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SEMA Council & Network News: YEN Power Tour Participants Recall Their Week on the Road

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No matter what niche you're in—rods, restoration, racing, restyling, reps, trucks or wheels and tires—there’s a SEMA council or professional network that's right for your company. SEMA councils and networks offer members a variety of market-specific programs and activities designed to provide educational and networking opportunities while promoting their particular industry segment.

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YEN Power Tour Participants Recall Their Week on the Road

The Young Executives Network (YEN) sent 10 young automotive aftermarket professionals on the Hot Rod Power Tour the week of June 10–17. Stopping in seven cities from Louisiana to Kansas, the Yensters interacted with students, giving tours of the “traveling car show” and discussing career paths. The participants documented their journey via social media using the hashtag #YENPowerTour. Check out their photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Here are some reflections from the 2016 participants:

Darren Lane

Darren Lane, Motor State Distributing

The 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour was an awe-inspiring experience, both for myself and the other nine members of the 2016 YEN Power Tour group. Having spent eight days with our group of 10, we forged friendships and business relationships that I hope will continue far into the future. Having visited four schools representing very unique programs, our visits were an experience unto themselves. Students freely spoke of their projected career paths within the automotive industry, and while many of them are currently focused on the OEM/dealership side of the industry, we opened their eyes to alternative options within the aftermarket industry that most were unaware existed. Tour venues gave us time to meet and converse with participants, and it was exciting to see so many young adults in attendance, as it demonstrated this generation’s desire to support the future of our industry. Most impressive were the two brothers I met from Maine, 17 and 18 years old, respectively, who will have amassed approximately 7,000 miles between them by the time they complete their 2016 Long Haulers’ journey.

Nick Caloroso

Nick Caloroso, Diode Dynamics

The Yen Power Tour was easily one of the most rewarding experiences of my career with Diode Dynamics. Representing SEMA’s YEN program and spreading awareness to students during school visits was one of the most unique aspects of the program. Speaking with students who are in the same position I was in just a few short years ago reminded me just how exciting it is to follow your passion and find your place in the automotive aftermarket industry.

If we helped just one student find their career path through our discussions, I would be extremely satisfied with our impact on their lives. My time on the Power Tour reaffirmed my decision to have a career in the automotive aftermarket industry. Through spending time with our group and interviewing fellow car enthusiasts, I was reminded of the passion that makes our industry so great. The enthusiasm of each person we interviewed and their excitement to show us their builds was a special feeling and has always been a highlight of my position at Diode Dynamics. Our group was also fantastic; we arrived as 10 strangers, but we left the tour a close-knit group of friends as a result of our experiences together.

Todd Earsley

Todd Earsley, My Shop Assist

What an amazing experience! While cars have always been in my life, it is the people who make it great. I am so glad I was able to get to know nine other enthusiasts during the Hot Rod Power Tour. The mix of people spread over many professions, and we all bonded, laughed and made business contacts that will last for many years. The staff at Hot Rod magazine were very welcoming to our group, and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. My passenger Erica and I were able to speak with so many young (and old) enthusiasts who were traveling along the 1,500-mile adventure, which reminded me of how exciting this industry can be. I often get bogged down in the details of trying to get my business going that I forget how much fun the car culture truly is! This trip gave me the opportunity to step back and take in the plethora of vehicles and owners that make the aftermarket industry so great. I look forward to many more enjoyable experiences with the SEMA Young Executives Network!

Aaron Vaccar

Aaron Vaccar, Aaron Vaccar Co.

Without a doubt, jumping on the Hot Rod Power Tour as a first-timer is an experience that will fully emerge you into the automotive aftermarket hobby—from die-hard enthusiasts to veteran professionals. At a glance, it’s a mini ecosystem of how everything works together! As a young executive working with the industry, I was positivity influenced by a real-world taste of a flourishing market segment, while also being inspired to imagine ways to keep my area of focus growing for my generation and beyond. Our YEN team could not have been any better either; after friendships swiftly solidified, we jumped right to sharing and teaching (and learning) with the students we met about the vast ways to pursue an automotive-based career. It would be nearly impossible to select the single most memorable moment, except for the overall strong reminder that our unique industry is all about passion and a love for cars.

