Ken Phillips’ ET Bracket-Dominating Third-Gen

If you could pick a truck that does everything well, Ken Phillips’ ’06 common rail, or something very close to it, would likely be your choice. His four-door, ¾-ton Ram can be daily driven, tow a 40-foot gooseneck, trench through 10-inches of snow when it has to, or run its dial-in at the track with surgeon-like precision. Ken’s third-gen has been a dominant figure in the Outlaw Diesel Super Series ET Bracket class the past four years, all while still being perfectly capable of doing what it was designed to do. It’s powerful, rock-solid reliable, and it represents the perfect blueprint for a truck that can do everything well.

5.9L Common Rail with Hamilton’s 178/208 cam, 103-lb valve springs, lifters, tappets, heavy-duty pushrods, ARP headstuds
Believe it or not, after chasing a tick into the bottom end and discovering a failing rod bearing, Ken Phillips has been pretty deep into his 5.9L common rail. While he and his brother, Chris, were overhauling things, Ken threw in one of Hamilton Cams’ camshaft combos. It entailed Hamilton’s 178/208 cam, 103-lb valve springs, lifters, tappets, and the company’s heavy-duty pushrods. While piecing things back together, Ken and Chris added ARP 2000 head studs to rule out any head gasket issues.

Believe it or not, the truck sat on 8-inches of lift and rode on 37-inch tires when Ken bought it. Soon enough however, he lowered it back down to earth, installed 33’s, and proceeded to daily drive it for several years—along with hauling his Mustang to the track on weekends. This common rail truck has since been retired from daily driving duties as well as most of its towing chores—but that doesn’t mean it’s destined to lead a pampered life from here on out. Not only is Ken’s Ram tasked with regularly sending 500 to 600 hp to the pavement at the drag strip, but it’s expected to be ready to tow or cruise out to California and back, no questions asked. In fact, Ken tells us: “It still has the fifth-wheel plate in the bed. I can throw one in anytime I need to pull the gooseneck.”

Fleece Holset Cheetah
Tucked away in the factory location and hanging off the stock exhaust manifold, you’ll find a Fleece Holset Cheetah. The Holset HE351CW based turbo boasts a forged-milled compressor wheel (FMW) with a 63mm inducer, a high-flow turbine wheel with a 64mm exducer (vs. 58mm stock), and a larger wastegate actuator. In conjunction with the Hamilton 178/208 cam, the Cheetah builds boost quickly during staging.
2006 Dodge Ram Banks High-Ram intake horn
Once through the factory intercooler, cold-side boost makes its way into the cylinder head via a Banks High-Ram intake horn. Ken’s setup retains the factory charge pipes, but a cold air intake on the other side of the engine bay does make breathing a tad easier for the 63mm turbo.

Forced Upgrades

With just 172,000 miles on his ’06 common rail, it’s hard to believe Ken has been inside the 5.9L’s short-block, but looking back now he’s glad he has. After noticing a tick, running the valves, and the tick not going away, Ken was forced to venture deeper into the Cummins. In the bottom end, he caught a rod bearing that was starting to head south and promptly ordered a Mahle overhaul kit. Of course, being knee deep in the bottom end presented the perfect time to make a few upgrades. Hamilton Cams’ 178/208 camshaft replaced the factory stick, along with fresh lifters, tappets, 103-lb valve springs and heavy-duty pushrods. ARP head studs secure the head to the block now, too.

200-gph AirDog II-4G lift pump system
With a stock CP3 still in the mix and 45-percent Exergy Performance injectors to feed, there is nothing wild about Ken’s fueling equation. But why not plan for future growth? This 200-gph AirDog II-4G lift pump system accomplishes exactly that, and will be ready whenever Ken decides to bump up to a stroker pump and/or bigger injectors.
48RE, billet input shaft, a Sun Coast triple disc converter and billet flex plate, and a Mag-Hytec deep pan
The 48RE parked behind Ken’s Cummins has been there a long time. Once upon a time back in 2013 it was built by Brian Carter at Sun Coast—and it’s still holding strong hundreds of passes later. The Chrysler four-speed benefits from a billet input shaft, a Sun Coast triple disc converter and billet flex plate, and a Mag-Hytec deep pan. Ken tells us that, other than regular band adjustments, the only issue he’s ever had was having to replace the governor pressure sensor.

