Diesel Addict: Hook & Go

A Daily-driver LLY morphs into a 785 HP dedicated puller

Published in the August 2010 Issue August 2010 Duramax, Feature

My diesel addiction started at a very young age. I remember watching my grandpa leaving to go on the road in his `83 Peterbilt leaving a trail of black smoke. I always remember thinking someday I would have myself a diesel big rig that would blow smoke like what my grandpa drove up and down the road.

Fast-forward 20 years and I'm still a diesel addict. Granted, my childhood dreams of owning a Peterbilt or a diesel big rig haven't come true yet, but I do have a diesel truck.

I still remember the first time I drove a Duramax I couldn't believe how much more power it had over my `01 Dodge Ram 1500 gas pickup. It didn't take long before I bought a 2004.5 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD extended cab short bed 4x4 with the 6.6L LLY Duramax. I bought the truck in April of `06. It had 16,000 miles on it the day I picked it up and it was bone stock. It didn't stay stock for long.

TUNER, TUNER, TUNER?

The week before I picked up my truck I had already ordered a Bully Dog Triple Dog programmer and a 4-inch turbo back system from Pro-Flo exhaust. As soon as I got the truck home from the dealer I installed the Triple Dog and the 4-inch exhaust. I liked the newfound power, but I wanted a way to keep an eye on what was going on with my engine. I installed a pyrometer and boost gauge from Autometer to keep an eye on my exhaust gas temperatures and my boost levels. Soon the Bully Dog wasn't enough power for me so I sold it and purchased a PPE Xcelerator Hot + 2 E.T. programmer from Pacific Performance Engineering. I stacked this with a TS Performance MP-8 adjustable module. Soon I ran into a fuel issue common to Duramax owners. I was limping my factory fuel system, so I installed a PPE lift pump and I replaced the factory fuel pressure relief valve with a PPE race fuel valve. Around this same time I decided to upgrade my exhaust to a set of 6-inch dual stacks from MBRP exhaust. At this point I was happy with my performance mods. But that didn't last for long.

OFF TO DANVILLE

I first found out about Danville Performance after reading a couple threads on a diesel forum. This was around the time I had just graduated from tech school to be a diesel mechanic, and I was looking for a job in the diesel industry. I started talking to Mark Broviak about getting a job working for them. I was hired, and learned a great deal about Duramax diesel performance from Mark, but due to unfortunate circumstances I had to stop working for Danville Performance.

It was around this time, though, that my stock CP3 injection pump started to fail. I first noticed the problem when the truck was lagging on power. Mark suggested that rather than replace it with another LLY pump I should upgrade to a LBZ cp3 injection pump and regulator, so I did.

Due to LBZ pumps and regulators commanding more rail pressure than the LLY pump, I had Mark rescale the rail pressure for my truck. This was done using EFI Live, and Mark also tuned the truck for better performance using EFI Live. The nice thing about EFI Live is that it allows you to make the changes to vehicle parameters that need to be made to match your modifications. It also comes in handy for data logging, which is great for tuning purposes. Soon after replacing the CP3 the seals in my lift pump failed and were causing it to leak diesel fuel all the time. We replaced it with a 150 gph lift pump from Fass fuel systems.

PUTTING THE POWER TO THE GROUND

Now with the new upgrades and tuning I decided it was time to do a transmission upgrade. The stock Allison 5-speed held up well up until now, but I wanted to be able to put all my newfound power to the ground.

I went with an ATS Stage III kit with a 5-Star torque converter, and I also added an ATS Co-Pilot. The Co-Pilot helps with torque converter lock up and also helps increase clutch apply pressure based on engine load.

Unfortunately, the stage III kit didn't hold up as well as I would have liked it to. After 7,000 miles of daily driving and towing my transmission was starting to overheat. Danville Performance suggested that I give Fleece Performance in North Salem, IN a call. After talking over my options with Brayden Fleece I decided to go with a Stage IV kit from Suncoast Converters. I ended up keeping the ATS 5-Star Converter and Co-Pilot.

