2011 Diesel Power Challenge

Ten Trucks Compete for the Title of World’s Baddest Diesel

Jason Sands
Sep 1, 2011
Want power? We have a dyno event that will measure horsepower and torque. How about speed? Dragstrip passes will be timed to see who’s the king of the quarter-mile. We also have two trailer events this year: our eighth-mile trailer-tow drag race, and new for 2011, a trailer-tow obstacle course that will test driver skill. There will also be a sled pull and a 163-mile drive that will ensure streetability. The fuel economy of each truck will also be measured and will be used to break a tie—if one should occur. This year we have trucks that tow for a living, some that have traveled across the country to be here, and others that are weekend warriors. Keep in mind that every truck you see here is a legit licensed and registered street vehicle (we checked), so without further ado, we bring you Diesel Power Challenge 2011.
Photo 2/40
10 Trucks Enter, 3 Survive!
Back when Diesel Power Challenge was conceived, people thought it would take about 700 hp to win it—and they were right. The first-year winners included Nick D’Amico and Micheal Tomac, who both had the needed power and durability to make their dreams of victory a reality—and about 750 hp. Fast-forward to our seventh annual event in 2011—and Dmitri Millard’s ground-shaking 1,314hp dyno run—and it’s clear how far we’ve come in terms of diesel performance. There has been a price for all this progress, however. By the finish of the sled pull, only three trucks were left running under their own power. Read on to get the full story on our most powerful, carnage-infested Diesel Power Challenge yet.
The Dyno: One Truck Out
The craving for more horsepower and torque is as old as the internal combustion engine itself. To satisfy this time-honored pursuit, we put all 10 trucks on a Mustang chassis dyno, which was located at ATS Diesel Performance in Arvada, Colorado. The dyno would measure the rear-wheel horsepower and torque of each vehicle, and from that we would determine a winner. To keep the combinations streetable, we chose to use the peak torque reading—rather than horsepower—as our scoring platform. That way, those with wide powerbands would be rewarded, and narrow, peaky, high-rpm engines would be punished. To keep things consistent between years, SAE-corrected numbers were used, which were a few percent optimistic, but the point here was: same dyno, same day.
Photo 3/40   |   Fidel Velasquez’s ’02 Chevrolet finished in 10th Place on the dyno with a torque reading of 1,324 lb-ft. He was one of the competitors looking to make up ground on the dragstrip and trailer tow.
With Fidel Velasquez’s Duramax and Joel Saunders’ Dodge 2500 putting down 1,324 lb-ft and 1,560 lb-ft respectively, we were off to a fast start. The first true dyno standout was Scott Lindsey, who had just gotten his truck together before the event, after blowing his engine up at 1,340 hp. Running a narrow-rpm window in Third gear, the big Dodge was dosed with enough nitrous to produce a whopping 1,099 hp and 1,949 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers were good enough for the lead by a good margin. Andy Parker’s Ford and Dustin West’s common-rail Dodge hit 1,676 lb-ft and 1,749 lb-ft respectively, but past the halfway point of the dyno competition Scott still had a good margin on the field.
That was all about to change. Shone Patel’s killer 6.4L Power Stroke was reported to make 1,200 hp at the wheels and could finally be the truck that would show the horsepower potential of the 6.4L Ford engine. Oh yeah, and that was with a stock block, crank, and rods, and a set of modified factory pistons. Running two small stages of nitrous, the Power Stroke didn’t disappoint, hitting 1,158 hp and an earth-rotating 2,115 lb-ft of torque—the most ever for a Diesel Power Challenge competitor, and a good 150 lb-ft ahead of Scott Lindsey. The gauntlet had been thrown down; the Ford camp was for real this time.
