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  • The 2007 Sport Truck Challenge at Havoc East Coast - Return of the Great Equalizer

The 2007 Sport Truck Challenge at Havoc East Coast - Return of the Great Equalizer

The Sport Truck Challenge Is Back!

Mike Finnegan
Dec 1, 2007
Photo 2/28   |   sport Truck Challenge 2007 starting Line
You guys (and girls) have balls of steel. Anyone willing to take their expensive, air-suspended show truck and light up the tires then blast sideways down a quarter-mile dragstrip is nuts or at least has a serious disregard for the value of custom sheetmetal. We watched in awe as pure custom trucks lined against full-blown drag racers in August. The cause was The Sport Truck Challenge, an event that has been missing from the calendar for several years but is back with a vengeance.
We were looking for an excuse to add drag racing to our annual Havoc custom truck show, and when the opportunity to move to Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, came along, we decided now was the time to bring back The Challenge. The park had plenty of room for the show 'n' shine and another vital ingredient, a fully staffed dragstrip. This time around, though, we wanted to level the playing field and make it a bit more enticing for the novice to want to participate in The Challenge. We also eliminated a few of the traditional Challenge events in an effort to speed up the program and make it more entertaining for spectators. Gone are the slalom and braking tests. Instead, we kept the program short and sweet with an all-out drag race, with one small but very important exception: They were also judged on show parameters.
Photo 3/28   |   sport Truck Challenge 2007 racing
The goal of The Challenge was to find not only the quickest trucks around but also the coolest. We didn't want a fiberglass-bodied, race fuel-burning, uninsured and unregistered drag truck that would never see street duty to win The Challenge, so we changed the rules a bit to keep it fair. Going fast is important but so is having a truck that is a bit more relevant to the rest of us who don't have a dedicated race truck. To that end, we split the point total used to pick the winner in half, assigning a major portion of the points a truck could garner in several new categories. Those categories include the truck's exterior, interior, and audio system, engine and engine compartment, and bed areas. We judged the cleanliness, customization, and execution of the mods of each truck just as a judge would at the Havoc show and awarded points for how well a truck was customized. Those points were combined with points earned by blitzing the quarter-mile race track as quickly as possible.
Photo 4/28   |   sport Truck Challenge 2007 chevrolet C10
The faster a truck could get down the track, the more points it earned. The better the truck looked, the more points it could earn. This system kept the pure race trucks from winning all of the killer prizes donated by Interco Tire Corp., Gale Banks Engineering, JBM, and Stillen. Our thinking was that if a drag truck was going to come to the track and win everything, then it better show up with a slick paintjob and bangin' audio system to go along with the rollcage, racing slicks, and coilover shocks that would give it an edge against the pure show trucks. Our strategy paid off in spades.
We had an extremely diverse field of competitors. The race trucks were there but so were trucks driven by casual observers who we lured into the competition with an offer they couldn't refuse: Anyone who entered their truck in the Havoc truck show could automatically enter The Challenge or a heads-up bracket race for free. Better yet, no matter what kind of truck you drove, you still had a shot at winning it all. The offer brought out trucks that had never seen a race track before and drivers who had never even entertained the thought of mashing the go pedal for a full 1,320 feet. It was quite a spectacle. We had lifted trucks, diesel-powered monsters, trucks on airbags, trucks with no door handles, and trucks with rollcages, all competing on the same strip. We even had a woman with zero fear step up in her 14-inch lifted custom Ford Super Duty after she came to the show fresh from her morning horse-feeding chores. It was one hell of a weekend of racing.
Photo 11/28   |   Howard Claypool kept going back to the starting line with new driving tactics that dropped his Duramax-powered '05 Chevy 2500HD's e.t. from 17.2 seconds all the way down to 15.48 seconds-not bad for a truck that looks bone-stock on the outside.
Saturday kicked off both the Havoc show and The Sport Truck Challenge. Several of the locals were already waiting for us when we arrived to set up our tent and staging area. TS Performance, a local shop that specializes in making 10,000-pound diesel trucks haul ass, was in the house with several trucks ready to get it on. We knew this group would offer some pretty stiff competition because many of their drivers were weekend racers and their trucks rolled in with custom paint. Throughout the day, we coaxed show participants into the action as they came up to our tent looking for information about the show's bikini contest. This netted us 22 trucks, many that had never seen the sticky side of a dragstrip.
By 4 p.m. the trucks had all made a ton of passes down the track in preparation for Sunday's showdown, and we had a good idea of which ones could run a good number and which ones would have to get by on looks alone. We gathered up our new racers for a photo shoot and judging session. Editor Mike Finnegan and Senior Editor Calin picked over each truck with a fine-tooth comb, giving each driver the opportunity to tell them all about the mods done to their ride. We then thanked the crew for participating and sent them on their way to enjoy the rest of the show that day.
