The original “Beat the Heat” program started in the late 90s by a couple of police officers with very simple goals, most relevant being: to encourage legal racing at a race track instead of on public roads.
Partnering up with the NHRA in 2003, the program became nationwide and began attracting considerable attention at the dragstrip, mostly from youths who otherwise might’ve ended up racing on the streets.
And while we applaud the efforts and the intention of the participants, one thing always stuck out: the cars. Historically run by older LEOs who were already racers themselves, there always seemed to be a bit of a generational disconnect. Adding to the separation between them and the younger drivers they want to keep off the streets was the fact that the majority were muscle-car guys. It seemed to us that the rivalry between American and import fans might have prevented the program from reaching as many car fans as they could.
Where Gwinnett County’s Beat The Heat team differs from the pack is their choice of car—a mk4 Jetta GLI driven by Deputy Rich Younker, a longtime Volkswagen enthusiast and Vortex member. We took a trip down to the Gwinnett County jail to meet Deputy Younker and to learn more about him and his car.
VWVortex: How did you hear about Beat the Heat?
Deputy Younker: I heard about Beat the Heat through the Sheriff’s Office that I work for. My Sheriff started the program about 4 years ago. About 2 years ago I approached Frank Woods about being interested in the program. In the back of my mind I was thinking that I would love to have my car in the program, but I could not at the time, due to it being my only vehicle. A year later I had my car paid off and bought a pickup truck. At that time I decided to make the move and build a drag Jetta police car.
VWV: What made you decide to do it?
DY: I decided to participate in the program because I loved what the program stood for and I thought I would make an excellent addition to the Gwinnett Beat the Heat team.
VWV: So you’re part of a team for Gwinnett County?
DY: In Gwinnett we have a 3 person team. Frank Woods heads up the program and races our Chevy Impala with a 502 crate motor. Mark Welch races a Suzuki GSX-R 1000 and I race my 2004.5 Jetta GLI.
VWV: Now the Impala is keeping in line with the teams we’ve seen so far, and the GSX-R is a popular choice for drag racers. But why did you pick a Volkswagen?
DY: I wanted to bring something different to the plate. There is a lot of big muscle in the program, but no import/tuner cars. After talking to Frank Woods and Mark Welch, the two other members of our team, we all thought bringing a Volkswagen would be an excellent way to reach out to a different genre of car enthusiasts.
VWV: So you’ve been into VWs for a while, then?
DY: I bought my first VW back in 2002. It was a 1997 Jetta GT. At this time I was not really into the VW/Audi scene. I met a guy, who is a good friend of mine now, Bill Post. He was the president of a car enthusiast group called Blitzkrieg Tuners. I was an active member up until I moved to Georgia, where I got my 2004 Jetta GLI that I use in the program now.
VWV: Have you raced before?
DY: Prior to entering the program I never raced a car a day in my life. It has been a learning curve for me, but an experience I fell in love with. I always loved watching the drag races at Waterfest and now I am the one doing the racing with a different purpose.
VWV: So besides being European, how does your car different from others?
DY: On the inside my car is not very different from a lot of other cars that race. It has a lot of engine modifications. The outside is what makes it unique from everyone else. In Beat the Heat, we make our cars to look like real emergency vehicles. My car has real working emergency lights and law enforcement emblems. You do not see that everyday and it draws a lot of attention.
VWV: Tell us more about the build.
DY: My car is a 2004.5 Jetta GLI. It was originally a 1.8T, but I had it bored and stroked to a 2.0L with an INA Engineering Stroker kit. I got a hybrid Frankenturbo F23 turbo hooked up to a Relentless V3 tubular exhaust manifold. A USP Motorsports race exhaust was added give the car a nice exhaust tone. A large port AEB head was added to free up some air flow as well. The transmission is relatively the same as OEM, but a Peloquins LSD and USP Motorsports shift forks were added to get more power to to the ground. I decided that I needed to change up the wheel and brake setup. I added Stasis Engineering 19″ wheels and 356mm big brake kit. Due to the width of the wheels I was either going to need wider fenders or have a lot of tire hanging out. I talked to Ed over at FFE Racing and got one of their wide body race front ends. It complemented the wheels and Garrett front mount intercooler courtesy of ATP Turbo. Pag Parts Turbo made me custom intercooler piping to get the air where it needed to go. I am also running an SEM Motorsports large port intake manifold with an Ausi S4 throttle body thanks to INA Engineering.
