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Need for speed requires the right parts

Loomis dry sump business caters to race cars and celebs
By: Leah Rosasco, Loomis News Correspondent
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Those with a need for speed will likely have a need for a specialized engine component manufactured right here in Loomis.

Since 1984, Gary Armstrong, 60, owner of Armstrong Race Engineering, Inc., has been manufacturing a part that distributes motor oil through high-demand engines. The part is called a dry sump oil pan.  Armstrong’s company makes more than 50 different dry sump systems used in high-powered cars around the world, including the Hennessey Venom, whose owners include Jay Leno and Steven Tyler. The parts are also used in professional race cars for the Andretti Indy Car Team, and the GM Racing Team.

“There are several other companies that make these systems, but really, nobody makes them way I do,” Armstrong said.

What sets his company apart, Armstrong said, is that his systems are made from castings rather than by welding multiple components together. According to Armstrong this manufacturing difference makes his dry sump systems more durable and more reliable.

“We get a lot more miles out of our systems,” Armstrong said.

 Armstrong, who holds a degree in automotive engineering, started out in 1974 building racing engines. But as his business grew, much of his energy and passion was focused on creating a better dry sump system than what was available.

Although Armstrong finds thinks it’s “pretty cool” that celebrities are driving around in cars with his product in them, he is most excited by his contribution to race cars.

“I’m really proud of the fact that we have evolved into pro racing,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong’s dry sump system helps keep race car engines running at high rates of speed for long period of time. Race cars with his systems have won the Le Mans 24 Hour, the Daytona 24 Hour, and have run in the Indianapolis 500.

Warren Frieze, vice president and general manager of Katech, Inc., in Michigan, said his company builds engines for the GM Racing Team and has used Armstrong’s dry sump systems in its engines for the past 25 years.  According to Frieze, Armstrong’s company provides the high-output engine industry with a high quality and dependable product that is imperative for the longevity of engines.

“It’s a very good ongoing relationship we have with (them), both for race car applications and for after-market cars for high-end users,” Frieze said.

Closer to home, Armstrong’s systems are also used by Mark Stein, owner of Motor Sport Image and Performance, in Roseville. The company focuses on performance enhancements to street cars. 

According to Stein, the modifications his company makes to cars greatly increases the demand on a motor. Stein said because certain stock oil pan systems can’t keep up with the increased demand of the modified vehicles, the engines have a tendency to fail more quickly. Stein said Armstrong’s company has created a system that addresses that design flaw.

“The system is designed to handle that kind of demand and it greatly increases the longevity of the motor,” Stein said.

Armstrong said he initially wanted to be a race car driver, but quickly realized that engineering race cars was just as exciting and he never looked back. Nearly 40 years later, Armstrong said he is thankful for the opportunities he’s had through his work, including traveling the world and, more importantly, supporting his family.

“I really feel this business is a blessing for me,” Armstrong said. “It’s given me a great life and, even after all these years, it’s still fun.”