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Inside the 30th Annual Performance Racing

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It was another eventful year in Indianapolis, as the 30th annual hosting of the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show offered a little bit of everything for diesel enthusiasts. Year after year, we’ve seen this hallmark event expand its horizons to include more diesel-related content, and 2017 was no different. Like SEMA, we’ve been able to gauge the diesel industry’s growth—in terms of new products, leading-edge technology, and the caliber of competition vehicles on hand—by attending it. And as of last December, the future of diesel performance looked as promising as ever.

YEAR AFTER YEAR, WE’VE SEEN THIS HALLMARK EVENT EXPAND ITS HORIZONS TO INCLUDE MORE DIESELRELATED CONTENT

Whether the products on display at the PRI Show are produced to fulfill a niche need (i.e. competition-only) or intended to serve the masses (street, tow, and daily driven applications), everything presented here is designed to drive diesel performance forward. With some of the biggest names in the diesel game on hand, there is no shortage of cutting-edge tech or high-quality hardware on display. So buckle up and hang on. We’ve got 3,000hp engines, billet blocks, and various industry firsts to tell you about. And for a special treat, we’ll bring you up close and personal with one of the more catastrophic Cummins failures in recent memory.

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Remember when Lavon Miller’s Cummins exploded on the dyno? You know, the one that broke the Internet? This is it. Or rather, what’s left of it. While performing some turbo testing (by way of 5-blade Stainless Diesel chargers) on a 2,200-plus hp, used and abused engine, somewhere around 4,500 rpm the factory cast-iron 6.7L block literally exploded around the rotating assembly. Believe it or not, the head and injectors survived the blast.


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This should make cracked blocks a thing of the past…Aside from D&J Precision Machine’s new billet-aluminum block being an absolute work of art, it should perform as well as it looks, judging by its utilization of a 6-bolt bed plate instead of mains. Staring at this billet beauty, we can’t help but wonder how much more power it will be capable of holding—and how much deeper it will take the Firepunk Pro Street Dodge into the 7’s…


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Since being introduced a few years ago, Diamond Racing’s forged pistons have been a huge hit in the diesel aftermarket. The 24-valve Cummins version shown is forged from 2618 aluminum, incorporates a steel top ring land, and is fly-cut to cram more boost in-cylinder (and rule out piston-to-valve contact at high rpm).


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The NHRDA Super Street record holding, DeMaxed Silverado driven by Jared Delekta attracted onlookers, near and far, thanks to its Industrial Injection “Shredder” engine in full view. The triple-turbo Cummins that powers the (previously Duramax-powered) ’01 Chevy ran an 8.53-second quarter-mile at last year’s NHRDA World Finals (Delekta backed up the 8.53 with an 8.72, which is the E.T. record) at 167 mph. At a 6,000-pound race weight, that means at least 1,900 hp is being applied to the track.


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ProMaxx Performance was on hand, and they released a possible game changer for ’03-’07 Ford owners: the first aluminum cylinder heads ever offered for the 6.0L Power Stroke. Made from 356 T-6 aluminum, these heads are significantly lighter than the factory cast-iron units, are repairable, flow more air, and (of course) dissipate heat much quicker. The ProMaxx heads may also be the ultimate answer for the notorious cracking that runs rampant on the cast-iron units. Last but not least, the price point is right where it needs to be. At approximately $1,500 per fully dressed head, they will be slightly more affordable than OEM replacements from Ford.


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It’s clear that big things are happening out in Odon, Indiana, where the Wagler camp calls home. From its DX line of competition-ready Duramax engines to its ability to design, machine and produce top-of-the-line components that perform when it counts, it’s a company that has come a very long way in just a handful of years. At this year’s PRI Show, Wagler earned the prestigious Advanced Engineering Technology Conference U40 Engine Design award.


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With D&J Precision Machine and Fleece Performance joining Scheid Diesel in the billet-block Cummins craze, Wagler Competition Products might as well join the crowd, right? Arguably the most cosmetically appealing of the lot, it will be interesting to see who ends up running these wild blocks (and how well they hold up) in the years ahead.


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After speaking with Jeremy Wagler, we learned that—despite the “20-percent stronger” marketing hype—the L5P Duramax is no stronger than previous generations of the 6.6L. In fact, the L5P’s crankshaft is weaker than the one used in the LML that preceded it. We also discovered a prototype connecting rod Wagler is currently developing for the L5P. Rest assured, once the latest Duramax is finally tunable there will be stout aftermarket rods available.


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If you want to make big horsepower on a reasonable budget, BorgWarner’s SX-E line of turbochargers offers arguably the best bang for the buck in the industry. One of the hottest S400 framed units on the market is the S488 SX-E, shown here. With an 88/100mm (inducer/exducer) forged milled compressor wheel, 96/88mm (inducer/exducer) turbine wheel, and a 360-degree thrust bearing as standard equipment, you get a lot for your money. While the S488 SX-E is rated for 1,575 hp, Hardway Performance’s Ryan Milliken pushed one to 1,747 hp while conducting turbo testing on his Freedom Racing Engines 6.7L Cummins.


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For a decade, aftermarket companies have been trying to figure out ways to make DPF-equipped diesels more powerful without sacrificing reliability. In releasing the first ever emissions-compliant stock replacement diesel particulate filter, Bully Dog’s Performance DPF might be exactly what the industry needs. Thanks to its stainless steel construction and proprietary coating, the Performance DPF is designed to outlast the factory one. As for performance, it outflows an OEM DPF by as much as 21 percent, along with improving its thermal performance.


