Martinsville's Joey Arrington no newcomer to Dodge

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (January 25, 2001) -- The past, present and future of Dodge racing runs right through the heart of Joey Arrington's engine-building business. And that business is about to take a quantum leap. Arrington and...

MARTINSVILLE, VA. (January 25, 2001) -- The past, present and future of Dodge racing runs right through the heart of Joey Arrington's engine-building business.

And that business is about to take a quantum leap.

Arrington and his company, Arrington Manufacturing, will move into a new $2 million, 50,000 square foot building sometime in the next month. Not only will his company's physical presence grow, but he's adding personnel to help keep pace with the demand for Dodge power plants as the manufacturer makes its return to Winston Cup racing this year.

These days Arrington Manufacturing is turning our research and development engines for Dodge's Winston Cup return along with motors for several of Dodge's top entries in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

But Arrington's relationship with Dodge is a long one. His father, Buddy Arrington, was the last driver to campaign Dodges regularly on the Winston Cup circuit. From 1972 until his father retired in 1989, Joey built and maintained the engines his dad used. Those engines were Dodges for most of those years, and though his father never won a Winston Cup race, his cars were famous for their durability.

Word of Joey's expertise as a young engine builder spread and after his father switched to Fords in 1985, other teams started throwing business in the younger Arrington's direction.

"Before daddy quit, we were doing a lot of stuff for (Bill) Elliott and we were doing a motor or two for the Pettys," said Arrington, whose business is located about 10 miles from Martinsville Speedway. "We weren't building their race engines. They were looking for new ideas and they had us build engines to compare to theirs."

Buddy retired in 1989, but Joey wanted to stay in the sport.

"I started going to the race tracks when I was in the third grade. It was 'Get in the truck, go and shut up,' " Joey recalled. "I probably didn't know exactly how much racing meant to me until he quit."

Joey didn't have to look far to keep his career going, though. There was a demand for his engines, albeit a small demand. "It was only one guy here then ... me," said Arrington. "But I made do."

In the early 1990s Dodge and Arrington tied up again. When the manufacturer needed someone to build engines for a couple of its Sports Club Cars of America teams, Arrington was called. It wasn't long before Dodge came calling again, this time on a much grander scheme.

"They (Dodge) announced at Bristol in August (of 1995) they were going truck racing. That meant they were going racing in four months and there were no engines," said Arrington.

Despite a lack of parts and pieces, Arrington and employees had durable engines ready when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series began its second season in 1996. A year later, one of Arrington's engines powered its way to victory lane.

And when Dodge decided it was returning to Winston Cup racing, another call was made to Arrington. For almost a year now, Arrington Manufacturing has been turning out R&D Winston Cup engines for Dodge.

It has been a hectic year for Arrington and his crew, but fortunately he had remained on the cutting edge of engine building. His business is computer-driven and that makes Dodge's headquarters in Michigan just a mouse click away.

He has five computerized machining centers in his shop and software to build programs for those centers. There also is a 3-D cad system that allows the engineers to build parts on computer screens before manufacturing them.

"We can build parts on the computer to see if they fit," said Arrington. "Chrysler can build parts (on computers) in Michigan, we can build parts here and we both can look at them at the same time."

But in the transition to the hi-tech world, Arrington has become more of a businessman than an engine builder.

"I really don't build motors myself anymore. Ten years ago, that would probably have bothered me. Ten years ago I would have missed it more."

Arrington will be moving his business into the new building in a few weeks. He plans a grand opening during the week of the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway in early April. Although all details haven't been released for the event, which will be open to the public, it will run from Wednesday, April 4th through Sunday, April 8, the day of the Virginia 500. Arrington said tours of the facility will be offered and he expects many Dodge show cars and trucks to be on hand.

The next racing action at Martinsville Speedway is the Virginia 500 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race on Sunday, April 8. Tickets are $40-$70 and are available by calling toll free at (877) 722-3849 or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

-Mike Smith

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mike Smit