In An Unprecedented Year For Motorsports, These Drag Racers Still Managed To Light Up The Track

Just when you thought all had been lost in 2020, you get a feel-good article like this in your hands. There’s no denying that Covid-19 shortened most racing schedules, canceled every major industry trade show, and disrupted countless lives across the nation last year, but like so many other enthusiast-driven pastimes, diesel drag racing kept on keeping on. All things considered, 2020 was a huge year for diesel drag racing. Drivers, race teams, and sponsors remained focused, and countless records were set as a result. Some records were even broken more than once before winter hit.

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The 2020 season concluded with Scheid Diesel’s legendary dragster poised to make an eighth-mile run for the 3’s—and Wagler Competition Products’ screw-blown Duramax rail not being far behind. The Pro Mod class got even faster, with team Firepunk pushing the Hot Shot’s Secret S10 deep into the low 4’s by October. In Pro Street, not only did we see new elapsed time and trap speed records set, but a few trucks proved that 4.90s and even 4.80s could be run with regularity. As for brand-specific records, new Power Stroke milestones were achieved in both the 7.3L and 6.0L worlds, while a pair of new Allison-shifted Duramax records were established.

For more on the wild ride that was diesel drag racing in 2020, recapture the breakthrough E.T. and MPH performances kept the sport moving forward.