A Proven, 600+ HP Parts Recipe Keeping his overall parts combination relatively simple, Ken opted for a stock-appearing turbo upgrade when it was time for more air. A Holset HE351CW based Cheetah from Fleece sits in place of the stocker and bolts directly to the factory third-gen exhaust manifold. Its 63mm compressor wheel and larger turbine say it’s capable of supporting 650-rwhp common rail. The Cheetah exhales through a 4-inch turbo-back exhaust system (with a muffler) from Jamo Performance. A stock CP3 supports a set of 45-percent over Exergy injectors and receives plenty of low-pressure fuel supply courtesy of a 200-gph AirDog II-4G system. Thanks to Hardway Performance tuning, Ken’s Ram squeezed a dyno-verified 609 hp out of the factory CP3.

Work or play, the factory rear AAM 1150 with factory 3.73’s, BD Diesel diff cover, Firestone air springs
Work or play, the factory rear AAM 1150 has proven rock-solid in Ken’s 600hp application. It sports the factory 3.73’s it came with back in ’06, and a BD Diesel diff cover with an extra capacity sump. Heavy towing or occasional duties around the farm call for the Firestone air springs to receive some oxygen for added hauling stability.

The 9-Year-Old Transmission Build

Since leaving the care of Sun Coast back in 2013, the 48RE in Ken’s Ram has performed flawlessly. And in a 7,500-pound common rail truck that’s made countless passes at the drag strip and towed at its max GCWR more than a time or two, that’s saying something. The four-speed automatic is graced with a triple disc converter, billet flex plate, a billet input shaft, and a Mag-Hytec deep pan for added fluid capacity. Once through the 48RE, the factory transfer case and axles distribute power to the 17-inch wheels and 33-inch Nitto Terra Grappler G2’s.

Dodge Cummins 5.9L Cummins Edge Insight CTS2
From the moment you hop in the cab you can tell Ken is a man that takes care of things. For 172,000 miles, the interior is spotless, the seats show zero wear, and the A/C blows ice cold. He’s owned the ¾-ton third-gen since it had 69,000 miles on the clock—and we can’t imagine it looking much cleaner than this 100,000 miles ago. EGT, trans temp, coolant temp, rail pressure, and boost vitals are viewed by way of an Edge Insight CTS2 on the windshield.
CSP5 switch for on the fly switching
Like many competitive diesel drag racers these days, Hardway Performance’s Ryan Milliken has had a hand in Ken’s success on the drag strip. Wielding his EFI Live expertise, Milliken not only made a dyno-proven 609-rwhp and 1,238 lb-ft possible on the stock CP3, but the file Ken races in makes an ultra-clean 511hp and 1,002 lb-ft. Files are available on the fly courtesy of this CSP5 switch. Full disclosure: Ken’s tow tune (CSP2) makes 469 hp…
factory Jacob’s exhaust brake option, 48RE automatic
You don’t see this very often, but a factory Jacob’s exhaust brake option was available on ’06-’07 Rams with the 48RE automatic, and Ken’s is one of them. The vacuum operated exhaust brake definitely helps when the truck is making use of the fifth-wheel plate in the bed.

A Former Champion That’s Always In The Hunt

In just his sophomore year running the ODSS circuit, Ken earned an ET Bracket class championship in 2018. Last year, with back-to-back event wins under his belt he threatened to bring home a second ET title, falling short by just 3 points at season’s end. With shocking repeatability, Ken’s ’06 Ram is always a presence in the later rounds at any given race—success that he attributes to great sponsors, his wife Lauren, and his brother and lead wrencher, Chris. In a racing category with more than 100 entrants, Ken’s clockwork-like finishes at the top illustrate just how dialed in he and the truck are on race day. Regardless of whether there is an 8.87 or a 9.58 written on the glass, Ken’s common rail Silver Bullet always runs the number.

200No stranger to drag racing, Ken also owns a ProCharged ’89 Mustang capable of 6.60s in the eighth-mile. However, he prefers the consistency and durability he’s found with racing the Cummins in the ET Bracket category. No matter what dial-in is written on his windshield (8.80s to 9.50s), Ken’s 7,500-pound Ram can run the number with stunning repeatability. After joining the Outlaw Diesel Super Series circuit in 2017, he wasted no time rising to the top of diesel drag racing’s most populated class. The next year he brought home the ET Bracket championship. After winning back-to-back races at the Rocky Top Diesel Shootout and the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza last year, Ken nearly won it all again in 2021.

2006 Dodge Ram Cummins work truck
When it’s not running its dial-in at the drag strip, getting him to and from work on occasion, or towing a 40-foot gooseneck, you can sometimes spot Ken’s ’06 working on the farm. He sent us this photo at the height of harvest season last fall.


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