Baja Wins This Round, But Team Says It's Not Finished Yet

We’ve been following Team Valvoline’s bid for Baja all year. See how it turned out as employees from Valvoline and Cummins took a break from their regular jobs to test themselves at this iconic endurance race. Final in a series. 

Battling steering problems for much of the race, Cummins engineer Aaron Quinton understandably kept his eyes fixed on the narrow mountain road ahead as he drove Team Valvoline’s red truck at the 49th annual SCORE Baja 1000 endurance race in Baja California, Mexico.

So it was up to navigator Adam Sworski, Global Field Test Manager at Valvoline, to tell Quinton what he could see just beyond his passenger-side window as they made their way down the mountain.

“It’s probably about a 200-foot drop,” Sworski said calmly into the intercom connecting their helmets so they could communicate during the race.

“Don’t tell me that,” responded Quinton, Chief Engineer for the Cummins G Series Engines, perhaps only half in jest.

While they successfully navigated the mountain switch-backs, by that time in the iconic race it was easy to think that a dark cloud had been following the truck dubbed “El Tropico.” By the first pit stop just over 70 miles into the race, both mirrors were broken and the light bar on top was torn off after Quinton and Sworski rounded a turn and hit a tree branch protruding into the course.

The frame of the truck was also broken but no one was quite sure where that happened. With 3½-foot ruts, 2-feet or more of loose sand in places, rocks, boulders, washouts – it could have happened almost anywhere on the course.

A team of Cummins and Valvoline employees fixed the damage in less than an hour only to have many of their repairs break a second time farther into the race because of the rugged terrain. At that point, Team Valvoline decided to park the red truck around the 170-mile mark, about 12 hours into the race.

cummins-valvoline-baja-race-prep-1

 

The team’s other truck, known as the blue truck or “El Arctico,” had even worse racing luck. Driven by professional drift drivers Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tuerck, it was knocked out at about the 96-mile mark with transmission problems.

THE SILVER LINING

The good news? The Cummins 2003 vintage ISB 5.9 diesel engines in El Tropico and El Arctico performed well. So did the Valvoline oil used in both trucks. In fact, the oil in El Tropico was the same oil the team used during test runs up Pikes Peak, Colorado (U.S.A.) in June. And El Arctico managed to pull El Tropico out of deep sand during the race before it succumbed to its transmission troubles.

Neither Quinton nor El Tropico co-driver Roger England, a fellow Cummins engineer, had a lot of off-road racing experience so the plan was to take it easy, figuring if they could just average 29 miles per hour they would finish in the 36 hours allotted each vehicle to complete the race.

“But the terrain was just incredibly rough, head and shoulders above anything we expected,” said England, who didn’t get a chance to drive in the actual race because El Tropico broke down before it was his turn.

“It was so rough in places you could only go 15 or 20 miles-per-hour.  And then you had to stop frequently to make repairs.”

Valvoline, one of the world’s foremost producers of motor oils, entered two 1989 Dodge Short Bed Regular Cab trucks in the Baja race to celebrate its 150th anniversary and the company’s extensive research and development history with Cummins, the lead partner on the project.

The initiative was designed to provide Valvoline employees with the chance to test their own automotive skills and learn more about their product under the harsh conditions of an endurance race. The second truck was added so Cummins employees could have the same opportunity.

Their skills were tested and then some. A trailer on one of the team’s chase trucks, for example, got stuck in deep desert sand during practice. A chase truck’s transmission broke in the desert so it couldn’t go into reverse. A dune buggy the team borrowed to explore the course sunk trying to cross a stream after a veteran driver told them he thought it would clear without a problem. And those were only some of the challenges.

WORKING AS ONE

Valvoline worked on both trucks in the early phases of the project, with Cummins providing the engines and expertise on their installation. Closer to the race, the red truck headed to the Cummins Technical Center in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.A.) while the blue truck remained at Valvoline headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky, providing each group time to make final adjustments.

The larger team was back together in Ensenada, Mexico, where the race started and finished, for race prep and it was there that employees from the two companies began working pretty much as one. They turned their hotel courtyard into an open air garage of sorts.

cummins-valvoline-baja-race-prep-3 El Tropico makes its way down the course at the 49th annual Score Baja 1000 in Baja California, Mexico. The race starts and stops in Ensenada, Mexico.

 

 

Michael Wedding, Valvoline’s Lead Build Engineer, described the team’s efforts as “amazing… I was so glad to see the collaboration between Cummins and Valvoline.”

“That was one of the highlights for me,” said England, Director – Materials Science & Technology at the Cummins Technical Center.

There was at least one other highlight. The two trucks were a big hit with fans at the race.  They were so different from the highly customized dune buggies and trucks that dominate Baja that crowds seemed to gather wherever the trucks went. Crew members answered questions and passed out stickers to fans clamoring to learn more. Team Valvoline arguably received the loudest roar at the starting line.

