Revved up and ready for racing

Father-son team works to keep race cars on track in Solano County

By Eliav Appelbaum/Sports Writer
Tony Oddo Sr. (left) and son Tony Jr. with their Grand National West Series race car at T.O.E. Performance Products. (Ryan Chalk/The Reporter)
Business bio:
Name of company: T.O.E. Performance Products
Years in existence: 26
Product or service: Builds performance engines and distributes high-performance parts.
Number of employees/job descriptions: Five engine assemblers and two office workers

Fast facts
• From start to finish, it takes 110 hours to build a performance engine.
• T.O.E. builds about 200 engines a year.
• Many of the vintage engines T.O.E. restores are worth an where from $500,000 to $1 million.

Tony Oddo Jr. has a very fond memory of the first engine he built.

"It was in 1987 and I just got out of high school," Oddo said. "It was the very first motor I built, and it was for Kenny Schrader. He won the race on the NASCAR Southwest Tour at Riverside Speedway."

Oddo and his father, Tony Sr., work together at T.O.E. Performance Products. T.O.E. has built performance engines in a shop on Driftwood Drive in Suisun City since 1980, and by the younger Oddo's estimates, the company builds about 200 engines a year. Besides building engines for race cars and vintage race cars and restoration cars, T.O.E. also prides itself on building top-quality carburetors. The Suisun operation has a full machine shop and engine diagnostic service.

"There's nothing like working with your hands and building such an intricate piece, such as a race engine, and then see it perform and win races," the younger Oddo said. "There's no other feeling like it."

Since Oddo, 36, started working at T.O.E. with his father in 1984, the company has built over 1,200 engines. That figure is slightly deceiving: Each engine has its own unique number, and many of the engines have been rebuilt by the Oddos more than 10 times over.

The company has been a part of five NASCAR tour championships and two NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series championships. It expected to see 25 cars with its imprint at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races in mid-August.

Oddo just recently got out of racing go-karts. In 2003, he finished second in the points standings of the Kinsmen Kart Club out of Dixon. He decided to sell his go-kart to concentrate on his work in the shop.

"I didn't have time," he said. "We're working on lots of projects."

The Oddos field a car that runs in the NASCAR Grand National West Series. Ken Epsman, a 53-year old rookie driver, got behind the wheel for his first professional ride in the Oddos' car on June 24 at Infineon Raceway for the Blue Lizard Australian Suncream 200. Epsman finished 11th in the race.

"We tried to get Boris Said, but he was already committed somewhere else. At the last minute, we got someone," said the elder Oddo, who has built engines for NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Bill Elliott. "(Epsman) is a very good vintage racer. I figured he'd be the best guy. I figured he wouldn't wreck the car and he'd ride it well."

T.O.E. has also built engines for several local drivers, including Fairfield's John Ogara, who drives dirt cars at Petaluma Speedway; drag racers Jim Pace and Terry Moorehead, both from Fairfield; and occasionally NASCAR Grand National West driver Jim Inglebright, of Vacaville.

"The whole time we're building, we're trying to maintain reliability and maximize efficiency," the younger Oddo said.

For the past two years, T.O.E. has also been working on spec engines for NASCAR. A spec engine is an engine built using stock parts with the intention of maximizing efficiency and saving money. While most engines cost $40,000, T.O.E.'s spec engines will cost about $20,000.

"I think the racing engines of the past are going to be gone. The racing engines of the future will be spec engines," the elder Oddo said. "There will be a learning curve but NASCAR will make sure they all run the same... It'll be a like tuning a fine watch."

Eliav Appelbaum can be reached at sports@thereporter.com.

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