Fastest of the Fast: DRAGSTERS
Quickest Diesel in the World

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Scheid Diesel’s billet-block, compound turbo, P-pumped Cummins-powered, Spitzer chassis rail has been living in the low 4’s for many years. But prior to showing up to the PDRA World Finals (where it ran the Top Dragster class), the Scheid team had been unable to get out of the 4.1 range. However, all of that changed at the aforementioned event last October. With what most drag racers would call perfect track conditions, driver Jared Jones piloted the rail to a 4.04-second pass at 184 mph and reclaimed the eighth-mile E.T. record from John Robinson in the process. In the world of diesel drag racing, the Scheid name is still king. As we went to press, the Terre Haute, Indiana-based team holds the quickest E.T. and fastest trap speed records in both the quarter-mile (6.31, and 226 mph) and eighth-mile (4.04, and 185 mph).
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After putting up a 4.04 on the same tune-up that typically yields 4.1-4.2-second passes, the answer to Scheid’s 4.0 magic likely lies in the racing surface. When you remember that John Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, prefers racing at Virginia Motorsports Park over all others (where the PDRA World Finals were held) it starts to make sense. The term “power track” would be an understatement, as track-prep here is the absolute best in the business. Scheid has yet to apply all 3,000 hp to any racing surface, so if you find them on a power track in 2021, watch out. In the right conditions, any talk of breaking into the 3’s will be a thing of the past.
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If last year’s racing season would’ve ended before the weekend of October 23-25, you’d be looking at the eighth-mile E.T. record holder for all of diesel. While things didn’t quite work out that way, John Robinson still had an eventful 2020, to say the least. After a fresh billet-aluminum block and head Cummins from Scheid—complete with a larger atmosphere turbo and a 16mm P-pump—made 2,860 hp on the engine dyno, it helped propel the Power Service dragster to a 4.101-second pass at 181 mph. Being that Robinson pulled off the feat back on March 14, it held as the eighth-mile E.T. record for more than seven months.
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Jeremy Wagler’s screw-blown, nitrous and water-methanol injected Duramax dragster didn’t set any records in 2020, but it did make tremendous progress in its first season of operation. With driver Andre Dusek behind the wheel, the latest rail on the diesel scene went from running 4.60’s at 150 mph to a best of 4.23 at 166 mph in a matter of a few weeks. It’s light, chock-full of future horsepower potential, and Wagler has publicly stated he and his team will be gunning for 3’s in 2021. The fact that it’s the closest thing to a Top Fuel dragster (namely in terms of sound) in the diesel world makes it all the more unique. If you haven’t seen the Wagler rail thunder down the track, you need to make that happen. Just don’t forget to bring ear plugs!
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While it’s been an unspoken goal for a while, the hot pursuit of 3’s is out in the open now—and perhaps no other team is further along in the hunt than Firepunk Diesel. With repeatable 4.20s and 4.30s at more than 170 mph on tap at any given diesel event, thanks in part to Larson Miller’s talented driving habits, the Hot Shot’s Secret-sponsored Pro Mod S10 rivals the kind of E.T. and trap speeds that diesel rails are seeing. And back in October, they matched what the rails have been doing pound-for-pound, going 4.11 at 181 mph. The feat was accomplished at No Mercy 11, with the S10 on 315 DOT-approved radials. Prior to the No Mercy event, the record-setting truck broke its own ODSS record in going 4.21 at 178 mph at the Hardway Sunshine Showdown event in September.
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Much of the Firepunk team’s success in 2020 stemmed from their use of D&J’s billet-aluminum block and head Cummins. This same winning strategy has been implemented in the aluminum engine programs offered by Scheid Diesel and Wagler Competition Products. The non-intercooled, single turbo, nitrous-fed common-rail engine is fueled and tuned by Exergy Performance, and is capable of producing 3,200 hp. But more importantly, what the new engine program afforded team Firepunk in 2020 was reliability at that power level. Before and during the No Mercy event alone, the Cummins saw more than 20 passes.
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Although Wade Moody and the PPEI-sponsored, “Non-Compliant” C7 Corvette weren’t out much in 2020, some late season testing yielded a new best eighth-mile of 4.23 at 170 mph. And despite going a full tenth quicker than the ‘Vette’s previous best in 2019, Moody told us he’s yet to make a pass with the converter locked. As one of the only Duramax Pro Mods on the scene, this twin-turbo, 3,000hp version—assembled at NGM Diesel Racing Engines, backed by a Rossler Turbo 400, controlled by MoTeC electronics, and sitting in a Jerry Bickel Race Cars chassis—has as good of a chance of going 3’s in the near future as anyone, however this will be with a new driver next year as Moody will no longer be a part of the Corvette’s campaign.
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Following the sale of his old Pro Mod, an ’06 Dodge Ram, Ben Shadday blasted back onto the racing scene in 2020 in an Amsoil-sponsored, cutting-edge Corvette. The split-window ’63 sports a Wagler-built, CX400 Cummins that’s fueled by S&S Diesel Motorsport, tuned by CTT Tuning, and is boost-fed by a sizeable GT55. Rossler Transmissions and Sun Coast have a hand in the transmission side of things, a TH400, while HammerTech Racecars handles the chassis work. By season’s end, Shadday put together a personal best of 4.32 at 175 mph. With more seat time, his Pro Mod might just give the Firepunk team a run for their money in 2021.
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Proving that anything is possible in diesel motorsports, Brian Gray continued to pioneer his 7.3L Power Stroke-equipped old body style F-250 in 2020. This year, he not only drove the Pro Mod OBS even deeper into the 4’s, but he continued to do it on a factory cast-iron (filled) block, a zero balanced OEM crank, a single turbo, and the HEUI injection system! Dual HPOP’s, 400/400 hybrid injectors of his own making, an individual runner intake, ported stock heads with matching Gray’s Diesel performance cam, Carrillo billet pistons and long-rod assemblies, an 88mm GT55, and a healthy amount of nitrous sum up his engine recipe. A lockup, trans-brake equipped TH400 with a Sun Coast converter allows Gray to leave the line with 70 psi of boost on tap, which facilitates the truck’s impressive 1.1-second 60-foot times. Like team Scheid and Ben Shadday, Gray’s best eighth-mile pass of the season, a 4.75 at 146 mph, came during the diesel exhibition race that was part of the PDRA World Finals.
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A week before making the trip up to Virginia Motorsports Park to collect his 4.75-second timeslip, Brian paid his local quarter-mile track, Gainesville Raceway, a visit. Despite low bottle pressure hindering the nitrous system (540 psi) and the 3,550-pound brick cutting slower times though the 60-foot, 330-foot and eighth-mile as a result, he still put together the first 7-second pass for a diesel-propelled Ford truck: 7.96 at 164 mph. Year after year, Brian’s old Ford is proving that the 7.3L and the HEUI injection system can compete in the upper echelon of diesel drag racing.
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Now piloting the two-wheel drive Pro Mod Super Duty he built for Rudy’s Performance Parts, Nathannial DeLong quickly came into his own behind the wheel in 2020. While his 4.55-second hit at 163 mph wasn’t the quickest the single turbo, nitrous-huffing 6.4L-powered Ford has made it through the ‘660 (that accolade belongs to previous driver, Rawlings Barnes, with a 4.51), it was the fastest trap speed we’ve seen the truck produce. Regardless, consistent 4.50s was a solid spot to finish the season in. Look for DeLong and the Rudy’s crew to push things deeper into the 4’s this year.
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When it comes to the quarter-mile, Matt Kubik and his P-pumped 7.3L “Demented” Mustang hail as the king of all Power Strokes, having gone 7.60 at 192 mph back in 2017. However, Kubik has long been trying to improve upon the car’s eighth-mile best of 5.04. At the tail end of 2020, he was finally able to do it while testing out in Kansas. His 4.91 at 149 mph not only marked the first time he dipped into sub-5-second territory, but it makes his 3,300-pound Pro Mod pony car the third quickest eighth-mile Power Stroke in the world at the present time.
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Rather than taking the TH400 route, Mark Broviak is sticking it out with the Allison in his Pro Mod Silverado. In his own words: “Anyone can throw a different transmission in and go faster, but everyone’s already done that.” In 2020, the Limitless Diesel Performance five-speed Allison 1000 in his 3,470-pound Chevrolet performed flawlessly, and helped the little Bow Tie click off an 8.73-second quarter-mile at 159 mph without lockup. The feat earned Broviak the honor of owning the fastest Allison-shifted truck in the world. For 2021, the goal is to get a 7.99 out of the Allison, along with a 4.99 eighth-mile (it’s current best in the ‘660 is a 5.54).
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With an engine that’s more of a moderate street build than something you’d expect to find in an 8-second truck, the LLY Duramax in Broviak’s Pro Mod is rather simple. Carrillo rods, Fingers’ oval bowl cast-aluminum pistons, SoCal Diesel stage 2 heads and a #9200 alternative fire camshaft highlight the extent of the long-block mods. A single 14mm CP3 from Exergy supports a set of its 300-percent over injectors, while the factory LLY ECM still controls the engine. On the air side, a single Godfather S485 from Stainless Diesel routes boost through a PT3000 water-to-air intercooler from Precision Turbo & Engine. So far, Broviak uses just one stage of nitrous.

