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Challenges Create Opportunities

With the ever-increasing power found on diesel drag race vehicles, safety concerns remain top of mind, and response is critical to keep competitors as well as fans safe.

By Todd Ryden

As the speeds and power numbers continue to rise in diesel drag racing, so too do challenges for aftermarket manufacturers, car and engine builders, and race sanctioning bodies. Developing and deploying components to withstand the abuse of diesel racing is a constant, and right alongside that is a dedication to vehicle safety.

“My number one priority for diesel drag racing is suspension and safety,” said Mike Dalton of RLC Motorsports in Cookeville, Tennessee. “With the ETs and speed we’re running compared to a few years ago, we really need to make sure our race trucks and cars are built to handle the power.”

“The torque of a diesel engine can reach over 3000 ft.-lbs., so imagine what the clutch, transmission and other driveline components are up against,” explained Ron Knoch of Diesel Motorsports, Kansas City, Missouri, which has worked closely with The SFI Foundation, Inc. (SFI) to create diesel spec’d components such as the bellhousing, fuel cells and even the placement of turbochargers.

“We do not accept a turbocharger mounted above the hood simply due to it being mounted in direct view of the driver, not to mention the safety of the spectators and track workers if there were to be a failure,” Knoch added.

Randy Cole of the National Hot Rod Diesel Association (NHRDA) in Marysville, Washington, while praising his racers as “[some] of the most innovative groups in motorsports today,” noted that widespread use of twin and compound turbos, nitrous, blowers and more, “is leading to certification questions.”

He went on to explain that the NHRDA is recognized as an Alternative Sanction Organization (ASO), which means they work with the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) to identify and address safety concerns and limitations on ETs. For example, until relatively recently there was no SFI spec for a pro street diesel truck weighing 4500 pounds while running 8.50-second passes; and now, many trucks are capable of breaking into the 7-second range.

“We moved our Pro Street class to an 1/8-mile competition with a limit set at 5.0 seconds to keep things safe until more research can be done on chassis certification,” Cole said. “But looking at what teams have done in the offseason and what they’ve accomplished, they’ll be there soon, too.”

Challenges Create Opportunities

With increasing speed and horsepower found on diesel drag racing vehicles, manufacturers must continue to improve their products to meet these demands as well as address safety concerns. As an example, these bellhousings from Custom Floaters are available in either SFI ratings of 6.1 or 6.3