Brian Jelich’s Trailblazing, 5.90 Index-Racing 7.3L Power Stroke
With all the recent common-rail dominance in diesel drag racing, the 7.3L Power Stroke may seem like an endangered species these days—but not in Brian Jelich’s world. He’s campaigning a 7.3L-powered, 2000 model year F-350 in the action-packed 5.90 Index class—arguably the most exciting category to watch on the Outlaw Diesel Super Series circuit. Even better yet, the 444 ci V-8 under the hood is still HEUI-fired, controlled by the factory PCM and IDM. As a longtime drag racer and lifelong 7.3L die-hard, Brian has been one of the lead pioneers in 7.3L performance, and has actively been pushing the oil-fired platform forward for more than 15 years now. In the following pages, we’ll explore the nuts and bolts behind his regular cab Super Duty, the world’s fastest 4×4 7.3L Power Stroke of smiles.
Proven Hard Parts
You won’t necessarily find anything groundbreaking in Brian’s engine, but his 7.3L is chock-full of components that’ve been torture-tested and proven over the years. The block’s water jackets have been half-filled with Hard Blok, a girdle ties all the main caps together around the crankshaft, which is secured via ARP main studs, and Mahle de-lipped and decked pistons reside in the cylinders. The rods are prototype billet pieces manufactured by Tymar from back in the day and utilize ARP rod bolts. One area where Brian’s engine is ahead of the game lies in his camshaft and cylinder head selection. A Stage 2 Gearhead Automotive Performance cam and ported (and fire-ringed) Crutchfield Machine heads mesh perfectly with each other, and make a significant difference in the 7.3L’s power output. Another high-horsepower 7.3L addition is a Meziere electric water pump, along with a water pump adapter plate from Gray’s Diesel Performance.
Two HPOP’s, Big Hybrids, And All The Fuel Supply
If you’re building a 7.3L to compete against a sea of 1,500hp Cummins-powered trucks, you start with the biggest injectors Unlimited Diesel Performance makes, a set of its 455/400 hybrids. The high-flow injectors are capable of moving 455cc’s worth of fuel through 400-percent over nozzles, and they’re supported on the oil side thanks to a Swamps Gen3 high-pressure oil pump mounted over a stock, 17-degree Super Duty HPOP. Brian’s fuel supply system revolves around the use of an Aeromotive A1000, complete with a regulated return and a -6 AN fuel line feeding the back of each cylinder head.
Race-Ready S480, Custom Exhaust Manifolds, And A Little Nitrous
As one of the pioneers for high-horsepower, big single turbo 7.3L’s, Brian has run more than his fair share of BorgWarner S400’s over the years, so he knows what works. Currently, an S480 from KC Turbos crams as much as 70-psi of boost through the truck’s On3 Performance intercooler. The 80/96/1.32 charger is driven efficiently thanks to log-style exhaust manifolds fabbed up by Paul’s Custom Fabrication and Machine, which culminate with a T6 exhaust collector at the front passenger side corner of the engine. For an extra kick and some added cooling, two nitrous lines are plumbed into the cold-side intercooler pipe, which is attached to a polished intake Y and Bean Machine billet 3-inch intake plenums.
Like many of the combinations Brian has found that seem to work better than others, he’s long-relied on Twisted Diesel for a rock-solid 4R100. The version in his F-350 is Twisted’s level 4 build, which calls for an Aermet input shaft, 300M (and larger than stock) intermediate shaft, and a 300M output shaft. A 1,900-rpm stall speed, spragless converter from Precision Industries handles engine-to-transmission power transfer, while a stand-alone TCM-2800 transmission controller from Powertrain Control Solutions fine-tunes the shift points, shift firmness, and converter lockup.
The 2,000-LB Weight-Loss Program After years of drag racing a full-weight, all-steel Super Duty, Brian pulled out all the stops in 2017. With the help of Paul’s Custom Fabrication and Machine, a chromoly and TIG-welded tube chassis—complete with a cage certified for 7.99 in the quarter-mile and four-link suspension front and rear—the truck he’d owned since 2004 went under the knife. The leaf springs were ditched for QA1 double-adjustable coil over shocks while the factory axles remained, the interior was gutted and lightweight aluminum infiltrated the cab, and a fiberglass front clip, bedsides, and doors were sourced from GTS Fiberglass. Further lightening came in the form of the windows and back glass being replaced with 1/8-inch thick Lexan. The end result is a far cry from the 6,300-pound race weight Brian used to have to contend with. Now his F-350 tips the scales at a speed-friendly 4,240 pounds with him in the driver seat.
Bigger Things Yet To Come
Even though Brian is still formulating the perfect tune-up for his 5.90 Index racing endeavors, he’s already made the 7.3L a formidable contender in this ruthlessly competitive class. If he follows the ODSS circuit around the country, look for a 7.3L-powered Ford to be in the championship hunt by season’s end. In the meantime, Brian has been upfront about his intention to improve on the truck’s current best pass to date, a 5.76 at 121 mph. For the short-term, the goal is go 5.40s—which Brian believes is a realistic target considering he’s yet to truly lean on the engine. Our hunch is that, with a top-notch engine build already underway at Morris Motorsports, Brian will show the current 7.3L no mercy in 2021. Look for him to push this HEUI-injected monster deep into the 5’s and shake up the standings in diesel drag racing’s hottest new category.