It’s February, it’s 80 degrees, and it’s Florida. While most of the country is still confined to the indoors for the winter, southerners are hitting the drag strip, blasting through the mud, and hooking bumper-to-bumper. When we heard JH Diesel & 4×4 and White’s Diesel Performance were teaming up to host a drag race, dyno competition, and tug o’ war at the renowned Bradenton Motorsports Park in West Florida, we promptly booked airfare and left Old Man Winter behind us.




You always know you’re in Florida when you see gigantic mud trucks like these. This 6.0L Power Stroke-equipped ’04 Super Duty belonged to area shop and event sponsor, JH Diesel & 4×4.
A 4/10 pro tree was run for all drag race classes aside from the E.T. Bracket Class (which utilized a sportsman tree). While this common-rail Dodge clicked off repeat low-12-second passes like clockwork, the front weight brackets and rear pulling hitch lead us to believe it may pull double duty on occasion—and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that!
Matt Maier and his ’97 F-250 are known for going rounds with some of the best index racers in the country, and the Florida Truck Fest was no exception. His 7.3L-powered Ford would run low 12s and a couple high 11s on the day, landing him Second Place overall in the 12.0 Index Class.
In the staging lanes, dozens of onlookers stopped by to pick Maier’s brain—curious as to what parts recipe he was following to get his 7.3L to run so fast.
Bradenton was the first race of the year for a lot of regulars, including Susan Stump, who brought her ’34 Chevy rat rod 1,100 miles down from Fleetwood, Pennsylvania. The lightweight Chevy—powered by a VE-pumped 5.9L Cummins—would go 11.57 on its first pass of the season, and Susan would follow it with a blazing 11.07 at 123 mph.


Another hot-running 7.3L Power Stroke came in the form of David Beach’s 212,000-mile ’01 F-250. Benefitting from a set of 350/200 injectors and an S369 SX-E BorgWarner charger, he ran consistent mid-12s on the day, including a new personal best of 12.47 at 107 mph.
An M1078 cargo truck owned by Gladiator Products garnered its fair share of attention in the manufacturers’ midway. The spotless, tilt-cab military truck sported a set of 46-inch Michelins and was CAT-powered.
Just days before the event, this 12-valve dually was literally pulled out of the weeds and laced with a DTT full-billet transmission. An S300, head studs, valve springs, and the normal P-pump mods and tweaks got the twowheel- drive second-gen Dodge up and moving in a hurry, despite it wearing a set of V-tread tractor tires in the rear.
Between elimination rounds, JH Diesel & 4×4 owner Justin Hildebrand took the company’s mud truck down the drag strip. Believe it or not, the 6.0L Power Stroke’s combination of 190/75 Holder’s Diesel Performance injectors and S364.5 SX-E turbo (mounted courtesy of an Irate Diesel T4 system) helped the truck get with the program off the line, but due to the rig’s ultra-low gearing it tops out around 50 mph. Of course, that’s plenty of speed when you put the truck in its natural environment: blasting through waist-high mud holes.
These two quintessential Florida trucks (lifts, big wheels with huge offsets, and aggressive tires) lined up against each other on more than one occasion. The Chevy laid down consistent mid-14-second passes all day.
Trekking all the way down from New London, Connecticut, the Diesel Shop crew showed up in sunny Bradenton with their regular cab F-250 Super Duty. The truck sports a 400,000- mile 7.3L Power Stroke, Full Force 350/200 injectors, dual high-pressure oil pumps, and a 5-blade S475 from Stainless Diesel. Although the Diesel Shop team suffered a few blown boot scenarios, they ended up achieving a respectable 12.57-second pass at 105 mph before all was said and done.
It was Blake Younce’s first time on the dragstrip with his old body style Ford. After forgetting to turn the front hubs and lock the transfer case in four-wheel drive, he and his impeccablyclean 7.3L Power Stroke tow rig proceeded to lay down a 600-foot burnout. Later on, he would lock the truck in 4-Hi and click off a low 15.
To give truck owners an idea what kind of power they were making, JDL Mobile Dyno Tuning brought its Dynojet to the show. Here, Florida Torque Converters’ second-gen Dodge tries its luck on the rollers.
There’s one in every crowd. Although they’re usually not horsepower monsters, we always seem to stumble upon a 4BT-swapped vehicle at every event we go to. This Ford Ranger didn’t set the world on fire with its 20-second quarter-mile pass, but the finished product looked clean and most likely sips diesel to the tune of 25 to 30 mpg.
One thing’s for sure: When it came time to put up or shut up in the burnout competition every entrant went for broke. Cords were showing, brakes were smoking, and the scent of cooked rubber filled the air. Here, Jake White of White’s Diesel Performance sends his 7.3L-powered ’99 E-350 van up in smoke.
This flat bed, 300+hp, tuned 6.4L-powered F-250 was up against the rev limiter for a solid minute during the burnout competition, which the crowd thoroughly enjoyed.
The event’s finale drew spectators to the shut down area of the dragstrip for a tug o’ war competition, and the regular cab Duramax (left) put in a good day’s work, going undefeated. It came as no surprise to us that the majority of the mud trucks entered in the tug o’ war contest were diesels. After all, it only makes sense that gobs of torque would be ideal for hooking bumper to bumper.
Once again, Justin Hildebrand got in on the action with the JH Diesel & 4×4 mud truck (left), putting on a heckuva show in the tug o’ war. The battle shown here (against a 6.4L-powered Super Duty owned by Nick’s Mobile Repair) raged on for quite some time, with Justin keeping the 6.0L Power Stroke pinned for what felt like several minutes.

The event would play host to quarter-mile drag racing, chassis dyno, show ‘n’ shine and burnout competitions, a large manufacturers’ midway, and conclude with a tug o’ war challenge. With a little something for everyone, a wide variety of trucks were on hand—and diesels were definitely the powerplant of choice. Vehicles that made the call spanned from 10-second screamers to mud trucks sitting on 5-ton Rockwells, and by the end of the day virtually no spectators had yet left the complex—a good sign for any inaugural event. Read on for a full recap of what went down at the first-ever Florida Truck Fest.

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