Diesel Power Challenge: Facts and Fictions
Diesel Power Challenge Info You Need to Know
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Now in its 15th year, Diesel Power Challenge is widely recognized as the industry's premier competition for performance-modified, street-driven trucks and their diesel-enthusiast owners. The brainchild of former Diesel Power publisher Steve von Seggern, DPC has evolved from being a competition that has showcased a mixed bag of as many as 17 staff-selected rigs in its early years, to an event that now annually highlights a "Class" of 10 reader-selected drivers, trucks, and their teams, representing Ford, GM and Ram. In a nutshell, Diesel Power Challenge is our performance, endurance, skill and strategy contest for registered, insured, street-driven diesel-powered pickups, their drivers, and crews.
Today, participants compete in six competitive segments that include: dyno testing (for combined power and torque at ATS Diesel Performance in Arvada, Colorado), evaluating a vehicle's drivability and fuel consumption (this segment is performed on a chassis dynamometer also at ATS, using a simulated emissions-test-style "drive" program), maneuvering an 11,500-pound skidsteer/trailer combination through a challenging cone course, towing that same trailer over an eighth-mile distance to achieve the quickest elapsed time, heads-up quarter-mile drag racing, and sled pulling, all at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colorado.
It seems that every year--within minutes of the DPC voting (for competitors) period starting--rumors, assumptions, and, unfortunately, negative comments about the event are made. At the same time, voters and potential competitors also reach out to us with questions about procedures, timetables, and other elements of the competition.
While there is some information that can't be divulged until after a DPC Class is confirmed (the Class of 2020 will be announced on Friday, May 1, 2020 at 9:00 AM Eastern, on the Diesel Power Magazine Facebook page), there also are facts about Diesel Power Challenge that we feel everyone (voters, entrants, alumni, sponsors, etc.) should know.
And that's the essence of this report; to give you details, and, more importantly, to set the record on such things as eligibility, competing, winning, etc., as straight as we possibly can. Contrary to occasionally popular thought, some DPC policies have been in place since the first event in 2006. So, without any more adieu, here are some of the facts and dispelled fictions about Diesel Power Challenge that we really think you should know.
Origin and Early History of Diesel Power Challenge
As noted earlier in this report, DPC was conceptualized in 2005, by then publisher Steve von Seggern and brought to reality the following year by Diesel Power Editor, David Kennedy, and several friends who worked at Primedia Publishing's off-road magazines. "As the editor of Diesel Power magazine, I really wanted to showcase what readers can do with their trucks," David says. "They could build them to run on the drag strip, sled pull, make super-big horsepower and torque numbers, and they could drive them on the street every day. Diesel Power was all about showing guys how they can build their trucks to do all these things, and do them better than anybody else."
The initial venture, Diesel Power Challenge—West, was held in Southern California, in May 2006. It was an invitational that featured three Fords, three Dodge Rams and three GMs, and the event was won by Nick D'Amico in a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD—that he drove to the event and back home.
According to David, as the west-coast DPC started coming together, "we realized we could replicate the event on the east coast." So, in September of the same year, Diesel Power Challenge—East took place in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Micheal Tomac was the winner, and he also competed in a 2002 Silverado 2500HD.
In 2007, Diesel Power Challenge West and East were combined and held in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the unified event, Micheal defeated Nick and sixteen other competitors, becoming the first back-to-back champion.
In the years following Diesel Power Challenge 2007 and 2008 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the event went back to Bowling Green for second and third times in 2009 (a Braking segment was included as exhibition) and 2010. DPC moved to Denver, Colorado, in 2011, where it still takes place today (it's also where the Cone Course--formerly called the Trailer Tow Obstacle Course--segment was introduced).
