The diesel side of our industry has really been cranking up their game to 11 recently. As such, there are a ton of folks going faster than they ever have before in diesel-powered vehicles, and one of those people is Mattie Graves.
Mattie Graves competes in the Outlaw Diesel Super Series (ODSS) dragster class, and is the only female doing so in a class that already has very few competitors in general. We caught up with her during the ODSS weekend at the 2022 UCC competition where she was competing along with the help of her family and support from her dad’s diesel shop, Hollyrock Customs, located in Hollywood, MD.
Mattie’s dad was a racer himself back in the day, having raced an old Chevelle before turning to diesel racing with a 2004 Duramax for many years. Mattie was always by her dad’s side when it came to cars, trucks and racing, so naturally, it wasn’t long before she expressed an interest in driving.
“My dad has been racing for as long as I can remember, and I said, “Hey, I want to go racing too.’” Mattie Graves recalls. “At the time, I had a pickup truck – just a 2015 F350 – that I took to the local track on Friday nights for test and tunes. When I said I wanted to go racing, my dad saw this dragster was for sale on Facebook Marketplace and the very next day we were going to pick it up. It worked out in my favor.”
Mattie had some driving experience, but nothing that would prepare her for what a dragster would do down the track, so she got herself enrolled in Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School in Florida.
“I took the dragster adventure class and I was set,” she says. “I’ve always had the dream of being in a door car one day, but the faster I go in this dragster, the more I just love being in it.”
It comes as no surprise at all that Mattie got hooked on going fast in her diesel dragster, and now that she is a few seasons in to her racing journey, shes becoming a force to be reckoned with on the ODSS circuit.
“I’m trying to get seat time,” she says. “It’s still new to us. This year, we have a new setup, so you’re always learning. You think you know what you’re doing and you don’t. Every time you get in, there’s something new you’ve got to do. Never get too comfortable because you’re always going to be doing something new. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you focused and you never know what’s going to happen.”
Never knowing what’s going to happen means you’ve got to be in the right mindset when rocketing down the dragstrip. Mattie gets calm before a run thanks to her crew dialing in the car just right.
“We always test the car before we go up to the lanes, just so we know we’re ready,” she says. “As long as I know that my dad and my crew guys have the car right, I know that all I have to do is do my job right. Once I get up to the line and I’m strapped in, I know this is on me now and I just have to focus. One of the best things I’ve learned from watching drag racing and going to NHRA is that you don’t worry about who’s next to you. You worry about getting your car down the racetrack.
“I focus on what I’m doing and I’m making sure that I’m doing my job to make me and everybody else happy. I know that if anything goes wrong, if it’s not catastrophic back here in the engine, it’s more than likely something I did wrong up here.”
Speaking about the back of the dragster where the engine is housed, Mattie’s car features a twin-turbo Duramax engine along with some nitrous to help it run 4-second passes in the eighth mile.
“It’s a true twin-turbo LML Duramax, which in ODSS you see a lot of Cummins,” Graves says. “There’s very few of us Duramax people left. We stuck with the Duramax because it’s what my dad has always used and it’s been tried and true. I’m not going to switch that up yet. We have two small kits of nitrous and a spool kit mostly just to help leave the line. We also have a billet crank and S&S Fueled components – all the goodies. We have the best of the best on here. We’re trying to get this into the 4.40s and even the high 4.30s. We’re competitive.”
That competitive nature comes in handy as Mattie is the only woman competing in her class, which means a lot of attention gets placed on her when she comes to the line at ODSS events in front of the diesel crowds.
“At first there was definitely a lot of looks and talk and speculation such as, ‘Is she going to be able to do this?’” she says. “The favorite thing I hear all the time is, ‘Are you sure you can handle that?’ I think after last season where we came out and won an event. I was number one qualifier last season. I think we have definitely earned our spot in this circuit. PDRA might be a different story, but I think in this circuit, in the diesel world, I think we have earned our place and we’re only getting better.”
As mentioned, Mattie is still young and still a newer competitor in diesel drag racing, but she’s proving herself out on the track and closing the gap on other much more tenured folks. Her future in this sport is looking bright, and Mattie is excited about new challenges to come, such as PDRA.
“PDRA is definitely a lot more competitive in Top Dragster,” she points out. “You have dragsters that are running 3.70-3.80, so we would like to get this more dialed in so that we know we can also hang with them. We don’t want to go out there and look like fools. We’re going to try to make our first PDRA showing at our local track back home at Buds Creek, MD. We’re going to try and we’re just going to put our best foot forward and see how we do, and mostly just to get my name out there. I love ODSS, but we’re also seeking more seat time anywhere we can find a race that I can put this dragster in.”
Mattie and her team stick to the East coast primarily, so hopefully you can catch a race very soon and see Mattie rip down the track.