As a refrigerator-white GMC Sierra 2500HD on H2 wheels rolled onto the dyno, it wasn’t clear that Owen Horst’s truck would be a player in the horsepower shootout, but the white GMC was perhaps the most feared truck in the competition. With a set of Fleece Performance compound turbos and three huge nitrous solenoids mounted in the engine bay, Owen had the go-big-or-go-home mentality down. But could he back it up? After a few aborted runs to see when the turbo would light, the pedal went to the floor—and all hell broke loose.
The Duramax spooled, rattled, and then suddenly the crowd was covered with oil after a huge nitrous backfire. The quest for a huge torque number had resulted in bringing everything in a little too early, and the engine had exploded. At about 2,500 rpm and 40 psi of boost (out of an 80-psi max), Owen’s truck was already making more than 900 hp, and the power output on the dyno screen was going straight up. Built or not, the Duramax engine just couldn’t take that much pressure at that engine speed, and it blew apart some pistons. We’ve never seen anything like Owen’s pull, and we’re not sure we want to again. Despite only being halfway up on boost and halfway in the Dmax’s rpm range, Owen jumped into Second with a whopping 950 hp and 1,980 lb-ft.
That meant there was only one truck left that could take down the big Ford: a Chevy driven by last year’s winner, Dmitri Millard. After making 1,212 hp and 1,793 lb-ft on the dyno last year in his Chevrolet, Dmitri felt that by instituting the “a little more, a little earlier” method, he could break the 2,000-lb-ft mark. After a warm-up run of 1,003 hp on his low-pressure nitrous setup, he was ready to hit the big stages. A crowd gathered, and the big Garrett turbos started to scream. As the truck was spooling, Dmitri noticed that his low-pressure nitrous system was stuck in the “On” position. With no going back, he floored the pedal and triggered the next two stages of nitrous manually once the turbos were fully lit. The result was 1,314 hp and 2,391 lb-ft of torque. Just like that, the dyno king from last year again took the crown and set a new horsepower and torque record for the Diesel Power Challenge.
The Drag Race: Two Trucks Out
At the dragstrip, two more rigs would bite the dust. But which two? Expectations were for most of the field to run in the 11- to 12-second range down the strip, with a handful of trucks (such as Dmitri’s) looking for the 10-second zone. Having already run a 10.87 at 133 mph at Bandimere’s 5,800-foot altitude in 2010, he was the clear favorite for the drag racing portion of Diesel Power Challenge.
Photo 10/40   |   Knock as they might on the 10-second door, racers would have Bandimere Speedway’s 5,800-foot elevation to contend with.
With tension high as the rigs approached the line, we were about to witness what these Ford, Chevy, and Dodge diesels could really do. Newly Tolf, who’d made mid-pack torque on the dyno, used his truck’s light weight and a good amount of power to immediately click off a mid-11-second pass. Dmitri left the line with his turbos screaming and spinning all four tires and still ran in the mid-11s. We did notice, however, that the truck wasn’t running right, as the torque converter in his newly installed Sun Coast Om3ga (Dodge-based) transmission never sounded like it locked up. We made a mental note to watch for him to go even quicker on the next pass.
Some trucks surprised us. Rocky Horn’s 5.9L-powered F-350 was fighting top-end rail pressure issues but still managed an 11.77 at 112 mph in his mile-long, four-door Ford. At 8,600 pounds, Andy Parker’s Super Duty was looking to dominate the sled pull, but it still ran a 12.02 at 114 mph. Finally, Fidel Velasquez’s Duramax jumped in the mix with an 11.86-second elapsed time, proving there’s more than dyno numbers needed to get down a dragstrip.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was the hard-luck team of Joel Saunders and Jeff Lagasse. After towing 1,900 miles to get to the challenge, they took their Dodge out to have dinner the night before our event. After smelling fuel, they checked the oil level and discovered the Cummins had dumped more than a gallon of diesel into the oil! Without being able to fix the problem (which ended up being a cracked injector body that was leaking under the valve cover) before the dyno, Joel’s truck put down about 200 hp less than he anticipated. Well, later that night he got it fixed, and at the dragstrip the 7,800-pound ’06 Ram rocketed to an 11.27 at 125 mph—good enough for quickest time at the track.
