF-4 vertical machining centre to their shop arsenal, they have broken the million-dollar mark in yearly revenues.
Like thousands of small manufacturing shops around the world, Speedway is testament that loyalty, persistence and the pursuit of excellence – along with sound business decisions – bring success.
It began with Deiny working the night shift at his full-time job, so he could work on race cars during the day. He eventually earned enough money as a welder building roll cages to buy a lathe, then a grinder. In 1967 he opened his shop and never looked back.
Ken Sapper, who had been with Deiny almost since the beginning, became president of the 11-person Sylmar, California company when Deiny tragically passed away from cancer in the late ’80s. “We began building parts for modified cars like the ’57 Chevy for oval-track racing,” Sapper began as he explained how they discovered their niche. “As the sport of stock car racing evolved, the speeds increased, so we manufactured purpose-built cars. By creating competitive cars, we created a parts market for ourselves.”
But building cars was a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. After looking at the numbers, they realized it took them four weeks to build a car they could sell for $8,000, but only half a day to build a quick-change rear end they could sell for $1,500. They stopped building cars and focused on parts.
Today, Speedway manufactures quick-change rear ends based on custom-made aluminum castings; full-floating rear ends based on 9" Ford SVO housings; anti-sway bars; front hubs; drive flanges; and axles and other miscellaneous parts for teams racing in the Winston Cup, Busch Grand Nationals, Craftsman Truck, NASCAR touring division and the Winston late model series.
“Our products became so popular over the years, we couldn’t keep up with demand,” said Sapper. “We had two CNC lathes feeding one mill. Outside of axles, everything we do needs a secondary operation in a machining centre. We need holes, grooves, slots, tapping – you name it, we’ve got to do it. We were always backed up. We couldn’t sell any more parts, because we couldn’t make any more.”
Speedway Engineering needed a machining centre. They already had a small gear-driven mill that gave them good service, so they knew they wanted to stay with a transmission- driven unit. “We liked the Haas VF-4 when we saw it, because it was American made, had the right combination of power and flexibility and was easy to operate. The service behind the machine was also a big consideration.”
Since bringing the VF-4 on-line a year and ten months ago, Speedway’s production has jumped tremendously. They were able to increase sales more than 30% last year – without adding a single person. To meet increased demand since then, however, Speedway has added a machinist and staggered shifts to keep the VMC running 13 hours a day.
“I’m not a Haas salesman; I’m a user,” commented Sapper, “so I don’t know all the jargon. I can tell you it flies through aluminium and is a good, rigid machine. Our scrap rate is phenomenally low. We are cutting 8620 forged steel and 4140 heat-treated forgings; the machine doesn’t make the floor jump, so it must be doing okay. And we are holding tolerances of ±0.002 inch, because if everything doesn’t run true on our assemblies, at 200 mph it’s going to shake the driver’s teeth out.”
Setups at Speedway vary greatly. Some jobs run a few hours, while other times they run the same job all week. And when the machine is open, they use it to do “one-off” jobs. The size of the VF-4’s table (52" x 18") allows them to set up as many as three separate jobs on the table with tools hung. This lets them skip around and stay ahead with production. The repeatability of the Haas has been a great asset in these cases. The large table size and long z-axis travel have also allowed them to reduce setups. Using a Haas 5C rotary indexer – the first product ever manufactured by Haas – Speedway is able to machine all four sides of the large centre castings for their rear-end assemblies in one operation.
Before getting the Haas, Speedway was only able to run four drive plates at a time on their smaller mill. But with the VF-4, they’re able to run 20 pieces at once – a production increase of 500%. They set it up on the machine and three and a half hours later all the plates are done.
Machinist Joe Landy said, “The ‘Next Tool’ button and other little touches make setup a breeze. With our other mill you have to do 12 things to change a tool. With the Haas it’s just one button.”
Shop foreman and CNC programmer Paul Douglas added, “The Haas will run a four-hour job without us even looking at it, allowing us time to work with the other machines.
“I also like the fact that the control is built around the machinist,” Douglas continued. “The 32-bit processors and memory capacity give us the ability to program the control to help out and create shortcuts. The programming ease and flexibility of the control, as far as manual input is concerned, are very helpful and user friendly.”
At Speedway, jobs are programmed right at the control panel using Haas Quick Code, which combines the power and flexibility of G code with descriptive English sentences. Both Landy, who is relatively new to machining, and the more experienced Douglas write the programs. Because the Haas programming is so efficient, Landy said, they initially didn’t plan on getting a CAD/CAM system. They ended up needing one, however, to program their other CNC machines.
Sapper sent Douglas and Landy for operator training at the local Haas distributor, and three days later, they could run the machine. “We sent them before the VF-4 was delivered to the floor,” said Sapper, “so they were familiar with it and could jump in and run it when it arrived. As soon as power was run to the machine, the Haas service guys were out here leveling it and setting it up. Everything was very well coordinated.”
Up until July of ’97, Speedway Engineering produced their entire product line without the use of a CAD/CAM system: Everything was programmed on the Haas control and the files were stored on floppy disks. To speed program changes and development of new products, however, the Haas is now hard-wired to a PC equipped with a CAD/CAM system.
Today, Speedway Engineering has shifted into high gear to meet the increasing demand for their products. The Haas VF-4 is enabling them to reach a new level of productivity to enter new markets and expand their product line. They are now racing toward their next million-dollar benchmark … and their next Haas machining centre.