The custom truck industry has historically been one that’s very male-driven, since it’s no secret that most truck owners, builders, and racers are men. However, every once in a while we come across a woman who is just as passionate about the sport as her male counterparts. Ashley Alstad of Alberta, Canada, is one such rare woman. Not only does she work as the parts and service manager at Supreme Diesel in Alberta, but she has also raced her way into the 11s in the Ram 3500
she helped build. We recently got a chance to sit down with Ashley and discuss how she got involved in our pastime of choice, so read on to see her unique perspective on the custom truck scene.
Please tell us a little about yourself
Diesel is my life. I currently work about 65 to 70 hours a week as the parts and service manager for Supreme Diesel, which is a diesel performance and repair shop in Sexsmith, Alberta, Canada. I have only been with the company two years, and in that small amount of time I have moved from data entry, into parts and service, and eventually to manager. When I am not at work, I am at our shop with my boyfriend, where we are working on one of our four diesels -- two of which are mine. I have an 2004 Dodge Ram 3500
, which is strictly a race truck. I race it with the NHRDA in the Super Diesel Class, and my fastest pass to date is in the mid-11s. My other vehicle (and our daily driver) is an 2004 Volkswagen Jetta
TDI, which has a few upgrades of its own.
| 2004 Dodge Ram 3500 Driver Three Quarter
It's not exactly common to see a woman at the dragstrip in a diesel truck, much less one that runs 11s. Whys do you think that is?
I think spreading awareness is key. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to start writing about something that interests me is because there aren’t many women in the diesel industry who are knowledgeable, and I’d like to help educate women about diesels and create excitement about diesel.
How did you first become interested in racing diesel trucks?
For me, it all started with one ride in a 10-second diesel truck, and I was hooked. That’s when I decided I wanted one of my own. At the time, I knew a little about trucks, but mostly just learned from and listened to my boyfriend, Justin, who is the shop foreman at Supreme Diesel. I wanted to learn more and be more involved, so I quit my job and went to talk to Ernie, Justin’s boss, and asked him for a job. As soon as I was hired, diesels immediately consumed 90 percent of my life. I started reading every forum, reading every book, and watching DVDs on diesels. Once I started learning more, Justin and I spent the winter getting everything together to build my Ram. We had two key ideas when we started the build: a single turbo setup, and running mid-11-second quarter-mile times.
| When the trees turn green, Ashley hits the gas and the Cummins belches a vertical plume of smoke from its through-the-bed single stack.
That's certainly ambitious for your first build. Where did it all start?
Just two years ago, the truck was a plain, old Dodge pickup that was being used as a daily driver to get to and from work. Soon after Justin started working at Supreme Diesel, it transformed into a weekend warrior, where all of our time and money was going into the truck. It started with a tuner, intake, and exhaust, and not long after we decided to turn it into a dedicated drag racing truck.
The engine was stripped down to a bare block and sent to the machine shop. The bottom end of the engine is fairly stock, except for changing from the common-rail crankshaft and connecting rods to a stronger 12-valve crank and rods. To complement the bottom end of the engine, we added a Stage 4 Colt cam, RPS Diesel custom pushrods, Hamilton 110-pound valvesprings, and Harland Sharp roller rockers, and bolted the head down with ARP head studs. Despite the truck being an ’04½, we decided to run the ’03 Cummins pistons, which were ceramic- and Teflon-coated and decked. Next, we pulled the wiring harness apart, removed any unnecessary connectors and terminals from the engine end, and reinstalled it in the truck.
As the engine was dropped into the empty engine bay, we started adding more parts. Since we decided to go with the 180hp injectors, we picked up the BD Diesel Dual CP3 kit, which would be fed by a 150-gph FASS fuel pump. With all the fuel heading into the engine, we needed some air. We decided to use a BD Diesel S475 turbo with the new Turbine Diverter Valve, which helps spool the larger single turbochargers. As for the transmission, we ultimately decided to go with BD’s Track Master transmission with enhanced stall torque converter, Opie Phat Shafts, and a manual valvebody. Now we were ready to do some testing.
| The Cummins hat Ashley proudly wears hints at the fact that she’s more knowledgeable about diesel trucks than you might think. And, if you talk too much smack, she might just prove it to you at the dragstrip.
What was it like driving the truck for the first time?
I was definitely a little nervous. I needed to learn how to spool the turbo, stage the truck, and shift the B&M Mega Truck shifter. The first pass was really exciting, and I made several more passes that day ranging from 11.60 to 12.90.
Sounds like you managed to hit your goal of mid-11s right off the bat! What has changed about the truck since then?
Going into the winter of 2012, we changed the manifold to a BD manifold, added a little more fuel, and bumped the injectors up to 200hp injectors. We also picked up two new sponsors -- BD Diesel and Flo-Pro -- to help us attend more events and be a little more competitive. Since the first event of the year, we have driven more than 16,000 miles. That’s a lot of money in fuel, and a lot of time on the road.
| 2004 Dodge Ram 3500 Front Three Quarter
What has been your fastest pass to date?
It was at our final drag racing event for 2013, Ponci’s Diesel Days in Fortuna, California. This was our second year attending the event, and it’s always well worth the 3,000-mile trip. This year, we were hoping for some great times, as the track is below sea level and we just needed some good air and track prep. The first pass of the day was a new fastest mph and e.t. for me, 11.40 seconds at 119 mph, and I was spinning off the line. With a little more heat in the track, my second pass of the day was a new record, 11.37 at 119 mph. So, the trip from Canada to California was well worth it, and a great way to wrap up the 2013 season.
So, What's next for you and your truck?
Look for my truck and I at diesel events next year as I go into my third season with it. We have a couple more ideas for some changes and improvements to the truck. Although I was lucky enough to have a great season with no breakdowns and more than 60 passes in 2013, we do have a list of changes we would like to make to the truck over the winter. A couple of adjustments include changing the wiring harness and ECM so we can run EFILive to help clean up some of the excessive smoke, maybe adding a bigger turbo, and the possibility of a roll cage.