Ready for the heartbreakers? On his second pass, Shone Patel broke an intermediate shaft on the Third to Fourth shift, taking the big Ford from Second to out of the competition. And remember earlier when we remarked that we never heard Dmitri’s converter locking? Well, the huge boost on the launch combined with the early lockup may have smoked his converter and run after run was pushing more clutch material through the transmission. Whether he would still be able to make the trailer tow was anyone’s guess.
The Eighth-Mile Trailer Tow: Three Trucks Out
Perhaps the most feared event is the eighth-mile trailer tow event: a drag race with a 10,000-pound Bobcat in tow! With most of the competitors’ trucks weighing in at more than 7,000 pounds, that meant most of these vehicles would be leaving the starting line at full power with more than 17,000 pounds of total weight. This competition tests traction, shifting strategies, converter lockup, and turbo-sizing. Everything has to be correct to make a good pass with a trailer, as having the engine fall under the turbo or allowing the transmission to flare a shift can cost precious time.
Photo 17/40   |   Andy Parker was looking strong in his ’08 Ford F-350 and had finished mid-pack in both the dyno and drag race events. In the trailer tow, his 11.01-second run was good enough for Third.
Speaking of falling under the turbo, after an awesome dyno performance, Scott Lindsey was having trouble with his transmission and couldn’t spool. Following his 14-second quarter-mile run (instead of 10s like he was hoping) he limped his truck through the trailer tow event with a 17-second time, but at a pretty good 60 mph. A soft launch meant a 12.67-second run for Newly Tolf, who was beat out for Fifth Place by a whole second (11.61 seconds) by Fidel Velasquez. Fidel was barely nudged out by Dustin West in his Dodge, which ran an 11.52-second eighth-mile at 65 mph.
The top three finishers were actually separated by a pretty good margin, with each run looking like it would be the winner—until the next truck came up and beat it. Third Place went to Andy Parker and his 6.4L Power Stroke, which used its weight and responsive turbos to rocket out of the hole on the way to an 11.01-second run at 69 mph. Second went to Joel Saunders, whose truck had the brute horsepower to pull off a 10.62-second run at 73 mph—the highest top speed in the trailer tow. In the end, Rocky Horn’s long-wheelbase machine would not be denied, and the compound-turbo, Cummins-powered Ford shot out to a 2.64-second 60-foot time, and that’s at a gross combined weight of 18,000 pounds! He went on to run one of the quickest times in trailer tow history: a 10.24-second pass at 72 mph.
Eagle-eyed readers will notice that we’re missing Dmitri Millard in the above text. The bright-red Chevy hooked to the trailer last after trying to give some time for its transmission to cool down. Still, the damage was done, and the truck could only move the trailer about a foot from the starting line. Although one might expect cheering from the other participants, everyone remained library-quiet, as the Chevy was towed down the track like a slow funeral procession. Almost everyone had heard of the heart, soul, and determination Dmitri had put into winning again, and nobody wanted to see him go out that way. There was no escaping the situation, however. The transmission was no longer transmitting any power, and the undisputed king of the dyno—and last year’s Diesel Power Challenge winner—was out of the competition.
Photo 18/40   |   If any picture is worth a thousand words, then this one is it. After months of effort and many sleepless nights, our 2010 Diesel Power Challenge champ was out during the trailer tow. With his truck still at a fast idle, Dmitri simply sat with the door open and his head on the steering wheel in a state of silent reflection.
Trailer Obstacle Course: Three Trucks Out
A new event this year was the trailer-tow obstacle course, which was loosely based on a Class A driver’s license test. It involved turning, maneuvering, and backing and would reward the most skillful wheelman. While power was important, avoiding cones (there was a 5-second penalty for each cone hit) and smooth driving would take the win here. For a baseline (since it was a new event), we even ran a 6.7L Cummins- powered, Allison 1000-shifted Super Duty we borrowed from Destroked.com through the course in 1 minute, 50 seconds. This would give the drivers an idea of the type of time they should be shooting for.
