People, Places & Racing News

Industry Mourns Loss Of Engine Building Icon Sonny Leonard

By SEMA Editors

Sonny LeonardIconic engine builder Sonny Leonard of Sonny's World Class Racing passed away January 10, at the age of 77, leaving behind an amazing legacy of innovation and success.

“Sonny Leonard’s passing is a huge loss for the racing industry. He will be missed not only for his engine-building skills and knowledge but also for his good nature and charisma,” said PRI President Dr. Jamie Meyer. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends and the entire motorsports community.”

Leonard gained notoriety in the racing world thanks to his engine-building skills, which powered many racers to victories and championships in various drag racing categories, including Pro Nitrous and Pro Modified. His name also became synonymous with big-inch mountain motors due to his success in racing categories such as Mountain Motor Pro Stock and Top Sportsman.

In addition to using his ingenuity to power racers to success on the track, he used his engine building prowess for charitable purposes, including the Sunnen Engine Charity Sweepstakes held every year during the PRI Trade Show in Indianapolis. Leonard’s donated engines in 2018-19 helped raise more than $220,000 for Victory Junction, a year-round camping facility in Randleman, North Carolina, for children ages six to 16 with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses.

“It was such an honor to have the opportunity to work with Sonny Leonard and his team as they generously volunteered their time to build an engine each year for the Sunnen Engine Charity Sweepstakes,” said PRI Trade Show Director Karin Davidson. “PRI’s condolences are with his family and team at Sonny’s Racing Engines.”

A service celebrating Leonard's life will be held on Thursday, January 14, at 1:00 p.m., at Thomas Road Baptist Church located at 1 Mountain View Road in Lynchburg, Virginia.