By Bruce C. Mallinson
Land Line contributor
Let's face it. New York and New Jersey do not get much credit for being known as areas that have beautiful trucks. We know that Maryland, Pennsylvania and the Washington, DC, areas are the kings of horsepower and chrome.
But New York and New Jersey - who would have thought that owner-operator trucks and specialty trucks such as garbage haulers, tow trucks and roll-offs from the Big Apple and surrounding areas would have stunning paint jobs, plenty of chrome and horsepower?
Just take one trip to the Jersey Englishtown Diesel Drags, though, and that's what you'll see.
From the time you arrive at the huge paved parking lot, you have a feeling of power encompass your body. Just the sight of 660 racing diesel trucks, beautiful show trucks, motorcycles, monster trucks, jet-powered vehicles, and vendors selling chrome and other truck stuff is awe-inspiring.
Add to the fun, trucking companies such as A. Duie Pyle barbecuing ribs and chicken, a trackside "geer garden," Jones Performance showing their custom hoods, fire shows from the stacks of Kenworths and Freightliners and burnouts with an 800 horsepower 60 Series Detroit and it's heaven for the motorhead.
Then, of course, there's the truck drag racing - serious racing of semi trucks built just for the drag strip.
OOIDA Life Member Sonny Trapp of Linthicum, MD, runs a 1986 cabover Freightliner with a mechanical Cummins that is capable of turning a 14.82 in the quarter mile.
Stan Myers of Severn, MD, runs a 1990 Peterbilt, mechanical Cummins, running a highly modified Allison Transmission that turns 15.41. And, Steve Dunkle of Fredericksburg, VA, has a 359 Peterbilt powered by a V-12 Detroit that will run a 15.01 at 94 mph.
Now keep in mind that these trucks still have their fifth wheels and can still pull loaded trailers. The engines in each of these trucks are more than 1,000 horsepower and the three owners are all friends - as well as competitors.
Stan is the newest kid on the block to build a racing truck and Sonny, the veteran racer, is always willing to give technical information to Stan.
At Englishtown, the purse for the first place truck is $5,000. This is elapsed time bracket racing, so you must run close to your dial-in time to win.
It was adios
Well, Sonny was having traction problems, and Steve's V-12 was having timing issues. Stan's Pete was strong, smoking the tires through first gear. When the Allison transmission shifted into second gear, it was adios - "Stan the Man" was in command and turned in the fastest time of the day.
I'll bet the technical information from Sonny to Stan is coming to a screeching halt about now. Sonny, being the brutal competitor that he is, will have some new tricks up his sleeve at the next race.
It's bracket racing. First place doesn't always go to the fastest truck. In the morning, you make several time trial runs with your truck and then you pick the time that you think you will be the most consistent with and that is your time.
If, during eliminations, you go faster than the time you chose, you will be eliminated. So, during eliminations the truck that runs the closest to their time wins and the other truck goes home. This continues all afternoon until there are only two trucks left and they race each other.
Well, Stan had a great day. His Peterbilt was very consistent all day. He eliminated everyone he ran against, and he had to give them the spot.
Now what is the spot? If your time is 15.5 seconds and the other truck is 20.5 seconds, you will sit at the light for five seconds while the slower truck is going down the track.
Those five seconds seem like eternity, your right foot on the throttle trying to hold the rpm at 2,200 starts to quiver, your left leg holding the clutch is jumping, and you're trying to focus on that last yellow.
But you can still see your competitor running off in the distance. You try to ignore him. You know it's your race - your truck is faster. However, he is half way down the track now.
All of a sudden, your lights start to come down. You know you can let out the clutch on the last yellow light without red lighting. You're anxious, your adrenalin is flowing. There it is, the last yellow light and you're off.
All eight drive tires are spinning, the tachometer is bouncing between 3,200 and 3,500 rpm. You grab the next gear and your competitor now is way down the track. Your truck starts to get traction, 3,500 rpm again - things are moving fast. Your mind is like a computer. You're gaining speed, that 1,000 horsepower is accelerating the 17,000-pound truck like it's a Mustang - 3,500 rpm again, shift again. Don't miss a gear.
You're gaining on the slower truck at an alarming rate. However, the 1,320 feet of track is coming to the finish line. Your foot is pushing the throttle through the floor. You grab another gear. You're just about at his drive tires, you feel victory. The goose bumps on your arms are huge and the hair is standing tall. You're both at the finish line at a the same time, but you just beat him out. You won that round.
Now you have a quarter mile to slow the truck down and turn onto the return road. But your adrenalin is flowing so fast you just want to keep going. The first turn off road goes by and you realize you must get on the binders to slow this beast down.
Then it's back to pit row to get ready for the next run.
Bracket racing is easier if both vehicles leave the starting line at the same time, the pressure is much less when your competitor is beside you as opposed to way out in front of you.
As the day goes on, two trucks appear to be winning all of the elimination runs, Mark Boese of Marlboro, NJ, in a 1974 cabover Ford WT9000 powered by a stock NTC Cummins engine and Stan Myers in his 1990 Pete.
This is where it gets tough, Mark's truck turns a 22.90 and Stan Myers' truck turns a 15.41 in the quarter mile. So when it comes down to the final elimination for the $5,000 first place money, it's Mark and Stan at the starting line and Mark will get to leave 7.49 seconds before Stan.
Harvey Reynor, a long-time drag racer and owner-operator, is coaching. "Watch the tree, do not worry about the man you're running, just watch the lights," Harvey cautions.
Mark leaves the starting gate - perfect hole shot, perfect shifts, very consistent. Stan is sitting at the starting line for the 7.49 seconds.
From the stands it appears that Mark has the race won, he is about a third the way down the track before Stan gets his green light.
It's 10 p.m., and the air has cooled down, in fact it's almost cold outside, and here comes Stan. Perfect hole shot - the Allison automatic is shifting perfectly, and the screamin' 1,000-plus horsepower Cummins-powered Pete and is rocking and rolling, and the pipes are roaring as he quickly closes the gap between his truck and Mark's Ford.
Stan knows that the cool air has made a difference and he knows he needs to get on the brakes before he gets to the finish line so he does not go faster than 15.41. However, he hasn't caught up to Mark in time to lift off the throttle and here comes the finish line and both trucks go through at the same time.
Stan is just out in front, he made up for the 7.49 second delay start, but he turned a 15.40 time and lost the race by going too fast - 1/100 of a second too fast just cost Stan the $5,000 first-place finish, and the money goes to Mark and his 1974 COE Ford.
Bruce Mallinson is the CEO of Diesel Injection of Pittsburgh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.