Drag racing has long been one of the cornerstones of the COMP Cams business model. From the company’s early days as a humble cam shop in Memphis, to its current standing as an industry leader in valve train technology, straightliners have helped shape and mold not only the products that COMP offers, but also its image in the performance industry. Whereas some other cam companies have come and gone over the years, COMP has remained a constant in the drag racing world since the company’s inception in 1976.
“Our involvement in drag racing goes back to the roots of the company, pretty much all the founders raced in the Stock class,” says Performance Account Manager, Dean Harvey. Harvey is a longtime COMP employee and Memphis native who is among the many talented and knowledgeable individuals that work on the company’s drag racing business.
“Eventually we got involved in circle track, road racing and even monster trucks,” he explains. “But the Sportsman class racers have always been the backbone of our company so to speak.”
Harvey has been with the company for over 30 years, and was introduced to both the sport and individuals within COMP by his father, who himself was involved with drag racing in the performance-crazed Memphis area. Harvey’s long tenure at the company has included stints in the sales and R & D departments, and that broad experience is something that he believes aids him in his current role. In fact, many of the COMP Cams employees that make their living in the Engine Builder Sales Department are long-time company men who have held jobs in nearly every area of the business. Some did it by necessity in the company’s early days – when a few devoted employees ran the entire operation- while others have worked their way in to their current positions.
Today Harvey counts nearly every NHRA Pro Stock team among his diverse group of customers, but has worked with everyone from bracket racers to John Force’s championship-winning Funny Car program. In fact, Harvey was a major player in helping Allen Johnson and Johnson & Johnson Racing to break through and win their first Pro Stock championship in 2012.
He explains that the role of a Performance Account Manager includes a lot of listening before making recommendations and selecting components.
“Mostly it involves me listening to what the teams or engine builders are telling me,” he says of his position. “Whether they know it or not, they usually know what they want to get a competitive edge or solve a problem. My job is to pick out the right components to create the valve train combination they are looking for.”
COMP Cams has been creating those combinations since the mid ‘70s, and throughout the years has developed a reputation as a company that will push the limits of what’s possible while doing everything it can to help its customers take home a coveted Wally trophy.
Harvey explains the company’s mission this way. “The first goal is to get the most power out of a given combination, but sometimes you sacrifice power for durability and vice versa. Our customers always want to stay ahead of the competition and we want to stay ahead of our own competitors too. A guy can be a number one qualifier at one event, but that can change the next week. We always want to stay ahead of the curve and try to tailor each valve train setup to what will help each individual driver or team be successful.”
This is a common sentiment. Anyone associated with COMP Cams will tell you, relationships with customers and fellow racers have always been the most important factor in the company’s continued success.
But the parts are important too, and making big power has never been an issue for COMP Cams components. Harvey believes that the company has also made huge gains in the durability of cams since the early days due to the availability of more exotic materials such as tool steel cores featuring bigger journal diameters. The emphasis on pushing the limits is still a pillar of the COMP blueprint, but now the materials can stand up to the engineering department’s state-of-the-art designs. Advances in testing equipment, such as the use of dynos and Spintrons, have also allowed COMP to understand exactly what will and won’t work before a racer ever hits the track.
When asked to look into his crystal ball, Harvey sees more changes in the not-so-distant future.
“The biggest change I see coming is in how the camshaft is configured, we’ll see them use larger barrel diameters and bigger lobes, but that can’t be done with a conventional valve train setup,” he explains. “Four or five years from now a camshaft will look nothing like it does today, and that technology will trickle down to the Sportsman racers as well.”
Like Harvey says, those Sportsman competitors are an integral component of what makes COMP Cams successful year after year. In turn, the company offers an extensive contingency program for Sportsman racers. And while they may not always get the same amount of exposure or TV time, Harvey also sees a distinct connection between racers competing in the Sportsman divisions and those making a living in the Pro classes.
“There’s not a lot of difference between working with the two,” he says. Their goals are the same. They want to win races, or if they’re running for points, win championships. All racers have a love for the sport, but they do what their budgets allow. They all want their combination to be the best it can be.”