July 22nd 2020
Inside Harrah Enterprise—Expanding Beyond NASCAR Transmissions
Harrah Enterprise VP Andrew Harrah is delighted that NASCAR is back “on track." It's no wonder as its transmission scored a Cup win the first time back.
When the season restarted, Darlington winner Kevin Harvick was driving a car equipped with Harrah’s products.
But having a NASCAR winner with Harrah gear is hardly a unique occurrence. During 2018, the company’s first year in their new Cornelius, N.C. location, they led 80% of laps on the cup series, and had 25 wins.
Harrah Enterprise began when Mark Harrah – Andrew’s father – partnered with Chuck Rankin to design and engineer a new 4-speed transmission designed for NASCAR. Harrah senior started an LLC with Jasper Racing at that time.
The transmission was a hit, winning road course races in the Monster Cup Series in 2007; winning the Daytona 500 in 2008.
Andrew Harrah explains “My father and Chuck Rankin created the design; Jasper was the brand that ended up producing it. In 2018, my father wanted the opportunity to control the entire Harrah Enterprise company, and move from Indianapolis where Jasper is located. Our transmissions and parts were all shipped to North Carolina from Indianapolis at the time. We were a tiny division relatively speaking in the huge Jasper company, and it makes things a lot easier on logistics moving to North Carolina.”
Harrah laughs that “2018 was the longest year of my life – we had to rebuild the dyno rooms and get all the stations set up and hire new people and train them. We were doing all that while we were growing as a company, picking up a lot of teams, and we wanted to provide service for them. To do that, we were moving an entire company and training a lot of new people.”
After buying the company out from Jasper and completing the move to N.C., Harrah Enterprise has released new products and established a drive-line leasing program for NASCAR teams of all sizes.
According to Harrah, “We continue to develop and sell innovative racing parts for NASCAR and our quick-change differential for a lot of the grassroots racing series. Our primary focus is NASCAR Monster and Xfinity series.”
He relates that “We broke into the market with a four speed transmission for the Cup series, and from there we started developing an oil pump as well as other products. Since our move, we have really expanded our leasing side of the business, leasing to lower-budget race teams.”
Harrah adds “Our leasing business has really taken off and proven to be a very valued asset for our company and very successful. We have helped a lot of the smaller race teams take a leap to a bigger, stronger role in NASCAR with our drive shaft and differential. Some teams can’t afford to purchase a full fleet of those and keep them up and refurbish them, so they use us as a service. Since we are the manufacturers, we can provide them with the parts and pieces; we know how to reuse and refurbish them in an inexpensive way.”
The company includes pick-up and delivery to any North Carolina-based team, and offers shipping to out-of-state teams.
Whether creating new products or providing leasing services, Harrah stresses that the company’s philosophy is really based on “striving to be the best on the race track and make our customers happy and pleased with the endurance and performance of our products and our customer service. We are a competitive group: my Dad and I, and all our employees - we take pride in the durability of the equipment, and we take pride in our products producing great results on the track.”
For Harrah to stay on top for so long in such a competitive arena, the company relies on “a great deal of R & D. We are constantly updating, and listening to feedback from our teams and taking on any problems we come across, solving them. The more technology that comes out, the more we learn about the arena we are in. There are a lot of smart people around, and you have to stay on your toes, and one step ahead of the game,” he asserts.
The company has just begun “breaking into dirt-model-type races, Late Model asphalt and dirt; we always want to try to keep expanding into other forms of racing.” His goal is to “just bring a product to a customer and let them take it out and try it on the race track. It is awesome when you get feedback from a driver about how they can feel the difference with our products immediately. We want to keep the drivers happy, keep innovating.”
Harrah offers this advice regarding state-of-the-art in transmissions and differentials: “Basically, anything that pertains to the drive line, you have to test everything out over the off-season. You need to see if your car just reacts a little bit better to whatever product you’ve tried out, and check to see if there is something that works even better for you.” While he says, “Sometimes you can test during the season as well, my philosophy is to test products back-to-back on the same day, which is better done during the off-season. See what the driver likes between each one; weigh the pros and cons; take some analytics from the car; and see if there is a route to go a different way, too.”
Finally, speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic, Harrah discusses how his company is approaching this challenge. “Obviously, we think everyone should stay safe and listen to precautionary measures given by medical authorities; they know best. But you can still stay busy. We certainly have, and that’s what helps me get through it.”
He reports that “We had a month off, and we talked about different business opportunities, but once racing came back, we just got busy and got back out there.” With safety in mind, he says “We don’t allow workers to come to work if they’re sick or anything like that. We work in our warehouse and we deliver. We don’t have people coming in to visit a showroom, so we didn’t have to worry about our customers in that way. But we make sure our products coming in and out are cleaned after every single race.”
Moving beyond the pandemic, Harrah wants the racing industry to know that the company is more than “just a transmission company. We are the engineers behind Jasper Racing, and we have a proven product at the muscle league level.”
By Genie Davis
By Genie Davis