Fastest Full Size Trucks: Pro Street

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In the midst of winning a second straight Pro Street title in the Outlaw Diesel Super Series, Johnny Gilbert and the rest of the Stainless Diesel crew had a lot of fun pushing the limits of their Pro Street second-gen in 2020. At the Rocky Top Diesel Shootout back in July, Gilbert set a new trap speed record for the class: 155.7 mph. Then at the very next event, the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza, he broke both the newly-established Pro Street E.T. record and his own trap speed record in going 4.82 at 156.7 mph. Following the Scheid event, 4.80s became so frequent for Gilbert that Hot Shot’s Secret’s Kyle Fischer asked if Stainless was campaigning a 4.80 bracket truck.
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Some readers might not know that Johnny and the rest of the Stainless team ditched the truck’s triple-turbo arrangement in favor of a big single early on in the 2020 season, but that’s exactly what happened. Almost immediately, the truck—now being 100 pounds lighter and with the engine seeing much less stress as it pertains to boost and drive pressure—started going faster. In conjunction with a potent nitrous system, the 5-blade GT55 hanging from a competition T6 exhaust manifold helps the truck apply more than 2,400 hp to the track.
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After purchasing Firepunk’s Pro Street ’06 Dodge in 2018, Josh Scruggs soon found himself employed by the same company he bought the truck off of—which all but guaranteed it was going to continue to set records. In June, Scruggs’ 4.92-second pass broke the truck’s previous best eighth-mile elapsed time—a 4.97 which had stood since 2018—and which also set a new Pro Street record at the time. Later that same day, he would also collect a 4.91-second time slip. During the Rocky Top Diesel Shootout, Scruggs moved the goal posts once again, this time to 4.86. While his 4.86 record didn’t hold, he did prove that the truck is going to live in the 4.80s and 4.90s (at least) from here on out.
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Even though it’s one of the heavier trucks competing in Pro Street (if not the heftiest) at 4,815 pounds, Derek Rose’s UCC-winning blue Dodge never fails to impress. Sporting a TH400, a Freedom Racing Engines Cummins with massive DDP injectors, and a 102mm Forced Inductions GT55, Rose ran consistent low 5’s before pulling off a 4.99 at 146 mph way back in March (along with a 1.24-second 60-foot hit). To be sure, Rose and his Dodge have been quicker than that in the past, but this particular 4-second blast earned him the win at the Sun Coast Spring Shakedown. As for the rest of the 2020 season, Rose missed half of the ODSS schedule yet still wound up third overall in points.

