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2005 GMC Sierra - Raised On Racing

This Is What Happens When You Learn To Drag Race-Before You Get Your Driver's License

David Kennedy
Oct 1, 2009
Photographers: David Kennedy, Mike McGlothlin
Photo 2/13   |   2005 Gmc Sierra tyler Upton
Tyler Upton has been around racing his whole life. His family owns one of the biggest diesel performance companies in the country, he's practically grown up at the dragstrip, he's raced the 505hp '05 GMC Duramax truck you see here more than 35 times-and he just got his driver's license!
Learning Curve
Most of us remember what it was like learning to drive. Some of our younger readers may even be going through the process right now. It can be a nerve-wracking event-learning to maneuver a car for the first time, park, back up, and drive on the highway. But it's nothing compared to running your first quarter-mile drag race before you can legally drive on the street.
When your driving instructors are some of the biggest names in the diesel industry, learning to race doesn't necessarily come easy, but for Tyler Upton, it did come naturally. If you're into diesel motorsports at all, you know the name TS Performance.
Dennis and Sheila Perry have built a mecca of diesel performance under the TS banner, and their son Tyler Upton is a testament to their success.
The TS Performance race team campaigns a host of race trucks and drivers, and Tyler is joining their ranks by beginning his racing career in the E.T. Bracket Class.
When we spoke to Tyler about his racing experience, we noticed he's already developed the cool confidence that race car drivers and fighter pilots share.
Photo 12/13   |   2005 Gmc Sierra left Side Angle
13-Second Q&A
Diesel Power: What's more stressful, taking your driver's license test, or making your first dragstrip pass?
Tyler Upton: Probably taking my driver's license test. On the dragstrip I had my team around me telling me what to do, taking me through each step.
DP: What's your secret for making a good quarter-mile pass?
TU: When I'm in the staging lanes, I shift it into four-wheel drive right away and activate the Tow/Haul mode. Then I turn on the TurboBrake to get the torque converter to give me a better launch. When I pull up to the line, I steer around the water box to keep the tires dry and begin to build boost as I creep up to trigger the first staging light. Once the first bulb is lit, I look to see if the other guy is staged, and then I inch the truck forward to light the second bulb. Then I watch the boost gauge to make sure the engine is making 12 psi of boost and wait for the lights to come down. I hit the throttle just after the third bulb comes on.
DP: How do you know if you've made a good run?
TU: I can usually tell because I'm counting in my head going down the track-one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi-so I have a good idea when I'm going through the lights how the run was.
Photo 13/13   |   2005 Gmc Sierra front Angle
DP: What is a good run?
TU: Low 13s in the quarter-mile and mid-8s in the eighth-mile, but it's really all in the reaction time. I try to shoot for a 0.0-something light every time.
DP: What advice have you gotten that's helped you be quicker at the dragstrip?
TU: When I first started racing, I used to only build 10 psi of boost at the starting line, but Buck Spruill told me I was leaving the line too soft. He said, "You want the truck to buck a little off the line."
DP: He actually said "buck"?
TU: Yeah (laughing), I guess he did.
DP: And that helped?
TU: Yeah, now I cross the finish line at 85 to 87 mph in the eighth-mile, and I'm 103 mph in the quarter-mile.


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