Entering Diesel Power Challenge
From the beginning, DPC has always focused on the overall performance of each vehicle, its operator and the crew that supports them, as they attempt to score maximum points in each competitive segment. The event is open to men and women (yes, ladies have competed in DPC—Charr Drever/2008 and Kelsie Epp/2016), and the modified diesel-powered vehicles (typically pickup trucks) they own and drive. Entry begins two months after a Diesel Power Challenge ends. While there once was an entry form in the printed magazine, entering now involves thoroughly completing an application that is posted on trucktrend.com and submitting it (with all required photos) before a specified deadline. There is no maximum modification limit for trucks that are entered. However, powertrains for all entries must be upgraded in some fashion. A claim of 600 rear-wheel horsepower and 1,100 lb-ft of torque (both are minimums) is required for a vehicle to be considered for advancement to the voting stage.
How a Diesel Power Challenge Class Is Determined
Since 2011, each Class has been determined completely by readers' vote. After presenting the candidates, neither the Diesel Power editor nor staff have any influence in voting. Basically, it's an election process in which voters select three candidates for each brand (Ford, GM and Ram), based on information and photos that are published. Deciding who gets invited is solely up to diesel enthusiasts who review the materials and cast their votes. Like any election, voters are encouraged to contact candidates for clarity about their trucks (each entrant's email address is provided), and hopeful competitors should use their social-media platforms and other means of communicating to "campaign" for votes. A total of nine trucks and drivers are invited to compete against the previous-year's champion. An Official Alternate is also determined. The Alternate is the fourth-highest vote earner for the brand that is selected for a particular year.
A Truck Must Make 1,000 or More Horsepower to Win Diesel Power Challenge
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about Diesel Power Challenge. While horsepower and torque are uber-viable affirmations of performance, excelling in DPC's Dyno segment does not make any truck or driver a shoe-in for the overall title. For years, four-digit power has been the perceived "magic number" for having the best chance of winning DPC. While 1,000-plus horsepower is impressive and we acknowledge that having an entire DPC Class that stout would be phenomenal, it's important to keep in mind that there are five other similarly scored competitive segments in the event. The dyno and big horsepower don't always seal the deal for winning the event. And, it's important to keep the fact that "anything can happen at DPC" in mind.
How Diesel Power Challenge Is Scored
DPC competitors are scored for each competitive segment on a 100-point scale, receiving 100 points for 1st place, 90.9 points for 2nd place, 80.8 points for 3rd place, and so on. Competitors that DNF (Did Not Finish) Diesel Power Challenge is scored based on a competitor's points accrued for all of the segments they complete. Vehicles that DNS (Did Not Start) any segment are awarded zero (0) points for that segment, but allowed to continue competing in subsequent segments. The competitor with the highest total score for all segments at the end of the event is crowned the winner of Diesel Power Challenge.
Uncorrected Dyno Data at Diesel Power Challenge
For scoring at most dyno competitions, the sum of the "corrected (for altitude, temperature and humidity differences/changes)" horsepower and torque values is used. Since Diesel Power Challenge 2012, uncorrected numbers are recorded and scored. Why? According to David: "Before moving to Denver, maximum torque was the only value that was used for dyno scoring. For DPC 2012, we viewed turbochargers as the compensators for high altitude in Denver, and elected to use the uncorrected horsepower-plus-torque total to prevent drivers from potentially destroying engines in their attempts to achieve the highest torque." Over the years, nitrous oxide has become an accepted staple for further enhancing atmospheric conditions in the dyno cell at ATS Diesel Performance, and also during on-track segments held at Bandimere Speedway. For the Dyno segment, performance results completely depend on the capability of the truck and how well its engine is tuned.
Diesel Power Challenge Rules
Rules understandably are important to everyone who hopes to compete. A comprehensive rules package does exist, but it is only released to a DPC Class one month prior to the start of the event. From a governing perspective, it is not our intent to limit ingenuity, or restrict the versatility of a vehicle or its diesel engine. However, in the spirit of keeping the competition as safe and as real-world as possible, each competitor must adhere to the contest's general rules, which Diesel Power Challenge officials reserve the right to change or modify (if warranted and/or as necessary) at any time during the competition.
Spectating at Diesel Power Challenge
"Can I come to Denver and watch Diesel Power Challenge?" At this point, that question would make us rich if we had a dollar for every time we have been asked (since 2006). Unfortunately, DPC is a closed, private event that does not allow spectators at any of its segments. This means that only one driver and no more than three (3) teammates are allowed to attend and participate in the event's competitive segments (on the track, at the dyno, at the sled pull, etc. ), and at official Diesel Power Challenge social events.