Photo 22/40   |   Andy Parker finished Sixth in the trailer obstacle course in his ’08 Ford, with a time of 2 minutes, 3 seconds. As the event went on, Andy’s consistent finishes made him a front runner for one of the top spots.
Scott Lindsey came in with a respectable 1 minute, 43 second time, considering he was still having transmission trouble and couldn’t spool. Newly Tolf was a bit quicker, at 1 minute, 36 seconds and even managed to whack a 55-gallon drum while maneuvering, but both he and Scott missed all the cones, netting them zero penalty points. Rocky Horn had another clean run, and he was the only driver who was able to back up through the cones in one shot, without having to stop and reposition the truck and trailer. He was also the only competitor to run the test in four-wheel drive, sacrificing some turning ability for speed in the straights. It must have worked, because his 1 minute, 20 second time was the new mark to beat.
Photo 23/40   |   While Rocky Horn’s Cummins-powered ’97 Ford looked like it was going to twist itself in half, his strategy of leaving it in four-wheel drive meant quicker starts and straight-aways and led to an overall victory in the trailer tow—his second win in a row!
Now for the cone mashers—the drivers who scored some penalty points by sacrificing finesse for speed. Andy Parker nailed one cone and finished with an adjusted time of 2 minutes, 3 seconds in his ’08 Ford. Fidel Velasquez managed to run over five cones—and even drag a few—to score an adjusted time of 2 minutes, 34 seconds. Joel Saunders is a landscaper by trade, so we expected big things from him—and he didn’t disappoint! He was going so fast he actually missed a gate entirely and almost jackknifed the trailer while trying to stop for the final turn. The missed gate, plus his power slide shenanigans, gave him a time of 1 minute, 58 seconds, with four cones hit. The other wild trailer tower was Dustin West, who sprayed nitrous out of the hole and smoked the tires on every single straightaway. He finished with a blazing time of 1 minute, 10.8 seconds, which would have given him the win, but for a two-cone penalty, which meant a much-deserved Second Place finish by just the narrowest of margins.
The Ride and Drive: Five Trucks Out
As we pulled up to the truck stop early Thursday morning, we noticed we’d lost another couple of trucks. Fidel was out with roasted up-pipes and Scott Lindsey decided to skip the drive and work on his truck to try and make the sled pull. Our 163-mile drive was mandatory in order to test the fuel economy and streetability of the trucks, so missing the call meant Fidel and Scott would no longer be scored. If they could make it to the sled pull, however, we’d let them make exhibition runs.
Photo 27/40
With that out of the way, we set off with the five remaining trucks up and over the Continental Divide, and through the 1½-mile-long Eisenhower Tunnel. We’d be trekking up the Colorado Rockies to more than 11,000 feet elevation, which would test the merit of all our modified diesels. To round out the group, we had our own diesel-powered Grand Cherokee, and our loaner 6.7L Cummins-powered Ford from Destroked leading the convoy.
Photo 28/40   |   The next morning at the local T/A truck stop, only five trucks showed up for our ride and drive. Drivers were informed to top their fuel tanks off, and that we would then be heading even higher up in elevation. How high? Try 11,000 feet.
The first thing we learned from our group of Diesel Power Challenge trucks was that virtually everything hazes while climbing a steep grade at nearly 2 miles of elevation. This year’s competitors had very little in the form of fuel economy tricks or strategies. Some coasted a bit, and some drivers were light on the throttle. Others, like Dustin West, were doing full-throttle nitrous runs through the Eisenhower Tunnel. At one point on the downhill, Joel Saunders passed just about everyone and had to be doing more than 80 mph in Neutral.
