Diesel Racing Continues To Grow in 2016 - Engine Builder Magazine
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Diesel Racing Continues To Grow in 2016

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It was a busy year for all of us at DIESEL Motorsports and for supporters and fans of our association. We hosted eight regional events along with 50-plus affiliate events across the United States during 2016. Starting in Nebraska in April and ending in Missouri in October, DIESEL Motorsports held diesel drag racing, sled pulling, dyno and show-n-shine competitions, reaching many thousands of fans and participants.

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The Nebraska Diesel Show is managed by a state group of young men who love their diesels and have held a show in Kearney, NE for over eight years. DIESEL Motorsports helped with this event last year for the first time and in just a year we saw a big advancement in the quality of performance diesels in Nebraska. This shows the sport is still growing into new areas where young people (18-35) are embracing the sport of turning their farm diesel truck into a performance vehicle for drag racing or pulling.

In May, we jumped over one state to Missouri for a first-time event at the US 36 Dragway with a “Diesel vs Gas” pickup truck drag race in three classes. This was very competitive with a lot of long-time gas drag trucks wanting to go up against the newcomer diesels. Diesel won in two classes and gas won in one class with a lot of claims coming from both groups. The track owners said a totally different crowd from their weekly fans came to watch these grudge matches.

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This is usually the case when DIESEL Motorsports brings an event to a facility – the crowd is different than the usual drag racing crowd. The sport encompasses a lifestyle that appeals to rural people who use diesel engines in their work, farm or pleasure vehicles. There is even a difference between the diesel race group and the diesel pulling group, but the one item that brings them together is the diesel engine.

June’s event was in Muncie, IN and is the oldest “diesel only” event in the country. Thunder in Muncie was started in 2001 by DIESEL Motorsports owner Gene Mohney and Eric McBride (DHRA) because local drag strips and county fairs would not allow diesel pickups into their competitions. Well, a lot has changed in just 16 years because you can find a diesel pull and/or drag race from Nebraska to New York every night of the week in each state, Monday through Sunday from June first to the end of August.

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At Thunder in Muncie we saw a lot of fast diesel drag trucks with speeds hitting 155-160 mph in the ¼ mile. Many trucks were well over 1,500 hp and many street trucks topped the 1,000 hp level.

DIESEL Motorsports’ largest event of each year is the East Coast Diesel Nationals in July at Numidia Dragway in Pennsylvania. We had over 300 trucks competing with over 5,000 diesel fans watching diesel-only drag racing and sled pulling going on simultaneously on parallel tracks.

Our team uses August as a tryout month for new areas, which included a drag race in Pennsylvania and a sled pull at the State’s largest fair in Wilson County. The new events open the market to new areas and expands the sport across the country. And expanding the sport means new business for manufacturers and diesel shops that maintain the diesel trucks in those areas.

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Another aspect of going into new markets is meeting competitors who think their trucks are the best in horsepower and torque and end up getting beat by outsiders bringing their trucks to the newer events. Then the locals start spending more dollars to upgrade their performance diesel truck in order to compete the next year.

In September, we went to the number one state for diesel performance – Ohio. The venue at Marion County International Raceway is another track at which we run drag racing right next to sled pulling. We saw many fast trucks since the first part of the day was slicks-only racing by the trucks. Those knobby tires tear up the surface of a drag track so we limited it to slicks only for four hours in order for the fast trucks to run. We had a lot of fast times from 140-160 mph during those four hours and then the other two classes ran in the afternoon.

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For the first time we ran a sled pulling class for Work Stock called Super Street, which includes all OEM-like turbos with varied configurations so long as they did not exceed a plug of 2.55. There were a lot of trucks pulling for the win but a 70+ year-old puller from Indiana, John Shew took the win in his Dually Dodge, pulling 304 feet.

We ended up back in Missouri with another “Diesel vs Gas” drag race by popular demand and both sides stepped it up a notch to compete for purses. We saw a lot of new trucks in both racing and pulling classes along with the usual that have stepped up their game with improved trucks.

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Based on what we saw, the sport is growing in power, not only in the top classes, but in the street trucks too. The performance upgrades to the engines this year were really the difference makers for many of the trucks. Those improvements included performance cams, rods, pistons, rings, bearings, gaskets, turbos, heads and the components that added extra hp and torque.

Both racers and pullers found ways to increase hp and torque, but also found ways to drop weight for extra time and inches for distance. Many of our rural shops are getting creative in many different ways in order to accomplish what their customers want in their performance diesel trucks.

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Those who came out on top for the season in diesel drag racing include Bruce Block who was crowned Top Points Champion for the 2016 season in the Unlimited Heads-up Class; and Larson Miller as Top Points Winner in Quick Diesel and ET Bracket. Greg Hogue won the Top Diesel Points Championship in his GM Performance Duramax Dragster.

The sled pulling top points champion was in the 3.0/2.6 Class and it was the team from Pennsylvania,  Jake and Joe Slingluff in their truck “Empty Pockets.” These teams who travel the circuit and compete against hundreds of other trucks work after every event to either repair or upgrade in order to win.

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There seems to be no slowing down the diesel performance movement and I think following the elections, we will continue to see an increase in the use of diesel trucks along with newer replacements for some of the older trucks.

This affects your business in many different ways, by giving you the opportunity to service newer trucks with accessories and performance upgrades as well as repairing and running maintenance on the older trucks still being used on a daily basis. ν

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