But while the truck got plenty of points for nostalgia, it probably didn’t have the frame and suspension necessary for the unforgiving Baja terrain, even with the work the team did before leaving for Mexico and then at the hotel in Ensenada.

England, Quinton and Sworski all say they learned a tremendous amount and would love to race again next year.

“You’d be hard pressed to keep me away,” England said. “The way I look at it, we have not finished – yet.”

VIDEO SERIES

Check out a multi-part video series on Team Valvoline’s bid for Baja. Valvoline will be posting additional episodes in the weeks to come.

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

For Cummins engineers, these road trips mean going to extremes

A validation team makes its way up a mountain road at Loveland Pass (6.7 percent grade at 11,990 feet), during testing of Cummins’ X12 engine in Colorado (U.S.A.) earlier this year.
A validation team makes its way up a mountain road at Loveland Pass (6.7 percent grade at 11,990 feet), during testing of Cummins’ X12 engine in Colorado (U.S.A.) earlier this year.

Cummins engineer Trent Berardi was in trouble. Usually frigid Fargo, North Dakota (U.S.A.), was too warm.

With his team ready for two-and-a-half weeks of testing Cummins’ X12 engine under extreme winter conditions, Berardi had to quickly find cold temperatures close enough to his base in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.A.), to stay on time and budget. Then he got the good news: Idaho Falls, Idaho (U.S.A.), was having a cold snap.

“Thankfully, we found the temperatures we were looking for relatively nearby,” Berardi recalled.

Such is the life of a validation engineer, the last line of defense before a Cummins product reaches the customer.

These engineers oversee final testing to make sure a new engine platform or another Cummins product works when installed in a truck or other equipment.

The testing frequently includes a two-to-three week road trip to see what happens when the engine is stressed by extreme temperatures or elevation. Engineers say some things can only be discovered on the road.

“You’re looking for gaps between systems,” said Berardi, a Senior Validation Engineer in the Cummins Engine Business. “It’s like playing chess on a three-dimensional board.”

Cummins Engineer Trent Berardi (center, with laptop), talks to X12 team members during a stop in central Utah (U.S.A.) earlier this year.
Cummins engineer Trent Berardi (center, with laptop), talks to X12 team members during a stop in central Utah (U.S.A.) earlier this year.

LONG DAYS, SHORT NIGHTS, EXTREME TEMPERATURES

Validation testing takes place not only at Cummins facilities in the U.S., but in China, India, the U.K. and elsewhere. U.S.-based teams have traveled as far as Fairbanks, Alaska, and Death Valley, California, to find the ideal combination of temperature and grade.

In the U.S., trips can include 8 to 10 vehicles, counting support vehicles, and as many as two-dozen engineers, some flying in to observe just part of the testing.

Winter trips mean temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (- 40° Celsius). Summer trips can include daytime highs up to 120°F (49° Celsius). Elevation testing usually takes place at 10,000 to 12,000 feet (3,048 to 3,658 meters) above sea level.

A 17-hour day is pretty common and the most important hotel amenity is truck parking. Hotel parking lots are frequently used for emergency repairs.

Despite the challenging conditions, validation engineers say they love the trips.

“I think it’s the chance to really see how our products work,” said Jeffrey Friend, a Controls Performance Engineer based in Columbus who estimates he’s been on about 30 validation trips over 17 years with Cummins. “You’re out there with engineers who are experts in their field and there’s no phone calls, no meetings, you just focus on the product.”

The testing usually involves traversing steep grades, or going from zero to 60 miles-per-hour (97 kilometers-per-hour) as rapidly as possible – commonly referred to as “drag racing” by validation engineers.

The fun really begins, they say, when they “break something” – a catchall term that could involve just about anything limiting performance. Then the team has to figure out how to make improvements.

“That’s when you get a chance to find something you can improve on before our product gets in the hands of the customer,” said Beth Wendel, a Validation Group Leader in the Engine Business. “That can be very exhilarating.”

A validation team stops along the Alcan Highway near Haines Junction in the Canadian Yukon, where the record low temperature is 54 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
A validation team stops along the Alcan Highway near Haines Junction in the Canadian Yukon, where the record low temperature is 54 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

 

TALES FROM THE ROAD

After a 6-month college internship on an oil tanker crossing pirate-infested waters off the coast of West Africa, Chitresh Sharma rarely gets car sick even going up and down mountain roads looking at data on his laptop.

But the Senior Engineer in Product Validation at Cummins vividly remembers his time in a truck making run after run to test a Cummins engine in the desert outside Las Vegas, Nevada (U.S.A.). He asked the technician driving the truck they shared to turn off the air conditioning and roll up the windows to reduce drag as much as possible.