Erika Klein

Erika Klein, Auto Anything

It all started with 91-degree weather with 80% humidity at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Little did I know that the 1,500-mile road trip I was about to embark on with complete strangers would end up being a once-in-a-lifetime experience where I would meet incredible people that I now call friends. Let’s just say it was way better than anything I ever expected. Since I started in the automotive industry three years ago, I have discovered a world where people are passionate about what they do and where everyone is welcome. It’s so refreshing after my time spent in the fashion industry to meet so many genuine people, and the young professionals I shared this experience with are second to none! It was a running joke that the YEN Power Tour group was reminiscent of MTV’s “The Real World.” You know, 10 strangers picked to live in a loft, etc., though I’m happy to report there were no fights; only fast and lifelong friendships.

The YEN Power Tour gave me the opportunity to not only meet more amazing people in the industry, but also the chance to share my experience with the next generation. It never even crossed my mind when I was in college that the automotive industry could be a fit for me, so the opportunity to share my experience with students was a win for the future. After seven days of laughs, inspiration and a lot of perspiration, I returned to reality with a sense of accomplishment, new colleagues and an obsession to find my first musclecar in hopes to participate in the Power Tour experience next year, because honestly, after this experience, how could life on the road ever be the same?

Jason Geathers

Jason Geathers, Auto Images

Closely related to the television series “The Real World” produced by MTV, we all came together as strangers. Some of us have past, brief knowledge of another; however, most of us set out on a journey that we dreamed about as children. When traveling with your peers of such high caliber, you realize there are different types of people in the world. I have the chance to make a difference in someone’s life as a successful figure within my industry at a younger age than most. Being able to give knowledge first hand to students still learning a trade within the industry showed anything is possible as long as you believe within yourself and work to be the best and continue to improve.

The motivation that I felt to return home and press my skill set to be better was the outcome that I didn’t see coming. I knew that this was an extraordinary time for this opportunity to really see what I was made of. In return, I fell back in love with wanting to help others within the industry, especially those who are young and need guidance into the future of business. To see all the young and upcoming enthusiasts with top-level skills made me proud to a part of this organization.

As we traveled many miles, several states and a few random surprises along the way, the friendship that I gained on this trip will be irreplaceable. The staff of Hot Rod combined with the SEMA community have given so much back to the industry. I cannot thank everyone enough who was involved in making this a reality for me.

Jason Wieczorek

Jason Wieczorek, Motovicity Distribution

My own real-life version of “Road Rules” would be the best way to explain this trip—10 people picked to ride in five cars, for seven days and 1,500 miles! This group was among the greatest people I’ve come to know and the most eclectic and amazing minds I have had the privilege to peek inside. Walking into this scenario on day one provided many unknowns and a ton of excitement, but within minutes of the group arriving, bonds started to form. The variety of personalities and walks of life started to marry together like a perfectly executed Louisiana Gumbo. Over the next seven days, our journey put us right in the heart of the Hot Rod Power Tour. Being honorary guests made seeing every aspect that the tour had to offer an added bonus. Many introductions along with new friendships were made at every stop along the way, as well as many laughs and thought-provoking conversations about industry topics and events. Day seven ended our bucket-list trip, goodbyes were exchanged, hugs where given and our #Yenpowertour family parted ways. We all agreed that we will always have the 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour.

Eric Ables

Eric Ables, Flat 12 Gallery

The 2016 Power Tour was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to get to know my peers in the industry, as well as the younger generation just starting out. It was very enlightening to speak to others in the industry, finding out where they thought the sport was headed and what they were doing to gear themselves toward the new generation of enthusiasts. In speaking with various people, the trends seem to be the continuation of the Pro-Touring builds and modifications on LS powerplants.

The school visits were definitely a highlight of the YEN Power Tour; for instance, when we meet the Sowela Technical School students and saw their enthusiasm toward cars and their interest toward later imports, such as the Nissan GTR #Pennzilla and Toyota Supra. I enjoyed encouraging them to look into careers in the auto industry, letting them know that the skills they’re studying now are exactly what many companies are looking for. My favorite part of the Power Tour was the wide mix of cars and people that were brought together, such as the rear-engine convertible Chevrolet truck in Baytown, Texas, that was cruising in the rain with an umbrella. Everyone came out for the fun!

