It takes just one word to describe North American Diesel Performance's August Blackout.
The drag racing was smokin' hot.
The sled drags were blistering hot.
The jet fuel dragsters were scorching hot.
The show trucks were shiny hot.
But above all, the temperatures were sizzling.
Held at Castrol Raceway just south of Edmonton, AB, the 5th annual August Blackout was all things diesel for two full days in mid-August. It's hard to say what was hotter at this year's event-the competition or the temps. Actually it was a combination of both.
Competitors from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Montana, Oregon and Washington battled both the heat and each other but it was the blistering heat that was on most people's minds as the temps soared into the high 80s and lower 90s (low 30s in Celsius). That was 15-16 degrees F above normal. That wasn't a big deal to the fans, many of who stripped down to shorts and sandals to take in the sun and beat the heat. To the drag racers on the line, who weren't allowed to run their truck's air conditioning to prevent any condensation from getting on the drag strip and who had to keep their windows rolled up until they made their run, the cab became an oven.
But it was all worth it as they contended for $35,000 in prize money that was up for grabs in the drags, sled pulls, burnout competition and Show n' Shine.
Across all categories of competition, there were close to 170 trucks which battled for the money and bragging rights, making it the biggest August Blackout NADP has sponsored.
"We feel that the event went off well for the sheer size of it," Dennis Michael, marketing manager and August Blackout event organizer for NADP, said. "It was much larger than last year's event with more than 168 trucks competing. The total fan base for the weekend was more than 5,500, which was great, too. It was really nice to see all the American trucks competing and to see some of the Canadian boys come away with wins." Here's a look at each segment of the competition.
Just how hot were the diesel drags? Kevin Morken blistered the Castrol Raceway quarter mile for two new records in ET and mph. Morken did his damage in the Super Street class, taking his truck down the drag strip in 10.97 seconds at 128.05 mph. Both of those records were set for the National Hot Rod Diesel Association (NHRDA), the sanctioning body for the diesel drags at August Blackout. Morken, from Grande Prairie, AB, drove his 2003 Dodge 2500 Cummins to the new marks, shattering the old records of 11.15 ET and 120.46 mph. It might be a while before those marks are broken again.
NHRDA has four classes in drag competition: Pro Street and Super Street, both of which feature head-to-head racing, as well as Pro 1 and Pro 2, both of which are a bracket style format. In Pro 1 you can run a 13.99 or faster. In Pro 2 competitors can run a 13.00 or slower.
There were 110 competitors in the drags, with Pro 2 getting the lion's share of those competitors.
But it was in Super Street where the competition was especially exciting. Ironically, despite Morken's blistering run in the semis on Sunday, he didn't even win the class or even make to the final. That honor went to Shawn Ellerton, who won in his 2003 Ford F350 6.0L. In the final, Ellerton lined up against Kevin Douglas and his Dodge and easily won after Douglas bobbled at the starting line. Along with the win, Ellerton got to take home the $2,000 first place check.
Michael Pliska was a double winner in the drags, interestingly enough in what appears to be two different racing disciplines: bracket style and head-to-head. One requires patience and the right amount of pedal pressure while the other is all pedal. In winning Pro 2, Pliska drove his 1998 Dodge Ram 2500 with a 5.9 Cummins with more mods than you can shake a stick at.
In Pro Street Pliska ran a 1999 Chevy half-ton with a 6.6 Duramax to a win over Malcolm Cross. Cross and Pliska both got off the line cleanly but then Cross got a little sideways and had to left off the gas and by the time he got back into it, it was too late as Pliska had the win in the bag. Pliska had an ET of 10.15 and was going 137.36 when he crossed the finish line. For his efforts, Pliska earned $3,000 in Pro Street and $1,000 in Pro 2.
In Pro 1, it was an all Dodge final as Nathan Black and Michael Fox lined up against each other. Black ended up having an easier time than he probably thought he would in winning as Fox red lighted, giving Black the win and the $500 that went with it.
1) Michael Pliska
2) Kendall Freed
3) Nick Ecker
1) Nathan Black
2) Michael Fox
3) Jim Calhoun
1) Shawn Ellerton
2) Kevin Douglas
3) Kevin Morken
1) Michael Pliska
2) Malcolm Cross
3) Mike Drever/Shawn Inkster
Randy Cole, president of NHRDA, said it was his group's first trip to August Blackout and they came away impressed with all aspects of the event, which, he said, was the biggest gathering in terms of spectators and competitors of the 2008 MBRP Performance Exhaust Diesel Drag Race Series thus far.
"The NHRDA was very happy to join the NADP team and help promote and put on August Blackout," he said. "This is one of the premier events in North America. Castrol Raceway has a great facility and crew who helps make the event run smoothly and efficiently."
The burnout might be one of the few times you'll experience smoke-a lot of smoke-without fire. The competitors were judged by a panel of industry experts who were just feet from the spot where the action took place. Most of the panel's picks went along with the crowd, which was loud and boisterous in its approval of the best smokers.
Nearly two dozen trucks entered the competition with just three getting a perfect score. A runoff of sorts had to be held the second day and John Schlumberger came out on top although Michael Shumansky was a definite crowd favorite. Schlumberger earned $1,000 for his smokin' performance, which, we're guessing will go towards a new set of tires.
1) John Schlumberger
2) Michael Shumansky
3) Clint Gervais
It was obvious right off the bat that the sled's weight wasn't near enough to challenge the beefy diesel trucks on Day 1 of the competition as the first handful of trucks pulled the sled right out of the infield and onto the clay oval track at Castrol Raceway. In fact, the end judge had to stop a couple of trucks from going any farther because the trucks weren't allowed to go onto the track more than a few feet because the oval had been prepped for a sprint car race that was taking place the following weekend.
The track official was shutting the trucks down near the 350-foot mark.
So, competition was stopped, the Alberta Tractor Pullers Association sled was regeared and the competition was on again. The sled pullers who had already competed we sent back around to do it all over again. Even after the change, several trucks passed the 300-foot mark on both days.
Thirty trucks entered the sled pulling competition.
SHOW `N SHINE
More than a half-dozen trucks sat between the oval track and drag strip to show their stuff. The winners were:
1) Dennis Fair
2) Mark Sairer
3) Colby Nemirsky
Now that the dust has settled, planning for next year's August Blackout are already underway. "Next year's event will be bigger, faster and more exciting than this year's event, that's for sure," NADP's Michael said. "And don't count out the payouts being larger as well. We look forward to seeing more trucks at the event next year."
So do we. Only eight more months to wait.
For more pictures from this event, go to www.dieseltechmag.com