While the tranny was out at Fleece's getting rebuilt I decided it was time for a turbo upgrade. After talking it over with Mark, I went with a Danville Performance Stage 1 64mm VGT upgrade. Mark also suggested I should upgrade to an LBZ turbo mouthpiece because it's larger and less restrictive than the LLY mouthpiece. The turbo upgrade came with a Diamond Eye down pipe. We also deleted the EGR system while doing the turbo swap. I instantly noticed a drop in EGTs with the Stage 1 VGT upgrade and I saw a 200-degree drop in EGTs while towing.

MORE FUEL, MORE AIR, SLED PULLING

It wasn't long after the upgrade to the Stage 1 VGT turbo that I felt the need to upgrade my stock injector nozzles to a set of Danville Performance 60 percent over stock nozzles. This mod actually made tuning easier, and also helped my truck run safer by running less timing and pulse width. The only downfall to the nozzle upgrade was that it shot my EGTs back up to what they were before the turbo upgrade.

Since the truck was my daily driver, I decided to upgrade my turbo again. This time we went with Danville Performance's Stage 2 65mm 2.6 VGT turbo. This turbo has custom vanes for more exhaust flow, and utilizes a high flow turbine wheel designed for the VGT turbos.

It was also around this time that I decided I might want to try my hand at sled pulling. I had always liked going to watch diesel sled pulls, but never really thought much about competing until one of my buddies kept hassling me that I should pull since I had all these modifications done to my truck. I talked to Mark about what I needed to get started pulling. He set me up with an upgraded receiver hitch, an adjustable pulling hitch, sled stops, suspension stops and a set of drive shaft loops. I ditched the factory bumper in favor of an aftermarket roll pan bumper so I could move my hitch in a little more towards the center of the truck. We also installed a three-link traction bar setup; that has been a proven setup. The third link actually helps stabilize the rear end by pushing on it, and helps prevent the rear end from moving forward. After we set the truck up for pulling Mark, wrote me a sled-pulling tune that dyno'd 602 rear-wheel horsepower and 1024 lb-ft of torque. My first pull I ever competed in was the TS Performance Outlaw Pull in `09. I pulled in the 2.6 class and got 24th out of a 100-plus trucks. Before I hooked for the first time I said I would only pull a few times a year. But after I hooked down at TS it was all downhill from there. I was hooked on pulling. It's one of the most ultimate rushes I have ever felt in my entire life.

ROOKIE SEASON

For someone who said they were only going to pull a few times a year, I ended up going to 63 pulls my rookie season in `09. I ended up making a run for the 2.6 diesel truck class points with the Indiana Truck Pullers Association. I ended up third in points for the season.

Right after I started my points run, we noticed I had a traction issue and that I was having trouble maintaining rail pressure with the 60-over nozzles. We fixed the rail pressure issue by adding a second CP3 injection pump with a kit from ATS Diesel. We used a Danville Performance modified LBZ CP3 pump for the second pump.

Once we addressed the rail pressure problem, we turned our attention to the traction issue. I had started the season running 285 BFG All-Terrain tires on 17s, and they seemed to be too small, so we replaced those with a set of wider 315 BFG All-Terrains. This was the ticket to fixing my traction issues.

We also upgraded the gears from the stock 3.73 gears to 4.10 gears. After addressing these issues I had a really good rookie season. I took second place at the FASS Diesel Nationals '09 in the 2.6 class. I also ended up 18th at Scheid's Diesel Extravaganza in the 2.6 diesel truck class. For the `09 season I had 9 first-place finishes, 48 top-5 finishes and 6 top-25 finishes. What made my rookie season special to me was that I drove my truck to 60 of the pulls and only hauled it on a trailer to 3 pulls. I'm proud of this because it proved that you can be competitive in sled pulling and still daily drive your truck. I also let Mark from Danville Performance do some drag racing in my truck. He made about 40 to 50 passes down the drag strip. Back when the truck was running a single CP3 injection pump he ran a 12.19-second pass at 109 mph. After we added the second CP3 and the 4.10 gears he was able to run an 11.93 at 111mph on 35-inch tires.

I owe a lot of my success my rookie season to two of my buddies that I pull with. If it wasn't for Matt Gainer and Jon Swartzentruber giving me pulling and setup advice, I don't think I would have been as successful as I was. I also owe a lot to Mark and Larry from Danville Performance for all the work they've done on the truck. And I owe a big thanks to my fiancé and my family for supporting my craziness.

