Diesel Days of Summer

Published in the May 2011 Issue May 2011

It's been a long winter. Being in the Pacific Northwest, winter puts a major damper on the diesel game. The roads are cold and icy, covered in a four-month cycle of water in some form or another. Top that with either road salt or gravel and you have a truck so filthy and murky that you wouldn't even want to crawl under it to change a filter. I wash my truck weekly during the summer. Between November and April, it gets washed once if I'm lucky.

But all that is nearly over. The pile of parts in the corner by the loading door will finally get installed and tested. We can start wearing t-shirts and shorts again, and ruining t-shirts on a weekly basis from rubbing up against something covered in black soot.

But summer marks the launch of a slew of diesel events that are fun to attend whether you're a diesel performance nutjob or not. It doesn't matter what hour of the day (or night)-there is a sled pull happening somewhere in Indiana. Well, maybe not every night, but when they hold a pull, they hold a party. We're talking pulling into the early morning hours literally every weekend of the summer.

And every weekend of the summer has a dyno event in some small town (and some local business owner in one of those towns will be on the phone with the fire department reporting a column of black smoke coming out of the roof at an industrial strip mall). But dyno events are just a fun place to hang out, grab a burger, smell a little diesel exhaust in the air and hear a tweaked and tuned diesel motor light the turbo and come to life right there in a shop bay or parking lot. The numbers coming out of some events are bordering on ridiculous. Three years ago, 1,000 horsepower was a near impossible target and it took a lot of nitrous just to get close. Now, there are trucks topping 1,000 horsepower on a regular basis-on fuel only. A thousand-horse truck has become like the backflip at X Games-it's so common, you barely get noticed unless you do it.

You can catch a diesel drag race this summer, and most likely you won't have to travel more than 300 miles to get to one. Drag racing has its own crowd. There's something about a diesel pickup going from a standing start to a quarter-mile down the track in 10 seconds that makes the adrenaline flow. It's a great spectator sport for the family if you don't want to enter a race with your own truck.

I've taken my son to a few dyno day events, some sled pulls and a couple drag races. He'd probably pick the sled pulls as his favorite, but it's just fun to see him watch each event more intently than the last one. It's led to some good conversations about turbos and fueling. Of course, now every time I tell him I'm working on the truck, he asks if I'm putting on a bigger turbo, but at least he has his priorities in order.

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