First Annual $30,000 Rocky Top Diesel Shootout
Diesel enthusiast have a wealth of events they can attend, from huge events like the TS Diesel Outlaw Drag Race & Sled Pull and Scheid Diesel Extravaganza to small local dyno days and shop open houses. Many of these events are well-established annual or semi-annual get-togethers, but new ones crop up from time to time as well.
This year, another new event bowed—the Rocky Top Diesel Shootout at the I-40 Dragway in Crossville, Tennessee—put on by Beans Diesel Performance and RLC. Nearly 4,000 spectators were on hand for a day of diesel action contested among 160 competitors, including some of the quickest Pro Street diesel drag trucks in the country. The turnout of both competitors and spectators was great, all the more so considering this was a first-time event. We’re sure the $30,000 prize purse didn’t hurt attendance at all.
The morning started out with trucks running on the DP Tuner mobile chassis dyno with time trial passes on the drag strip at 11 a.m. Drag racing and dyno runs carried on into the early evening with the final rounds on the strip finishing just after 7 p.m. There was a small overlap in the action with the sled pull starting at about 6:30 and finishing under the lights just after 10, so spectators had a very full day of diesel motorsports action.
Along with the action on the dyno and the drag strip, spectators were able to check out the latest and greatest diesel performance products from a large selection of vendors in the manufacturers midway. Attendees were also free to roam the pits and check out the various trucks on display between rounds. The teams and drivers were very accommodating to fans, showing them their trucks and answering questions.
Eighteen of the trucks run on the dyno made more than 500 horsepower with the top three trucks putting down more than 750. The highest finishing GM truck was the 2007 GMC owned by Kevin Hurt. It spun the rollers to the tune of just more than 630 hp, but that was only good enough for fifth place overall. Jonathan Brooklyn had the most powerful Ford; his 2008 delivered more than 770 hp for a second-place finish. Patrick Riner took the top spot on the podium with his 2006 Dodge that put nearly 950 horsepower and more than 1,800 lb-ft of torque to the dyno rollers.
While the dyno drew big crowds, the grandstands at the drag strip were filled to near capacity throughout the day as the racers competed for nearly $15,000 in prizes. Diesel drag racers had four classes available, including the popular ET Bracket class that allows diesel cars and trucks of various speeds to compete with staggered starts. The bracket racing class fielded primarily trucks but there were four diesel cars at this event as well, including an older Audi sedan, a VW Passat, a VW Jetta SportWagen, and our own Contributing Editor and photographer Kyle Tobin in his new-to-him 2002 VW Jetta TDI.
Trucks ruled the day, though, with none of the cars making it to the finals. In the ET Bracket final round, Logan Gregory and his LMM GMC went up against Eugene Ogle and his 1970s Ford 100 Ranger XLT on the 1/8-mile track, with Ogle finishing on top for an $800 prize and the class win after pulling drama-free low eight-second passes all day long.
Two Index classes were run at the Rocky Top Diesel Shootout, a 7.70-second index class and a quicker 7.00-second class. Jim Layden proved once again that you can win with 2WD, taking the 7.70 Index final round win over Karl Mireiter and pocketing $1,000. Daniel Pierce took the 7.00 class with his baby blue standard cab Dodge, beating Richard Hayes who broke out by just five-hundredths of a second and netting Pierce a $1,500 prize.
With $3,000 going to the Pro Street winner and another $2,000 up for grabs for the quickest pass of the day, some of the quickest trucks showed up to try to stake their claim on the purse. With more than 10 trucks making passes it was one of the biggest fields of fast Pro Street trucks we’ve seen this year. Throughout qualifying and eliminations a few things became clearly evident. First, Phillip Palmer and his crew had their truck dialed in, making consistent high five-second passes in the mid to upper 120s. Second, Seth Sullivan’s truck has the potential to be the quickest and fastest Pro Street truck of all. He knocked down several low six-second passes and we saw the scoreboard light up with 133+ mph on at least one. When he gets the truck dialed in it will be tough for anyone to compete against him.
