Bo Layne moved hundreds of miles from his hometown of Fountain Run, KY, to Terre Haute, IN, to chase his passion for sled pulling.
He wanted to carve out a name for himself in the tough Midwest sled pulling circles, moving from the brush pulls at county fairs into the big time sled pulls where big money trucks were competing before decent-sized crowds and for even bigger prestige.
So what did he do after he landed in Indiana-Terre Haute, to be specific-to begin his quest for sled pulling glory?
Just become the first person to break the 200 mph barrier in a diesel-powered dragster.
Whoa, pull the chute for a minute and slow this down. A diehard sled-puller flew down the track in a diesel-powered dragster at more than 200 mph? The only real connection we can see between the two-at least on the surface-is Layne sled pulls with a diesel truck and the dragster is diesel-powered. Layne may be pulling the sled with his pickup past 200 feet but he wasn't going anywhere near 200 mph.
We caught up (okay, not literally) with Layne last December in his new hometown of Terre Haute to try and sort all this out. You might remember reading on Diesel Tech Magazine's website
(www.dieseltechmag.com) last winter about Layne's feat on the drag strip. Because of his 203.71 mph run in the quarter-mile in the Scheid Diesel Motorsports diesel dragster at the Muncie Dragway in Muncie, IN, on Oct. 18, 2008, Layne has firmly planted his name in the record books-maybe not the record books he was hoping for, but in the record books nonetheless. Layne now owns the distinction of being the first ever to take a diesel-powered dragster past the 200 mph barrier.
NOW THAT'S IRONIC
To catch the full irony of that record-setting event, you have to rewind Layne's life three or so years back.
In 2006, Layne, now 23 years old, was a diesel mechanic working on heavy equipment, backhoes, bulldozers and the like, out of a mobile truck in Kentucky. That was work. Play was sled pulling. "I would just go to county fairs and screwed off, competing in brush pulls," he said. "You go to county fairs to compete but it doesn't mean anything." In those days Layne was brush pulling in his 1994 Dodge 2500, the same vehicle he would go back and forth to high school in during his teenage years. That Dodge now is his daily driver in Indiana and has passed the 220,000-mile mark.
All the while he was brush pulling and working on heavy equipment at construction sites Layne followed sled pulling in the Midwest. That's what he really wanted to be doing. But some things had to fall in place for that to happen. Granted, it wasn't many things, but Layne did at least need a job before moving away from the area he grew up in.
So he called Dan Scheid, owner of Scheid Diesel. "I had never talked to Dan Scheid," Layne explained. "I just knew the Scheid Diesel name. I called Dan and two weeks later I drove up [to Indiana] for an interview and two weeks later I was living up here." Layne started his career with Scheid Diesel in 2006 at the company's shop in Lafayette and then six months later moved to the Scheid facility in Terre Haute, where he's the manager of the drive-in part of the shop. Of this job, Layne said, "If it's got a diesel in it and it fits in the shop, we'll work on it. I work on everything."
HUNTIN' FOR A TRUCK
After Layne got the job situation all squared away, he went to work looking for a truck so he could pursue the real reason he moved north. He moved to Indiana just for the motorsports-specifically to sled pull, but his high school sweetheart of a truck wasn't going to get the job done in the more competitive pulls in the upper Midwest. He tracked down a 1996 Dodge dually extended cab 3500 in North Carolina that caught his eye. It had a blown engine and 265,000 miles on it. "The sole reason I bought it was to build a pullin' truck," he said. The purchase was made in 2007. The first thing he did to the four-wheel drive Dodge was pull the engine and build a new one. The result was a Cummins 12v 5.9L, of course complete with a myriad of Scheid Diesel components that help create an impressive 1,000 hp. Eric Nelson helped him with the body work and paint job and he put Jared Jones in as his crew chief and he was ready.
"I had it bought and was pullin' in three weeks," Layne said. He competes in the 2.8 class-that is, when he has time to compete in sled pulling. More on that later.
That truck's calling is reserved for sled pulling only and he was ready for the competition. In 2007 he had 40 pulls and quickly earned respect as being one of the best in sled pulls. He loves the competition.
"In Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, that region is hard core track and tractor pulling and it's spreading out," Layne said. "Now this sport is growing. It's crazy."
What's the attraction to sled pulling? He explained, "It's definitely the competition. It's why you spend all our money and stay up all night. Pulling is a part-time job. No, it's a full-time. The heavy hitters spend as much time on their trucks as they do their jobs."
