Eastern Tennessee’s Eighth Annual Children’s Charity Diesel Event
A dismal forecast, rain-soaked field and dark clouds looming doesn’t sound like the recipe for a great pull event, but when you mix in a persistent crew, dedicated fans and an outstanding cause, great things can still happen! Despite the previous day’s bad weather and the gloomy forecast, the hosts were set to put on a show for the fans and raise awareness and funds for the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. In the face of such an ominous day, they delivered the eighth annual Smokin’ in the Valley children’s charity sled pull, dyno day and Show-N-Shine without surrendering.
Preparations began early when Josh Watson and his Diesel Den crew poured a concrete slab under a canopy cover to ensure safe and comfortable dyno runs no matter the weather. But on the day of the event, more tension was added to the crew’s load as they received word that the dyno team encountered severe technical difficulties during their drive down to Sweetwater, Tennessee, from Lexington, Kentucky, and was running late. Not to be outdone by the dyno crew’s news, once they inspected the pulling field, they found a swamp leading up to the track, causing concern for drivers even being able to get to the track. But this series of unfortunate events would not deter the Diesel Den team; as the saying goes, the show must go on.
With quick thinking, Watson picked up a dump truck load of sand to make a path to the track. This paired with the hard work of the generous landowner Rick Potter and the Diesel Den crew made it possible to get the track going. The committed Fast Enough Performance dyno crew had not given up either, switching out their trucks and driving as fast as they could (in accordance with all highway laws, we’re sure) to arrive. Because of the committed optimism of the hosts and volunteers, the spectators and participants didn’t shy away from the dreary day’s outlook, but did their part as well.
Before the Dyno had even arrived on site, a large group of trucks were being organized into place near the slab, ready to spin the rollers as soon as they could. Meanwhile, beautiful trucks ranging from a lowered, classic Chevy with Cummins power to a sky-high monster truck Ford began pulling in, overfilling the large concrete slab designated for the Show-N-Shine area. The ranks of trucks willing to wipe the rain off their rides, then polish and present their hard work continued swelling throughout the day. Their efforts were appreciated by the crowd.
The variety of rigs made it a tough job for the judges to evaluate, but before the pulls were set to begin, they’d come to a decision. Steven Douglas rounded out the top three with his 1969 Dodge Power Wagon trailing behind Nick Hick’s 1963 Mack B-61 in second. The top position of the Show-N-Shine podium went to Jeff Hill and his clean standard cab 2009 Ford F-350.
“The variety of rigs made it a tough job for the judges to evaluate, but before the pulls were set to begin, they’d come to a decision.”
As soon as Chris Kopitzke and his Fast Enough Performance Dyno crew pulled onto the site, excitement started sizzling through the growing crowd. Around 20 trucks had already signed up for the dyno by the time they arrived and, with the crew’s swift work, the Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno was rolling. Instantly, the roar of horsepower and torque blowing out plumes of black smoke had crowds circling.
Kopitzke and his crew kept the trucks flying on and off the rollers, keeping the eager crowd fixed on the action. The 37 trucks that ran held attention until dusk, but the winner didn’t run until they got down to the wire with the last 10 trucks. Dustin Lord’s 2008 Ford would claim the win with 629 horsepower and 1,075 lb-ft of torque. Jason Combs and his 2004 Dodge; the second truck of the day to hit the rollers, held onto second place with 531 horsepower and 1,050 lb-ft of torque. Josh Crisp, one of the last three trucks to run, claimed third place with 526 horsepower from his Dodge.
Despite the mucky conditions on and around the track and the worrisome forecast looming, Watson and his crew worked feverishly to make sure the track and competitors were ready for action that evening. As soon as the drivers meeting was announced, well before the rigs started to head for the track, the mass of spectators starting filling the stands to and over the brim. Once Swann’s “Southern Impact” sled pulled onto the clay, the large crowd was ready for a show.
With a group of 10 racers eagerly entered in the Street Stock class, the crowd was pumped up. Miranda Ward, a pivotal volunteer member of the Diesel Den crew, was the last to run in the class with her 1997 Dodge 3500 and was able to snag a podium finish with a 262-foot pull. Ron Evels in a 2006 Chevy 2500HD trailed closely behind first with a 271-foot pull, only beaten by Robert (anything but) Boring and his 2001 Dodge that pulled the sled 274 feet down the clay track.
The 2.5 class was largest of the night, with 23 trucks ready and revving to go. The competition was tight early on, but a few trucks stood out on top, pulling far past the competition—and well beyond the 300-foot mark! Justin Goode’s 2002 Chevy 3500 narrowly claimed third with a 382-foot pull while Dylan Detwiler and his 2000 Dodge 3500 nabbed second with his impressive 392-foot pull. Thomas Carmichael and his 1997 Dodge 3500 claimed the victory with the longest pull of the night, nearly dragging the sled 400 feet.
As the 2.5 class entrants finished their runs, a fine mist began that turned into a drizzle, wetting the track. For a moment, the pulls looked to be over, and some of the spectators began to funnel out, but the heart of the crowd and the remaining competitors held strong. As the one heavy cloud began to pass, the optimistic Diesel Den crew got right back to work. Being that children were the reason for the event, the crew got the “Kiddie Tractor Pull” going as soon as the rain moved past. The event hosts encouraged every kid who wanted to have a turn at the pedal tractors through several rounds of racing before they started the next wave of truck pulling. Each of the kids came away with a participation ribbon for their efforts on the pulling track.
After a bit of track prep, the Pro-Mod 4×4 Gas class was ready to take to the clay. They were a tight group of five loud and proud competitors, all pulling past the 300-foot mark and giving the crowd a show. Patrick Paul’s 2005 Ford Ranger rounded out the top three with a 317-foot run, narrowly loosing to David Mills in his 1989 Dodge Dakota by just about 6 inches. But Steve Cleam came away with first when his 2006 Chevy Colorado pulled 337 feet.
The pack of 2.6 trucks consisting of 11 entrants gave the crowd some edge-of-the-seat action with second and third place decided by mere inches. With familiar faces Thomas Carmichael and Dylan Detwiler running one after another, the crowd knew they were in for a show. Carmichael first claimed the lead with a 321.38-foot run, but Detwiler in the very next hook, yanked the sled mere inches further at 321.90 feet to take the lead. But the show wasn’t over yet. Earnie Huling and his 2001 Dodge 3500 was the next truck up and he had his sights set on gold. With the second to last run of the class, Huling took the lead for good with a 336-foot run!
To cap off the event, Diesel Den had the Outlaw class geared up and ready to pound the clay. Steve Burton’s Dodge was the first of the eight trucks in his class and started things off strong. With a 353-foot run, Burton went unchallenged through the round. Justin Goode pulled his way to second with a 326-foot run in his 2002 Chevy 3500, trailed by Whitney Watson’s 2001 Dodge 3500 at 318 feet.
With determination, some ingenuity, and an outstanding cause at your back, any challenge can be overcome, and Josh Watson with his Diesel Den crew proved that true. Faced with a series of unfortunate events from weather to mechanicals, the crew stepped up and hosted an amazing event. They drew in a crowd of around 2,300 diesel fanatics and raised an impressive $16,638 for the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. With a packed Show-N-Shine, busy dyno and exciting sled-pulling action, the show was a big hit. The 2015 Smokin’ in the Valley event is slated to return to Sweetwater on September 26, 2015. Whatever the weather, we’ll see you there. DW
Fast Enough Performance
Swann’s Pulling Sled