Paul Schrader may not be exactly what most people think when they hear about sled pulling. As a banker in Whittier, Iowa, you'll find Schrader in corporate settings more often than not Monday through Friday. But when the sled pulls get going, you'll find him right out in the thick of things, revving the engine of his 2007 LBZ Duramax and raring to go.
The 2007 Duramax itself is a story of not judging a book by its cover; it looks completely stock, yet has been hooked to the sled about 30 times a year since it was brand new. The Duramax was built specifically to pull, and has been competitive and finished in the top three in the Fantasy and ECI 3.0 turbo classes each year, and won the inaugural Fantasy 2.6 Turbo Class in 2010 and 2011.
"It was great when the Fantasy Truck pullers and ECI set official classes for the diesel pickups," Schrader said. "It put trucks on an even playing field and put together a pretty good bunch of people to pull with all summer."
While Schrader's present may be steeped in financial documents and ties, his past is very ingrained in farming and tractor pulling at local county fairs. His first pulling win was in his grandfather's 1370 Case tractor back in the early 90's.
"The pulls were always at night and everyone was having a good time," Schrader said. "The night of that win, the spring on the clutch pedal broke as I was pulling over the scale so I had to run the clutch with my hand. Made for an interesting pass."
His first truck pull win was in the summer of 2003 in Tripoli, Iowa, and it was a major brush pull. He had the advantage that no one there had ever seen the truck before, because it was its first real pass.
"I ended up putting 10-15 feet on the second place truck," Schrader said. "This was back when people were just running stacked chips and such and we didn't know a thing about cylinder pressures. It was kind of scary when you think about it."
That said, his all-time favorite truck is the 1972 GMC his dad owned while Schrader was a teenager, and in fact, he now owns it and has it in a shed at his house.
"Perhaps someday it will join the Duramax family," he said.
But the first truck Schrader could call his own was a 1994 Chevrolet with a 6.5 turbodiesel, and what he considers to be the first "real" truck he ever owned was a 2002 Chevrolet extended cab Duramax he bought in 2003.
"That truck made a lot of passes, around 80, down the pulling tracks in Iowa," Schrader said.
After three years, Schrader then traded the 2002 Chevrolet for a 2005 crew cab Duramax. The 2005 model was often seen on the track, but it never reached the heights `02 was at.
"I think there was an issue with the CP3 or the engine," Schrader said.
The final step of this journey occurred when Schrader traded in the underperforming `05 Duramax for the 2007 LBZ that he currently owns.
"Perhaps someday this one will end up in my son's shed," Schrader said.
When it comes to pulling, Schrader feels that seeing all your hard work pay off is a major plus.
"Making a good pass and seeing the preparation and setup paying off is the best part," he said. "If you lay down a great pass, that is all you can do."
He acknowledges that while sometimes someone makes a better run or finds a better line, all you can do is your best, and you should take satisfaction in that.
Schrader believes the second great part is the group of people you meet pulling.
"Even your toughest competitor will lend a helping hand if something goes wrong or if you pull in late for a pull," he said. "It is almost as if everyone wants to see the best passes possible made."
Schrader has been married for 14 years, and he and his wife Amy, have two children: a three-year-old son and two-year-old daughter.
While Amy may not be a huge fan of pulling, no one can get into the sport as much as Schrader has without an understanding wife.
"She has put up with a lot of late nights," Schrader said. "I could not have done what I have without her support."
His three-year-old, Wyatt, is another story, however. He loves the truck and tractor pulling and would love to be at every pull his dad competes in.
"He would spend the whole summer going to pulls if we would let him," Schrader said.
For those who think being a banker and a truck puller is a weird combination, take a closer look at Schrader's professional life. He spends most of his time working with the agricultural sector, and his hobby gives him a great topic of conversation with customers who either pull themselves or enjoy attending pulls.
"It is a great opportunity to keep in touch with what is really going on out in the country," Schrader said. "I get to talk to people outside of the banker/customer environment."
Schrader has had a lot of work done through Empire Diesel Performance out of Dubuque, Iowa. Some of the more important work, according to Schrader, has been a strong Goerend transmission, a Precision custom charger and strong CP3 from Wicked Diesel.
"The remote charger mount by Empire Diesel makes changes and repairs a dream compared to the stock charger location," Schrader said.
While the hardware itself makes a big difference, there is still a lot to be gained through truck setup and driving skill, according to Schrader.
"I have seen a lot of pulls where the highest horsepower did not win," he said. "After all, we are pulling on dirt and it is not a dyno competition. Horsepower is not everything, but it doesn't hurt."
Chad Remakel with Empire Diesel gave his thoughts on Schrader's truck, providing valuable insight for others looking to attain the same level of success Schrader has.
"The biggest improvement was the upgraded turbo from Precision Turbo and Engine," Remakel said.
Other areas of work include a Speerco intercooler and EFI Live tuning from Duramaxtuner, in addition to the Goerand transmission and others already mentioned.
Remakel suggests anyone looking to follow in Schrader's footsteps develop patience.
"Take the time and put in the leg work to research the products or performance upgrades you intend on doing," Remakel said.
He further explained that while there are many hyped-up products on the market today, many of these struggle to produce real-world results, resulting in frustration.
"Dyno tuning in your truck and motor saves a lot of guessing, and gets you out on the track winning more quickly," Remakel said.
Schrader's future plans include a new engine build with twin CPS and hood stack, with the goal of making the Duramax a full-time puller. We at DT will be watching his career with great interest, as the undercover Sleeper makes its rounds to truck pulls across the Midwest.