The final round for Pro Street pitted Palmer against Johnny Gilbert. The pair of Dodge trucks went at it with Palmer’s 2WD driving to victory lane over Gilbert’s 4WD. Palmer’s multiple five-second passes were the quickest of the day and earned him $5,000 in prizes.
Sled pulling action got underway on the newly created pull track parallel to the drag strip as the final rounds of drag racing were being run. With another $15,000 for the puller’s purse the competition was expected to be fierce. The temporary grandstands were overflowing and the spectators were not disappointed, with some great pulling in five classes including Work Stock, 2.5, 2.6, 3.0 and a Run-What-Ya-Brung (RWYB) class for vehicles that didn’t fit in anywhere else.
Darrell Merritt started things off with his 2005 Chevy pulling first in the Work Stock class, dragging the sled for a 282-foot pull. His second attempt fell short of the first at 277 feet, which was still good enough for second place in the class. William Gerrard and his 2003 Chevy took home the class win and a $500 payday with the only Work Stock pull beyond 300 feet. The 2005 Ford Excursion driven by Bobby Stanley prevented a GM sweep of the podium by taking third place with a hook of more than 240 feet.
The 2.5 Class was filled with Duramax-powered trucks and a pair of Cummins machines, with the GMs taking the top spots on the podium. Justin Goode took home $1,500 and the class win with a 290-foot pull from his 2002 Chevy. Bryan Hamby took second with his beautiful 2008 Chevy pulling nearly 280 feet. James Etgen made the trip down from Ashley, Ohio, and finished third, breaking up
another all-GM sweep with his 1995 Dodge.
There were more competitors in the 2.6 class than any other class for the night. Dodge dominated the class, with seven Dodge trucks pulling for more than 300 feet. The rest of the pack, including a pair of Chevys and a lone Ford, all pulled for more than 290 feet. Eric Whitfield used his 1997 Dodge to take home the win and $3,000 in prize money with a dominating 339-foot pull that was the longest of the night. Second place went to Corey Hesson and his 1999 Dodge that dragged the sled along for a 321-foot ride. The final spot on the podium went to Josh Land and his 1997 Dodge for pulling nearly 315 feet.
All but one of the 3.0 class competitors stepped up a class from 2.6. Eric Whitfield’s attempt to double up on the night went miserably wrong, with troubles limiting him to a 40-foot pull that left him in last place. Josh Mosley was the lone competitor in the class that had not bumped up from 2.6, and he and his 1999 Dodge earned $2,500 with a top-of-the-pack 324-foot pull. Second place went to Josh Land, to go with his third place in 2.6, while the final spot on the podium went to Corey Hesson, who finished second in 2.6. Except for Whitfield, all of the other trucks in the class pulled more than 310 feet to the cheers of the crowd.
Competitors in the RWYB Class gave it all they could to take home an inaugural Rocky Top Diesel Shootout win. Jonathan Brooklyn drug the sled along for a 332-foot ride with his 2008 Ford to take the win with the fastest speed of the night and second-longest distance. Second place went to Josh Watson pulling with his wife Whitney’s 2001 Dodge after she experienced problems during her hook. The podium was rounded out with Will Reiner and his 2005 Ford who went nearly 280 feet.
A PHENOMENAL FIRST-TIME EVENT
By all accounts, the Rocky Top Diesel Shootout was a raging success with powerful trucks on the dyno, fast trucks on the strip, stout pullers dragging the sled and a huge crowd cheering them on the whole time. A turnout like we saw at Rocky Top would be considered good for an established event; for an inaugural event, it was phenomenal. The promoters are working on plans for a follow-up in 2015 so be sure to check out their websites for details. Do your best to be at the next Rocky Top Diesel Shootout—we sure will! DW
Beans Diesel Performance