Sharma will soon be taking a new position in Cummins’ supply chain organization, but he says “I know I’ll miss this job, and I think I’ll end up missing these trips most of all.”

Friend recalls how one team he was with solved the lack of suitable restaurants in Death Valley by storing deli trays in a refrigerated truck they were testing, and during a break in the desert backing it up to another truck, creating a cool area to eat.

“Problem solving is really central to all aspects of these trips,” he said.

Perhaps no one has more stories about validation testing than Greg Sitzman, a Mechanical Engineering Associate based at the Cummins Technical Center in Columbus. He estimates he’s been on 50 validation trips over 10 years with the company.

Sitzman has been to Alaska five times, Death Valley, International Falls, Minnesota, and many other locations. He’s driven the Alcan Highway dividing Canada and Alaska, and put chains on a test truck to keep it from sliding through the Rocky Mountains. Once he even made a repair near Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories parked on a frozen lake. That enabled him to easily slide under the truck.

But he says what he likes best about the trips is the camaraderie.

“To me, while I enjoy the challenges, what makes these trips special are the people,” Sitzman said. “They make it fun. They are just good people to be with.”

 

 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

Cummins Hero Spotlight

This month, we’re saluting Anna Patton as a Cummins Hero, nominated through our HERO program. Anna is a remarkable nine-year-old, nominated for her dedication to helping kids with cancer.

When Anna’s aunt died of cancer last spring, she was devastated, but quickly turned her thoughts to helping others. Anna wanted to help bring a little Christmas magic to kids with cancer who were stuck in the hospital for the holidays. When her mom told her “your heart’s bigger than my wallet”, she decided to set out an ambitious plan to buy bald American Girl dolls to donate to Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Anna spent months collecting and recycling aluminum cans and bottles to raise money. By Thanksgiving of 2016, she far exceeded her goal of buying one doll – she was able to donate four.

This year, Anna decided to expand her fundraising efforts. She has started selling handmade crafts and candles, as well as continuing her recycling operations to reach her goal of donating ten dolls this year. She’s well on her way, with $500 raised, enough to buy four dolls. Anna will be starting third grade this fall – the Cummins team wishes her good luck!

 

NOMINATE YOUR HERO TODAY

Real heroes are all around us, making the world a better place each day. They come in all shapes and sizes and from every walk of life. And the thing is, most heroes don’t even think of themselves that way.

At Cummins, we’d like to change all that, but we need your help to do it. If you know someone like Anna, who goes above and beyond to improve the community or the lives of others, take a few minutes to tell us all about them. Learn more and fill out a nomination form by visiting our site.

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

Watch Tom Linebarger Discuss the Critical Importance of NAFTA

Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger reinforced support for free trade as a driver of Cummins success.

Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger appeared on Bloomberg TV this morning to discuss the critical importance of NAFTA to Cummins and the global economy.

Watch Tom Linebarger discuss the critical importance of NAFTA by clicking the image above.

In an op-ed authored earlier in 2017, Linebarger, who also chairs the Business Roundtable International Engagement Committee, wrote:

“It is imperative that we are able to access the 95 percent of the world’s consumers who reside outside of the United States with high-quality and competitively-priced products. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and our other free trade agreements have allowed us to do just that. I firmly believe expanding U.S. trade opportunities and modernizing NAFTA are good policy and would strongly support U.S. economic growth, jobs and global competitiveness. I also believe that withdrawing from or weakening NAFTA and restricting U.S. trade opportunities with countries like Canada and Mexico would hurt U.S. growth, jobs and competitiveness.

The Administration and representatives of Mexico and Canada are currently in the fourth round of renegotiation the two-decade old agreement. NAFTA has been good for American businesses, workers and farmers. Having said that, I support efforts to improve and modernize it in areas such as promoting digital commerce and cross-border data flows; ensuring fair U.S. competition with foreign state-owned enterprises, protecting U.S. intellectual property rights and investor rights (including through Investor-State Dispute Settlement provisions) and incorporating regulatory reforms in Canada and Mexico related to trade and investment.

More than any other free trade agreement, NAFTA has helped us compete for more customers. Since NAFTA’s bipartisan passage and enactment in 1994, overall trade has increased exponentially between the United States, Mexico and Canada. Prior to NAFTA, Mexico was one of the most protectionist countries in the world – Mexico’s policies all but mandated that our manufacturing take place within the country’s borders. Now, thanks to NAFTA, Cummins’ two largest export markets in the world are Canada and Mexico.”

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

Cummins Technical Center Celebrates 50 Years of Innovation

Cummins Technical Center 1960s construction photo
The Cummins Technical Center goes up in the mid-1960s in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.A.). The first employees moved into its buildings in the fall of 1967.