Michael Phillips

Michael Phillips, Slam’d Magazine

YEN’s efforts on the 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour were to fulfill the larger mission of YEN by networking with enthusiasts and industry members on the tour and exposing their passion via social media using #YENpowertour. In addition to our networking endeavor on the tour, the YEN trip was supplemented with multiple trade school and community colleges visits, along the route. Visiting their automotive and transportation departments, YEN had the opportunity to interact face-to-face with the next generation of young executives. Each YEN representative had specialized skills and knowledge of different facets in the industry, meaning the students were exposed to a broad variety of post-education options, career paths and networking avenues. The school visits and tour encounters made for an extremely rewarding experience in reaching out to those whom the industry will be passed down to and cared for by. Overall, the YEN Power Tour is an unbelievably awesome and profitable event. This year’s team can’t give enough thanks to the YEN Select Committee, Hot Rod magazine for their hospitality, Bryan Harrison for being our fearless leader and SEMA for their mission and hard work making it all possible.    

Zach Denney

Zach Denney, Wholesale Horsepower

What a week! Five cars, 10 young professionals, thousands of miles logged, hundreds of students, and only five minutes of mechanical trouble! I’ll own the mechanical trouble since it was my car, but in my defense, that fuel hose really was rated for use with ethanol. Now that I’ve had a few days to catch my breath and get back to work, I can reflect on how unique the SEMA YEN Power Tour experience was. I always enjoy sharing the passion I have for my career with young people, and it was especially meaningful to visit with students in the very places where they study every day. I was fortunate to attend an automotive technology program when I was in high school (and my instructor Robert Watson was a Long Hauler this year!), and can remember the career options I faced when I left. I made my way to a four-year college after high school, but many of my classmates walked into positions as technicians at repair shops or dealerships. Had I known then what opportunities there are in the automotive aftermarket, I may have made different career and education decisions. Having been in their shoes not many years ago, I truly hope that our message resonated with many of the students we spoke with and ignited their passion for the automotive industry.

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HRIA General Membership Meeting

The Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) will host a general membership meeting at the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) Nationals on August 3—one day before the event opens. General membership meetings are a great opportunity to learn more about the council and the resources available exclusively to HRIA members. Attendees will hear the latest updates from the select committee and enjoy an open discussion on the hot-rod industry.

With the SEMA Show just around the corner, the select committee will announce opportunities to volunteer at the Show and other ways to become more involved in council activities. Enjoy refreshments while connecting with hot-rod professionals.

The meeting will take place Wednesday, August 3, from 3:30–5:00 p.m. in the Saddle and Sirloin Club, Freedom Hall.

Register here!


HRIA Education Day Moves to NSRA Nationals

HRIA is moving its Education Day sessions to the NSRA Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky. Twelve manufacturers will give one-hour presentations on their product lines, and present tips and tricks for restoration projects. The Education Day will take place Thursday, August 4, with sessions beginning at 9:00 a.m., and the last session concluding at 4:15 p.m. (There will be two simultaneous presentations per hour.) The sessions will be classroom style, with some manufacturers hosting panel discussions, while others stick to a traditional presentation format. These valuable sessions are open to all attendees of the NSRA Nationals.

This is a popular event, and seats are limited. Reserve your spot today for the sessions that most interest you.

HRIA Pinewood Builder’s Challenge

If you are attending the NSRA Nationals, you do not want to miss the HRIA Pinewood Builder’s Challenge, taking place Friday, August 5, and Saturday, August 6, on the show floor. The annual HRIA Pinewood Builder’s Challenge is an opportunity to showcase the skills of nationally known hot-rod builders while raising money for SEMA Cares charities benefiting Childhelp and Victory Junction facilities.

Cheer on the builders as they race their one-of-a-kind, small-scale pinewood cars for recognition and a good cause. After the races, the pinewoods will be displayed in the HRIA booth and then auctioned off during the HRIA Industry Awards Reception at the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas.

If you have questions regarding any of these events, contact SEMA Director of Councils Jim Skelly at 909-978-6690 or

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