Injector Dynamics brought their 725cc injectors to the plate and they are complemented with a 034 Motorsports dual surge tank fed by an INA Engineering billet in tank pump.
I gutted the whole interior of the car and installed a Autopower roll bar and Summit Racing race seat. I added custom wiring and switches with the help of my friend Greg Kutzback, who made all the wiring for me.
There is a lot more to come over the winter months. I am going to be making more power and many more upgrades.
VWV: What are your goals, both on and off the track?
DY: My main goal is to educate kids about safe racing. If I can get 1 kid off the street and get them to race on the track, that means I have potentially saved 1 person’s life. This is what the program is all about. When those kids come to the track to race us, my goal is to make it a fun and enjoyable time so that they will come back to the track over and over. It is not always about winning.
VWV: If it’s not about winning, how important is it to be competitive?
DY: Being competitive is what drives a lot of people. It is how you use that motivation that will define you. You may be competitive, but if you race on the street you are using it the wrong way. It drives you to go faster, it drives you to want to do more with your car and in my case it drives me to want to go out every time and make a difference in someone’s life. Once I get behind the wheel though, it is game on, and I give it 100% every time. I always make a concerted effort to congratulate everyone I race against or tell them good race and that I hope to see them again.
VWV: So what happens when someone challenges you to a race?
DY: I have actually not had anyone challenge me to a race yet. I am up for any race, as long as it is at the track though. We are in the process of figuring out what to do when someone wins against us. The people that have beaten me at the track said it was an awesome experience to see the blue lights behind them and said it was like the police were actually chasing them.
VWV: You’re a full-time Sheriff’s Deputy, which isn’t a typical 9-to-5 gig as it stands. How do you find time to race and wrench on the car?
DY: Finding time is the hard part. Every thing we do is on our personal time. If I cannot get off of work for it, unfortunately I cannot go. It does take up a large portion of my free time. I am either working on my car, planning events or attending an event. My wife has been very patient through out it all. Next year is going to be a big year for my car with a lot more events that I plan on attending. It is going to be difficult, but I am not in my chosen career field because it is easy.
VWV: Does the department/state/coworkers support you—financially or otherwise?
DY: No county, state or department funds are used in the program. Everything we do is either out of our own pocket or donated from a sponsor or individual. Once a year we have a fundraiser to raise money for the program, so we can continue our on going efforts to fight illegal street racing. My coworkers have helped me out tremendously on a few occasions. Mainly helping me get my car around or coming over to my house to help me work on it.
VWV: In that case, do you accept donations?
DY: Beat the Heat is a 501(C)3 national non-profit charity. We accept donations from anyone. It can me a monetary donation or a donation in the form of a part for the car. It is all 100% tax deductible.
VWV: Any memorable moments yet?
DY: I think the most memorable moment was when I had the car at the track for the first time at NOPI Nationals. I was at the line, waiting on the tree and realized, wow I am finally here. Then the adrenaline dump hit me.
VWV: Speaking of NOPI, what’s your association with them?
DY: We were at the NOPI Nationals last fall, and now they want us to tour with them at all four locations this summer.
VWV: Outstanding. We wish you the best and are really grateful for all you’re doing both for the VW community and for the general car scene.
You can read the complete build thread of this car HERE in our discussion forums.
Deputy Younker and the Gwinnett Co. Beat The Heat team would like to acknowledge and thank the following sponsors:
Eurotech Performance Group
Stone Mountain VW
Eagle Maqchine Shop & Bill Brady Engines
42 Draft Designs