Layne definitely fits into that category. We asked him his daily drill and it basically consists of going to work during the day and then to a shop after work to wrench on his pulling truck and now, the Scheid Diesel dragster. In fact, after we left Layne this past winter he was getting ready to tear the dragster down and rebuild it to get it ready for this season.
We asked Layne if he could put some kind of dollar figure on what he's spent on his 1996 Dodge puller. "Hell yea I've got an idea what I spend." Then he went deep into thought but a figure never came out. He did say, "It can be expensive, depending on how serious you are about it. You can brush pull and have a good time but it's a whole `nuther ball game in big time pulling."
He claims there is nothing really special about his pulling truck. He said, "It's just a plain jane truck. All you need is a hell of an engine, a strong driveline and a willingness to sacrifice it if you need to."
Layne went from one hell of an engine to another-the one found in the diesel-powered dragster, which tops the charts at more than 1,500 hp. Dan Scheid started building his diesel dragster in 2004, long before Layne was in the picture. We asked Layne why Scheid, who has earned a well-regarded reputation in the diesel market, wanted to create a diesel-powered dragster. "Because Dan wanted to go 200 mph in a quarter-mile in a diesel." Okay, simple enough.
And it's not a bad marketing tool. Think about it. A diesel-powered dragster topping 200 mph. That's pretty darn impressive. And, as Layne, pointed out, "You can buy an engine like the one in the dragster."
NEW DAILY DRIVER
Dan Scheid needed a driver for the dragster and pegged Layne to be the pilot. Layne didn't let that one go by. "I moved up here because of the love of pullin' but you just can't pass up the opportunity to sit in and run the world's fastest diesel in the quarter mile," Layne said.
Focusing on the dragster meant sacrificing in other areas and you can guess what that was-sled pulling. He spent every weekend in the diesel-powered dragster last summer and that left Layne only enough time to sled pull in Indiana in 2008. He admits he misses sled pulling but that his priority right now is drag racing. Aside from the obvious glory and fan respect that he gets for driving the dragster, there are a couple of other small consolations for Layne. "[The dragster] has the same clutch and about the same engine as my pulling truck," he said.
Most of Layne's runs in the dragster have been exhibitions at diesel events all over the country from Kentucky to Texas to North Carolina to Colorado and just about everywhere in between-65 passes in all in 2008.
Even after all those runs, Layne said he still remembers the first time he took the diesel-powered dragster down a strip. They went to a two-mile strip outside of Terre Haute that had cornfields on both sides of the pavement. Dan Scheid's instructions to Layne were short and simple, "Just don't make a combine out of it."
Not only did Layne not make a combine out of the dragster, he went on to set a record in the vehicle on just his third time he'd been on a quarter-mile track.
But going fast isn't limited to just Layne's runs in the dragster. He admits he's hit 189 mph on his crotch rocket before.
HITTING THE MARK
In the dragster, Layne ran a consistent 7.0 ET and 193-196 mph all summer long in 2008. But what about the first time he hit 200 mph? "There's not a whole lot of difference between 196 mph and 200 mph but when I hit the chute I knew I hit [the 200 mph barrier]," he said. "It's 2 Gs off the line, then negative 2 Gs when you hit the chute."
The first time Layne hit 200 mph in the dragster he ran 201 mph. However, to get the record, you have to back it up with a second run. On that second run he "only" hit 198 mph. "The tranny was slipping," he said.
Two weeks later, in Muncie, IN, though, the record fell when Layne took the Scheid Diesel dragster down the strip at 202 mph and then 203 mph. Layne said what helped on that weekend was that "there were 100 race cars and we had a good, hot track."
Although Layne will most likely hit the 200 mph hour barrier again, he still revels in the first time. "The thing is, it can never be done again-for the first time," he said.
And while Layne's primary focus right now is on the dragster, you can tell he still has an eye-and his heart-set on sled pulling. We tried to pin him down on what his favorite is between the two.
Here's what we got. "They're totally different."
He added, "With pulling, it's something you put together and you know you've torqued it all down and then it sounds like it's fixin' to come out and jump in your lap. That's exciting and gets your blood pumping. It's an accomplishment in itself that it held together and then when you beat everyone else, it's that much more enjoyable."
So while Bo Layne may not have made quite the name for himself in sled pulling-yet-that he would have liked to, if you follow anything to do with diesels, then you know who he is.
And he'll settle for that, at least for now.