Best of the Rest:

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Once a daily driver, now the world’s fastest 6.0L Power Stroke, Charlie Fish’s ’05 Super Duty made a lot of waves in 2020. Built to compete in the 5.90 Index category, it didn’t take long for many to believe his short bed F-250 was capable of going much quicker. At the first round of the Diesel World Drags in May, Charlie broke into the 5’s, running a best of 5.85 at 117 mph. By August, he found himself at the Texas Truck Jam collecting a record-setting 5.63-second time slip. With mid-5 capability at his fingertips, Charlie and his 6.0L Ford would be right at home running in the Pro Limited field, a class that’s sometimes offered at select ODSS events.
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Oddly enough, on the same pass that earned Charlie the 6.0L eighth-mile record he also set a new quarter-mile high mark. Even though he coasted to a 9.069 at 125 mph, it was the quickest E.T. any 6.0L has ever mustered in the 1320. Had he stayed in the throttle, Charlie might’ve dipped pretty far into the 8’s and trapped more than 150 mph. Not bad for a 5,100-pound Super Duty with stock front suspension and cut-down factory coils, not to mention a moderate Kill Devil Diesel engine build that’s showing no signs of trouble in dealing with 1,500hp worth of abuse.
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Austin Denny’s 5.698 at 123 mph doesn’t hold the 6.0L eighth-mile record, but when he went 5.76 at 120 mph right off the trailer at the Diesel World Covid-660 back in May, it was the fastest pass a 6.0L Power Stroke had ever made. In fact, it was the first time a 6.0L-powered anything ran faster than 6.0 in the eighth-mile. Like Charlie Fish, Denny’s Super Duty was built to compete in the 5.90 Index field—which is to say he spends a lot of his time pulling power out of the equation in order to slow down. However, also like Charlie, he isn’t afraid to lean on his compound turbo’d, 1,500 hp 6.0L either. In an attempt to take back the 6.0L eighth-mile record in the fall, Denny came close, running the aforementioned 5.69 at 120 mph.
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As yet another example of a 5.90 Index truck that can venture out of its typical working environment, look no further than Adam Foltz’s ’02 Dodge. His P-pumped 24-valve second-gen is four-linked front and rear, features a full Docol steel tube chassis, and tips the scales at just 4,100 pounds. The truck’s light weight means the full manual valve body 47RE leads a fairly stress-free life, and it also means he doesn’t have to lean on the Cummins very hard to get the truck to go fast. When his best pass of 2020 (a new personal best as well) came at Diesel Truck Wars in October, less than 1,300 hp was required to pull it off.
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2020 was a big year for Allison fans, especially the guys that don’t want to swap anything in place of their A1000. On August 7th, Nathan Bandstra joined Danville Performance’s Mark Broviak in the 8-second Allison club. And being that Bandstra’s truck is four-wheel drive, while Broviak’s is 2wd, he laid claim to the fastest Allison-shifted 4×4 truck on the planet. Despite Bandstra’s regular cab Silverado 2500 HD being lightened up a bit, it still sports a full steel body and weighed in at 5,800 pounds the night it went 8.99 at 158 mph. That means roughly 1,600 hp was being applied to the track…after passing through his competition series Allison from Husker Diesel Performance.
Nathan Bandstra: 8.99 at 158 MPH (Current 4×4 Allison Record)
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Known for pulling a camper behind him, unhitching, and going rounds all weekend at the track, or driving cross-country to race with his East Coast friends, Rick Fletes is living the dream in his Duramax-powered ’70 Chevelle. Depending on the organization he’s racing with, Fletes can detune his S400-fed LB7 to go rounds in a 6.70 Index class or load up the hottest tune in his arsenal and go fairly deep into the 9’s in the quarter-mile. Back in early August he did just that, sending the 4,500-pound diesel muscle car through the quarter in 9.65 seconds at 142 mph. Fletes ended up getting more than 1,000 passes out of his stock bottom end LB7 before it let loose in September. We look forward to seeing his new engine build, the car, and him out and about in 2021.
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