DIRT NASTY, MOTOR BUILD, 2010 SEASON

It was right after last season ended that I started to think about building a motor just for sled pulling. I had hoped I would be able to get another year of pulling with my stock motor so that I would have time to put more money into an engine build. That wasn't the case; as winter got closer I started to notice a loss of power and some white smoke at start-up and idling.

Mark and I started discussing my options as far as the motor build would go. Mark suggested I should see if I could find any sponsors to help with the build. After sending out a sponsorship letter and video of my rookie year I started to hear back from a few companies. One was Carrillo, and they offered to help out on a set of rods. Carrillo also set me up with Guy Tripp from SoCal Diesel where I bought some other engine parts. Next I heard from Brad from FASS Fuel Systems and he set me up with a new FASS pump. We ended up going with a 260-gph lift pump.

After we started the tear down of the stock LLY motor we discovered that all 8 rods were bent, causing my loss of power. This was likely due to the dual fuelers and running it on the street dual fueled.

We installed the Carrillo rods and ended up using my stock pistons from my motor, as they were still in perfect shape. We sent the heads to Guy at SoCal Diesel to be upgraded to SoCal's Stage 1 heads. We also ordered a custom camshaft from Guy that is designed for sled pulling.

We replaced the stock intake runners and intake bridge with intake runners off of an LBZ motor, and we bought a custom LBZ intake bridge from Tony Burkhard of All Season Diesel Performance. The reason we went with the LBZ intake runners and intake bridge is because they're larger than the stock LLY runners and bridge. We also upgraded the 60-over injector nozzles to 150-over injector nozzles.

Next we turned our attention to the turbo. The Stage 2 VGT turbo performed great for the `09 season but we wanted something that would be more competitive, so Mark built a custom-made S400 that was specifically built for ITPA's 2.6 class turbo rule. It's actually a smaller version of the larger S400s that Mark builds for the 2.8 and up classes. It utilizes the same style of bushing that Mark has made that lets more air flow into the turbo by rounding off the square edges to eliminate air turbulence.

The next problem Mark wanted to address was the problem that the LB7 and LLY motors have with the fuel injection control module (FICM). The FICM is placed on the passenger side of the motor where it gets heat soaked, and it also uses fuel to cool the module. The fuel that it uses to cool the FICM is hot fuel that is being re-circulated. This can cause the FICM to overheat and not be able to keep up with the demand for fuel.

Rather than using fuel to cool the FICM, we are using ice water with a water cooler tank for a supercharger. So rather than using hot fuel, it's re-circulating ice water to cool the FICM. So far it's worked out great.

The stock intercooler was leaking when we checked it so we upgraded to a Banks Techni-Cooler intercooler. The Techni-Cooler moves 34 percent more volume of air flow over the stock intercooler.

We also had to add an SFI-approved transmission blanket from All Season Diesel Performance. The nice thing about this transmission blanket is that it's designed for an Allison transmission. It goes from the back of the engine block to the tail shaft of the transmission. Also due to safety rule changes in ITPA, I upgraded my factory flex plate to an SFI-approved billet flex plate from Suncoast Converters. For this season I replaced my BFG A/Ts with a set of 35x12.50R17 Super Swamper STS', and on certain tracks I plan on running dual tires in the rear (probably the 315 BFG A/Ts). This can be done using a wheel spacer and a set of dually wheels.

OFF AND RUNNING

The 2010 season has already started off on a good note. At the FASS Diesel Nationals on June 6 in Indianapolis, IN, I placed third in the 2.6 class with no run time, no dyno passes and no seat time on the built motor. The Thursday after that pull, we put the truck on the dyno where it hit 785 rear-wheel horsepower and 1,489 lb-ft of torque.

At this point I've got a lot of time and money invested in my truck. I've turned it into strictly a sled puller. I owe a big thanks to Mark Broviak and Danville Performance for everything they've done to get my truck to where it is today. I also owe a big thanks to FASS Fuel Systems for having enough faith in me to sponsor my truck. I've still got a list about a mile long of modifications that I would like to do in the future. I am even toying around with the idea of bumping up to the 2.8 diesel truck class in a couple of years. Only time will tell where my truck ends up, but my diesel addiction continues to grow as my mod list grows.

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