Photo 12/28   |   Another stealthy but super-quick truck from the TS camp was Joel Greathouse's '06 Dodge Ram 2500. The Cummins engine had a big exhaust system and a new computer that added up to best pass of 13.05 at 106 mph. This truck is a perfect bracket racer because it ran within hundredths of a second all day long.
The Challenge got under way on Sunday morning. Attrition during Saturday's practice session had put a couple of trucks on the trailer and several more must have felt they didn't have a shot at the prizes and simply didn't show up to the driver's meeting. A mean hangover could also have played a roll in paring down the field to just 14 trucks. No matter, because we still had a grip of competitors willing to duke it out without having a clue how many points they had earned during the judging portion of The Challenge.
On Sunday, each driver was able to make four passes down the track to nail their best e.t. Reaction times and mph did not factor into The Challenge this time around because we literally were just looking to entice folks into participating. Needless to say, the reaction times of many could be measured in seconds and not thousandths of a second. Many of the competitors burned up passes, attempting to find the best ride height and air pressure setting for their truck's air suspension system. Traction was a problem for a lot of trucks with an abundance of horsepower and low-profile street rubber. You could count the number of trucks that came prepared for battle with a pair of slicks on one hand.
We are happy to report that the mechanical carnage that ensued was minimal, which is good because most of the competitors had long drives home ahead of them. We had trucks from as far away as New Jersey running on the track, and the prospect of breaking down and paying a massive tow bill obviously wasn't a good one. You wouldn't know that anyone was holding back by the way the trucks lit up the water box or by the number of passes that were laid down. Many of the new racers were like kids in a candy store. They had full access to an uncongested dragstrip and took full advantage by heading straight back to the starting line after each pass. It was glorious.
Photo 19/28   |   sport Truck Challenge 2007 racing
In the end, it was the seasoned racers who were able to lay down the quickest passes. Kevin Meredith drove the TS Performance Dodge Ram to a wicked-fast 10.06 e.t. at 139 mph, squeezing several stages of nitrous oxide into the Cummins diesel powerplant during the run. Unfortunately, a subsequent rod knock kept Kevin's ride from laying down any other hot passes. The real heroes of the competition, though, were Todd Sherwood, Ted Munsell, and Josh Clark. These guys rolled their show trucks right up to the starting line, tweaked their driving style, and adjusted their airbag suspensions until they could get their trucks going straight and quick down the track. Todd took First Place in the competition with his '93 Chevy 454SS truck, which if you have a keen eye is an ex-Sport Truck cover truck from about 10 years ago. The 454 is long gone, and it now flexes an LS6 big-block robbed from his dad's Chevelle. Traction problems limited him to a best of 13.28 at 110 mph, but his truck scored enough show points to grab First Place. Ted brought out one of the cleanest second-gen. Chevy C10s we've ever seen. You literally could have eaten off of the chromed-out big-block. Although his truck wasn't on 'bags like Todd's truck, he still had more power than grip to get the truck running like it should. Still, he turned a 14.81 e.t. that was good enough for Second Place. And Josh Clark nabbed Third Place with the most unlikely of rides, a shaved and 'bagged Dodge Dakota. Josh had experience at the strip already and used it to his advantage when it came time to bang through the gears of the truck's five-speed. The diesel drag trucks were right behind the leaders, with Earl Talley's Dodge Ram 4x4 grabbing the fourth spot with a blistering 12.88 e.t. at 102 mph. Earl's truck ran hard, but the mild modifications, although tasteful and well executed, didn't win him enough points to run up front.
Keep your eyes tuned to the mag and our website,, for information on the next event. We promise it will be bigger, better, and have even more kick-ass prizes for the winners. Also, check out our coverage of this event on the web. You'll see photos that didn't make it into the mag, as well as video of many of the trucks running down the track and killer footage from inside the cockpit of several trucks. Here's a look at those who stepped up to the plate to give it their all in The Challenge.
The Top 4 Prizes
1ST: $500 cash, a $500 Banks Engineering gift certificate, a set of four Interco tires, a Sport Truck Challenge winner's jacket, and a one-off pinstriped sign from Get Stroked.
2ND: $500 Banks Engineering gift certificate
3RD: $150 JBM gift certificate
4TH: $100 Stillen gift certificate
The Challengers
1. Todd Sherwood'93 Chevy 454SS8213.28 / 110.75 mph
2. Ted Munsell'70 C107814.81 / 95.69 mph
3. Josh Clark'04 Dodge Dakota6716.81 / 84.71 mph
4. Earl Talley'03 Dodge Ram 2500 4x46312.88 / 102.59 mph
5. Martin Cox'06 Chevy Trailblazer SS6211.07 / 125.83 mph
6. Barre Phillippi'06 Dodge Ram 2500 4x46012.90 / 104.97 mph
7. Richard Jones'92 Chevy 15005815.47 / 95.01 mph
8. Kelly Hawthorne'57 Chevy 31005015.49 / 90.81 mph
9. Howard Claypool'05 Chevy 2500HD5015.48 / 88.14 mph
10. Bill Steenbergen'04 Ford Lightning4813.40 / 102.4 mph
11. Joel Greathouse'06 Dodge Ram 25003613.05 / 106.30
12. Caroline JonesFord F-250 Super Duty 4x43319.34 / 71.36 mph
13. Cory Draper'94 Ford Explorer3019.56 / 68.76 mph
14. Kevin Meredith'07 Dodge Ram 2500 4x42815.16 / 89.49 mph
15. Richard Hoffman'04 Ford Ranger2716.2 / 86.15 mph
The Fastest Pass Of The Weekend
Kevin Meredith'01 Dodge Ram 4x410.06 / 139.2A set of four Interco tires


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