At the fuel pump, Dustin’s antics netted him a last place finish in fuel economy, with a 16.18-mpg average. Next up was Newly Tolf, who had lost high gear in his Allison and had to make much of the trip at about 3,000 rpm. His truck sounded awesome, but all the engine revving meant only 17.42 mpg. Rocky’s big, heavy brick of a Ford finished Third, with an 18.24-mpg average and was edged out by Andy’s 6.4L Power Stroke-powered rig, which was able to achieve 19.05 mpg. Our fuel economy winner, Joel Saunders, was able to cover the field by more than 10 percent and averaged 22.58 mpg during the 163-mile drive. With all the trucks and drivers making it (Newly was a close one), it was on to the sled pull, where the winner would be decided. While mathematically almost anyone left could win, it appeared to be a battle between Joel Saunders and Rocky Horn for the victory.
Photo 29/40   |   Here Dustin West is seen topping off the tank of his Ram 2500. Dustin’s strategy on the fuel economy test? Have as much fun as possible!
The Sled Pull: Seven Trucks Out— Only Three Trucks Finish!
We only had five trucks left for the sled pull, so it went quick. And after it was over, only three were left running! We also got a surprise when Scott Lindsey showed back up with his silver Dodge, citing a clogged screen in the transmission as the trouble of all his woes. In this event, if Joel beat Rocky, he’d be the winner. If Rocky won, he’d take the title. And if both of those two finished last, that would leave the door open for Dustin West and his Dodge.
Photo 33/40   |   With 8,000 pounds to his credit, lots of horsepower, and a long wheelbase, everyone expected Rocky Horn to kill it with his ’97 F-350, but he was beaten by the bouncies. The hopping Ford only managed a 253-foot pull.
First up was Newly Tolf. The drag racer who showed up on Nitto 420S tires was at a big disadvantage—driving one of the lightest trucks on one of the slickest set of tires. It was to everyone’s surprise when his moving-dust-cloud of a Duramax pulled 252 feet on a very sandy track. Next up was Rocky Horn in his Ford, who bounced his way to 253 feet to squeak ahead of Newly. Andy Parker’s heavy and powerful Ford hooked to the sled next. Andy said sled pulling was “his thing,” and he wasn’t lying. Pulling in Fourth gear and low-range, he fell under the turbos for a second, then nitrous’d above them. His 323-foot effort had our camera guys running and everyone else clapping.
So now all eyes were on Dustin and Joel, the two drivers (both in Dodges) who could spoil Rocky’s chance at a victory. Dustin, who had been a tire-frying animal in all the tests this year, was no different in the sled pull. He bounced, hopped, and spun his way down the track, and at any moment we expected the sound of snapping parts. That sound never came, and he stayed in it to a 263-foot pull—right behind Andy, and more importantly, ahead of Rocky. Joel got off to a slow start, but with a lot of rpm, which indicated a converter that hadn’t been locked. About 150 feet out he hit lockup and the nitrous, which upset the chassis. After one or two bounces, we heard a bang and suddenly the truck was coasting with the sled—out to a too-short 217 feet. Joel had broken an input shaft, which cost him precious feet in the sled pull.
So everyone had pulled, and now all that was left was tallying the results. Did Dustin’s strong performance in the sled pull win it? Were Rocky’s two victories in his Cummins-powered Ford good enough for the win? Or did Joel take it despite his breakage? With Newly’s transmission finished off by the sled pull, that left only Andy, Rocky, and Dustin with running trucks. What a crazy event!
Truck Weights
Due to the large amount of broken rigs, we only got weights for five of the initial 10 competitors. It’s interesting to note that other than Newly Tolf’s Duramax, most of the rigs that were left by the time of the sled pull were pretty heavy.
Photo 40/40
Andy Parker
2008 Ford F-350 8,620 pounds
Rocky Horn
1997 Ford F-350 8,000 pounds
Joel Saunders
2006 Dodge 2500 7,840 pounds
Dustin West
2005 Dodge 2500 7,600 pounds
Newly Tolf
2004 Chevrolet 2500 6,700 pounds

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