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S&S Diesel Motorsport provided the injectors, CP3’s, and stand alone ECM needed to send the ’54 across the salt flats at more than 250 mph, while Comp Turbo provided the air: four turbos. As you can see, all of the chargers ended up in the bed. At full song, these polished beauties work together to produce just over 100 psi of boost.


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With craftsmanship that’s second to none, it’s impossible to miss David and Debbie Pilgrim’s ’54 Chevy. Built to hit the salt flats, the classic pickup has been slammed, fitted with tires rated for 250+ mph, and had its body panels reworked to yield vastly improved aerodynamics. Johnson’s Hot Rod Shop in Gadsden, Alabama headed up the project, and enlisted the help of Automotive Specialists Racing Engines when the time came to build a Duramax that could handle the rigors of land speed racing.


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At the Valvoline booth we found the 6.0L Power Stroke that makes Justin Gilliland’s Super Duty puller so competitive in the 2.5 class. Built by J&J Performance and thanks to a helping hand from Warren Diesel Injection, it still sports the HEUI system—albeit with a dual high-pressure oil pump setup, massive injectors, and a fixed geometry S400 in the valley. Justin’s 6.0L cranks out an estimated 1,000 hp and (surprisingly to most folks) runs neck-and-neck with the Cummins and Duramax competition.


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Although Scheid Diesel has offered billet Cummins blocks for years, the company recently began machining its crankcases in-house, instead of outsourcing them. The same, proven design features remain (high tensile strength material, cross-bolted mains, ductile iron sleeves), and Scheid continues to have zero reservations about allowing its customers to push them beyond the 3,000 hp mark for an entire season. While several companies now offer billet-aluminum blocks, to date the Scheid units are the only versions with the championships to back them up, most notably the Pro Pulling League Super Stock class titles for the last two years running.


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We also bumped into John Robinson, driver of the Power Service Top Dragster and Scheid Diesel customer, while visiting the Scheid booth. It was here that John revealed his and Power Service’s plans to make a run at the Scheid dragster’s 6.31-second world record in 2018. With a best pass of 6.44 now under his belt, John is definitely within striking distance of Scheid’s record. The 2018 racing season can’t get here fast enough!


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Three turbos, two 12mm CP3’s, one Fleece Performance Engineering Comp 6.4 Cummins, and a chassis that hooks and books helps sum up Dustin Jackson’s Pro Street Lightning. Thanks to the 4,500-pound F-150’s ability to run consistent low-8-second passes during the 2017 racing season, it’s earned a reputation for being one of the most repeatable trucks in the Pro Street field. With an 8.091-second timeslip in the glove box (and several hundred more ponies that’ve yet to be unleashed) you can bet Dustin will be gunning for 7’s along the 2018 circuit.


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If you’re one of many 6.7L Cummins owners that’ve performed a second-gen swap (fixed geometry turbo and exhaust manifold) and miss the factory exhaust brake, this groundbreaking product was designed for you. Fleece Performance Engineering’s plug-and-play exhaust brake integrates with factory electrical connectors, allowing you to use the factory exhaust brake switch (note: it comes with a new downpipe). Its heavy-duty actuator features a high torque, brushless motor and geartrain, and is liquid cooled.


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When no compromise can be made on fuel supply, serious truck pullers and drag racers alike turn to gear driven fuel pumps. One of the top names in this field is Concord, North Carolina based Waterman Racing Components. Its pumps are capable of flowing 400, 500, even 600 gph, and can be found on countless high horsepower engines, including the triple-turbo Industrial Injection Shredder Cummins showcased earlier in this article.


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Powermist Racing Fuels is best known for its “Nitro” line of additives for gasoline, but the company’s diesel-specific additive might be its best kept secret. Called Nitro-XD, it’s designed to carry more oxygen in-cylinder and is especially effective when used in under-turbo’d applications (such as truck and tractor pulling, where various turbo size limitations exist). When we tested Nitro-XD back in March of 2016, it dropped our guinea pig F-350’s elapsed times and also increased its mph at the drag strip.


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Still in the business of producing custom pistons for diesel owners, Ross Racing’s forged-aluminum units are top quality. Ross builds its pistons from high-strength 2618-T61, offers multiple bowl designs, hard coat anodizing with Teflon, 3D internal profile mill lightening, and even long skirt versions for deck-plated applications. One of Ross’s best-known diesel customers is Wagler Competition Products.


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In the Power Stroke world, Smith Brothers is a household name. It’s 4130 chromoly pushrods for the 7.3L have all but become the standard any time you’re upgrading the valvetrain or performing any type of higher horsepower build. Aside from offering application specific pushrods, Smith Brothers can build custom versions for virtually any need.


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Improving on its popular Load Lifter 5000 Ultimate air spring system, which incorporates an internal jounce bumper into the air spring, Air Lift has released its Load Lifter 5000 Ultimate Plus kit. The “Plus” means you get stainless steel roll plates, braided stainless air lines, and stainless mounting hardware for ultimate component longevity.


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Fuelab’s Velocity in-line lift pumps are a big hit in the diesel industry. Their efficient, brushless DC motor design reduces current draw and makes them more reliable, and a cleanable filter element is easy to maintain or replace. Fuelab’s 200-gph Velocity pumps even come with an internal speed controller for variable flow operation.


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For utmost carnage containment, a lot of truck and tractor pullers choose Browell Bellhousing. The company’s popular 6.3 spec bellhousings are available in steel or aluminum, and can be built with or without a starter pocket, inspection cover and hole, adjustment slot, or a dust tub.