The only caveat is that all Diesel Power Challenge alumni (past competitors, not crew members) are welcome as spectators ONLY (an alum cannot serve on any crew during competitive segments unless he or she is a registered member of the team they are assisting. The Alumni Invitation cannot be used for the alum to become a "fourth crew member" for any competitors. Yes, this policy has been in place since Day One, and there currently is no plan to change it.
In this day and time of social media, enthusiasts hoping to see DPC as it happens are advised to stay tuned to the Diesel Power Magazine Facebook page and Instagram for live updates, trucktrend.com for video highlights, and the social media outlets of DPC participants, who we encourage to "go live" whenever they can.
A series of highlight videos that recap the entire event airs each year during "Diesel Power Challenge Week" (September timeframe) on the Motor Trend YouTube channel.
Cummins Dominates Diesel Power Challenge
While Dodge Ram trucks are always the fan favorites for wining DPC, statistics show that despite this heavy support from the Cummins Nation, the trucks and their drivers do not have the most First Place finishes. Event historians may remember that DPC 2011 winner, Rocky Horn's, 1997 Ford F-350 had a 5.9L Cummins under its hood. Ford was credited for the win. Because, per Diesel Power Challenge rules, vehicles are categorized (as Ford, GM or Ram) by chassis and VIN, not their engine.
|2006 (West)||Nick D'Amico||2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD|
|2006 (East)||Micheal Tomac||2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD|
|2007||Micheal Tomac||2002 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD|
|2008||Chris Werner||2001 Dodge Ram 2500|
|2009||Robert Evans||2004 Dodge Ram 2500|
|2010||Dmitri Millard||2001 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD|
|2011||Rocky Horn||1997 Ford F-350|
|2012||Erik Clausen (Alternate)||2008 Ford F-250|
|2013||Wesley Beech||2008 Ford F-250|
|2014||Lavon Miller||2004.5 Dodge Ram 3500|
|2015||Lavon Miller||2004.5 Dodge Ram 3500|
|2016||Charlie Keeter||2004 Ford F-250|
|2017||Charlie Keeter||2004 Ford F-250|
|2018||Kody Pulliam||2004 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD|
|2019||Richard Coker||2006 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD|
The Diesel Power Challenge Alternate Does Not Compete
DPC's Official Alternate is the candidate who receives the fourth-highest vote total for the brand that is named the year's Official-Alternate make (determined through annual rotation). Technically, while an Alternate is invited to attend Diesel Power Challenge—similar to all competitors, at his/her own expense—he or she does so with understanding that there's a high probability of not getting to compete in any of the event's segments (photos of alternates and their trucks are taken for mini features that appear online and in the magazine). There's no opportunity to participate as exhibition or without receiving a score.
However, despite this, good fortune can and has come to DPC Alternates. In 2015, JD Gleason and his 2009 Ford F-350 made their way onto the official roster, by way of catastrophic mechanical failure on a voted-in competitor's truck. Ryan Noble is an Alternate who moved up to represent GM in 2016, and Levi Krech was an Alternate who was officially appointed to the Dodge Ram competitors' lineup, the moment he arrived at the DPC 2017 registration desk.
While all Official Alternates represent themselves and their trucks' brands and fans in excellent fashion, Erik Clausen and his 2008 Ford F-250 is the only tandem that has come in off the bench and won it all at DPC 2012. So, is it impossible and is it a thankless position? Absolutely not.
Diesel Power Challenge 2020 Fast Facts
WHEN: Sunday May 31st to Thursday June 4th 2020.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado area.
WHY: To determine who has the ultimate street-legal, diesel-powered vehicle.
WHO: Diesel Power Challenge 2019 Champion Richard Coker and nine fellow diesel jockeys who think they can beat him.
WHAT: A drivability/fuel economy comparison, a chassis-dyno competition, an 1/8th -mile trailer tow acceleration test, a -mile drag race, a cone-course, and a sled pull.