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.

Under the old-school, polished-aluminum Moroso valve covers, you’ll find a fire-ringed set of heads from Crutchfield Machine. They’ve been extensively ported, match the Gearhead Stage 2 cam extremely well, and anchor to the block by way of ARP head studs. Bean Machine’s billet 3-inch intake plenums feed boost into the worked-over heads. The 11-gauge stainless steel exhaust manifolds were built by Paul’s Custom Fabrication and Machine in Camden, North Carolina, with 2-inch diameter sections leaving the cylinders and feeding a 2.5-inch log on each head. Paul’s also made the T6 exhaust collector and handled all the truck’s chassis work. We didn’t initially notice due to the tube chassis throwing us off, but the engine has been set back considerably compared to stock.
A single S400 from KC Turbos handles boost production. The T6 BorgWarner features a billet, 13-blade compressor wheel with an 80mm inducer, a 96mm turbine wheel, and a 1.32 A/R exhaust housing. It wears a Torque Solutions thermal turbo blanket and routes boost through an On3 Performance 4-inch race core intercooler.

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.

Believe it or not, the 7.3L long-block in Brian’s Super Duty has virtually gone unchanged since 2012, with a different cam and heads added in 2015. The block’s water jackets are halfway filled, a main bearing girdle ties the main caps together, and the factory (albeit lightened) crank and main caps are secured via ARP main studs. The connecting rods are a billet prototype Tymar set from back in the day, equipped with ARP rod bolts, and the pistons are de-lipped and decked, cast-aluminum units from Mahle. The aforementioned camshaft change in ‘15 entailed a switch to Gearhead Automotive Performance’s Stage 2 stick.
Behind the high-pressure oil reservoir, a Swamps Gen3 HPOP is suspended over a 17-degree factory 7.3L HPOP in the stock location. Together, the pumps ensure that 3,200-psi worth of injection control pressure (ICP) is always on tap for the engine’s massive hybrid injectors. Called its Stage 5 units, the Unlimited Diesel Performance injectors can flow a maximum of 455cc’s of fuel and do so through 400-percent over nozzles. Everything gets started on the oil side with a Melling low-pressure oil pump feeding the HPOP’s.

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.

With gobs of fuel and a bit of nitrous in the mix, an external wastegate is always a good idea—and two is even better. Although Brian tells us he hasn’t sprayed the engine enough to worry about over-speeding the turbo yet, his 46mm Precision wastegates will come in handy when he decides to push deeper into the 5’s. For now, the turbo produces a relatively safe 70-psi of boost on a typical 5.90 pass.

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.

Big injectors require big fuel supply, and Brian didn’t skimp in that department. Massive, -10 AN hose feeds an Aeromotive A1000 from the rear-mounted, 5-gallon Summit Racing fuel cell. From there, -8 AN line carries fuel to a Y-block, where fuel supply splits into two -6 AN hoses to feed the back of each cylinder head. Pressure on the adjustable Fuelab regulator is set to 65 psi.
The bottle is always full, but Brian maintains he isn’t using much nitrous to run consistent 5.90s. In fact, he’s only using a .070 jet and a .030 spool jet in his mild two-stage system at the present time. Brian uses Nitrous Express Lightning .125 solenoids and brings N20 into the cold-side intercooler pipe. The spool stage is manually triggered on the steering wheel during staging.

Twisted Transmission

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.

It’s concealed by a DJ Safety transmission blanket, but a Level 4 4R100 automatic from Twisted Diesel sits behind the potent 7.3L. It sports an Aermet input shaft, a 300M, 1.2-inch diameter intermediate shaft, and a 300M output shaft—along with a billet-steel forward drum and Overdrive planetary. The converter is a spragless piece from Precision Industries, with a billet stator and a 1,900-rpm stall speed. Brian keeps the 4R100 cool with a Derale Performance remote mount transmission cooler located behind the cab.
To make sure the truck is always biting, it was four-linked front and rear. Paul’s Custom Fabrication and Machine handled all the work, not to mention the entire, TIG-welded, chromoly tube chassis.
Right out of the box, the QA1 double-adjustable coil over shocks were almost set exactly where they needed to be, and to date Brian thankfully hasn’t had to fight many chassis issues. He knows the heavy spring rate coil overs play a big part in the truck’s ability to cut 1.32-second 60-foot times.

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.

The factory F-350 axles survived the full race makeover that commenced in 2017, but the rear 10.5-inch ring gear Sterling has been graced with a full, 4140 forged-steel spool from Innovative Machine Solutions. The ’08 Super Duty diff cover was added for looks. As for the Dana 60 up front, it’s been left completely alone other than the addition of a Yukon Hardcore drive flange kit.
Consistent traction comes in the form of a 29.5/10.5-15W Mickey Thompson ET Drag being present at each corner. The 29.5-inch slicks are mounted to three-piece, beadlock 15×10-inch Holeshot Pentastar wheels with the Super Duty 8x170mm bolt pattern.
A B&M Stealth Magnum Grip Pro Stick shifter might handle the 4R100’s gear selections, but a TCM-2800 transmission controller from Powertrain Control Solutions is the brains of the operation. A PCS D200 dashlogger was vital in data logging and getting the transmission dialed in, but in the future the extra analog inputs it offers could be used to monitor plenty of other vitals. On the track, Brian leaves in second gear. When the converter locks at 3,800 rpm it pulls the engine down to roughly 2,300 rpm. From there, the 2-3 shift hits at 3,700 rpm, followed by the 3-4 shift at the same engine speed.
As a longtime tuner of 7.3L’s and the owner of Jelibuilt Performance, it stands to reason that Brian handles his own PCM calibrating for the truck. Here, you can see the factory PCM mounted on the passenger side of the cab and the ribbon cable feeding toward the Hydra Chip he uses. Brian summed up his tuning arsenal by telling us he runs his nitrous tune all the time, a file that calls for injector pulse width in the mid-3 millisecond range.
In the cockpit, Brian straps himself into a Kirkey Racing seat with a 5-point Simpson harness. The roll cage, which again was built by Paul’s Custom Fabrication and Machine, meets the SFI 25.6 chassis spec. That means he’s certified for 7.99 in the quarter-mile and 4.99 in the eighth.
Despite the 1.3-second 60-foots and how hard his launches might look, Brian only leaves the line with 10 to 15-psi of boost on tap. So far, he’s had zero issues competing in the ultra-tough and highly popular ODSS 5.90 Index class, and even sits fifth in the points chase as we write this. But while Brian plans to continue racing 5.90, he’s also setting his sights on besting his previous 5.76-second blast at 121 mph. “I think 5.40s are very attainable,” he told us. “It should do 130 mph leaning on it hard in the eighth.”

 

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