From punch cards to computer assisted design, from hand-written log books to virtual reality, and even through a devastating flood, one thing has remained constant since employees started moving into the Cummins Technical Center in 1967 – a devotion to the center's original mission.

“We are building the most important diesel research center in the world,” longtime Cummins Chairman and CEO J. Irwin Miller said a half century ago. “…We mean business. We mean never again to have to respond to a competitor’s development. We mean to beat him on each move, and be out first with a product so clearly superior in economy, bulk, weight and long life that our excellence does not have to be argued.”

Employees will celebrate the Technical Center’s 50th anniversary today (Oct. 5) with displays, a panel discussion and even a giant cake depicting the campus. It will also be a chance to reflect on Mr. Miller’s words and what continues to make the tech center in Columbus, Indiana (U.S.A.) a special place to work.

“When you have a vision and you have the people to go implement that vision and the facility, of course, to do that, that’s really what it’s all about,” said Dr. Wayne Eckerle, Cummins’ Vice President of Research and Technology.

Longtime Cummins leader J. Irwin Miller (second from the right) on one of his many visits to the tech center.

 

A PERSONAL APPROACH

After a consolidation with a truck manufacturer fell through in the early 1960s, Mr. Miller knew Cummins would have to be an innovation leader to survive as an independent engine maker.

The company wasn’t particularly well positioned for that to happen. It had 50 test cells available for research use, but only 15 were reasonably well equipped, according to The Engine that Could, a history of Cummins. General Motors, by comparison, had 100 test cells devoted to diesel research.

The company’s leaders had their eyes on property across Haw Creek from Cummins’ main engine plant for a new research and engineering building. Initial plans called for an 188,000 square foot facility with 64 test cells. But those plans nearly doubled in size before the tech center opened, resulting in two buildings – a six-story office building and a test center – with 88 test cells.

Mr. Miller’s interest in the tech center didn’t stop when the construction was finished. He visited frequently, talking to everyone from the engineers in the office building to the guys running the test cells.

“I came in late one night to check on a test, just pulled in there and there were three cars,” said Terry Shaw, a Senior Technical Advisor who started at the tech center 43 years ago. “The guard came running out, ‘You can’t park there!’ Why? ‘That’s Mr. Miller’s spot!’ He’d show up at odd hours just on his own, no entourage, just him. He’d walk in and start talking to people.”

J. Irwin Miller (eighth from the right) poses with a group outside of the tech center's office building.

 

A TEAM ATMOSPHERE

Everyone’s work and opinion mattered at the tech center, creating a special environment that continues today.

“It’s a team thing inside of this facility and it goes from an idea, an innovation, to a product that ends up in a customer’s vehicle,” said Victor Meek, President of the Office Committee Union, who has worked at the tech center since 1977.

The Technical Center has played a key role in many different Cummins products over the years including the extremely popular Big Cam and V Series engines to name just a few. But equally important has been its work in the technologies around emissions measurement and control as they became critically important to innovation in the industry.

Some of the company’s most notable technical minds regularly walked the buildings’ hallways including Dr. Julius Perr, who made his way to Cummins after fleeing Soviet oppression in his native Hungary in 1956, and former Vice President of Technology Dr. Alan Lyn, one of the first Chinese scholars allowed to leave that country after the Cultural Revolution.

Employees who weren’t around for Mr. Miller’s impromptu visits or when Perr and Lyn were at tech center say they can still sense its long and distinguished history.

“It’s present in the hallways,” said Beth Wendel, a systems engineer who has been at the tech center since 2007. “You can see the (show) engines on display in the office building on the ground floor, you can see the patents across the patent wall here in the lab building.”

“It kind of motivates me to make my own mark on history when I come to work every day,” added Nadran Bookhardt, a lab operations coach who just started at the tech center in January.

Employees at the Cummins Technical Center use an electron microscope, one of many tools that enable them to work in the realm of atoms

 

THE KEY INGREDIENT

While the technology changes have been significant, they are far from the only changes. The campus has also become a center for diversity and inclusion, attracting the best and brightest from around the world.

“When I started, there was a lady engineer over here and one over there and then the list got very short,” Shaw said. “Now, there’s lots of women and there’s a lot of people from India, China, England, everywhere. And it’s a much more engaging place to work.”

Over the next 50 years, Dr. Eckerle would like to see the center serve as an example for the company’s more than 20 technical centers around the world. While having the right facility and history are important, he says it’s the people who make the tech center special.

“Often times when I give tours, I say I'm going to take you out to the labs, I'm going to show you the test cells,” Dr. Eckerle said. “But it's the people who are collected here that make the action happen here.”

 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. blair.claflin@cummins.com

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