Diesel smoke was as common...
Diesel smoke was as common as blue sky in Utah.
Dense black smoke billowed in the air, mixed with the smell of burning rubber. The roar of two turbodiesels, pumped to their limits, sent shock waves across the shimmering asphalt as their tires spun and caught, and they streaked past the Christmas Tree. We were at the Rocky Mountain Raceway outside of Salt Lake City, and this was the annual Weekend On the Edge, sponsored by Edge Products in Ogden, Utah.
Once a year, Edge Products, a designer and manufacturer of quality diesel and gas fuel-management computer upgrades, invites owners of diesel trucks to test their power and driving skills on the track. Fords, Chevys, GMCs, and Dodge Rams were competing head-to-head.
Big pipes were everywhere...
Big pipes were everywhere.
To make the competition fair to those who didn't take a second loan on their home to build a full-on race truck, there were three classes in this year's event. The first was called the E.T. Bracket Class. During initial warm-up and qualifying runs, drivers decide the fastest elapsed time they think they can duplicate. For example, if you know you can turn a 10.83, but given the conditions of the track and the day, your best time was 11.42, you would be smart to enter a dial-in time of 11.00 seconds. That time is written on your windshield. During competition, you must try to duplicate that time, but not go any faster. The closer you come to that 11-second time without going under it (faster), the better your chances are to win. If you go faster than 11.00, like maybe a 10.9, that would be "breaking out," which results in an automatic loss.
As always, hats, shirts and...
As always, hats, shirts and other souvenirs were popular items for sale.
So in bracket racing, it's not just money, power, and speed, but driver skill. To further complicate things, the timing lights are programmed to give each entry a handicap, based on their chosen dial-in time. This means that a really fast truck might have a green light on the Christmas Tree of a second or two later than the guy next to him at the line. As drivers speed down the track, spectators sometimes see brake lights come on before the end of the quarter-mile when drivers try not to break out. Your reaction time-the lapse in hundreds of a second between the instant the Christmas Tree light turns green and the moment you trip the timing light-can be critical, and you still need to cross the finish line first.
Chris Weiss of Ogden took first in the E.T. Bracket Class, driving an '01 Dodge to reach 97.13 mph. His reaction time was a respectable 0.193 second. He had an initial dial-in time of 13.64 seconds, and a winning time of 13.78. That's just 0.14 seconds from breaking out.
The second category was the Quick Diesel Class. This is open to all competitors who can do at least a 12-second quarter-mile. The catch is, they can't go any faster. The competition starts head-to-head, with no handicap on the lights. The first truck to cross the finish line without going faster than 12 seconds, wins. Jason Hurt took his very hot red Chevy to 85.92 mph before hitting the brakes to cross the timing lights in 13.31 seconds.
The third class this year was the Pro Street Diesel Class. This is all-out drag racing and anything goes: head-to-head-the fastest truck wins. Kyle Moore from St. George, Utah, finished the quarter-mile in 13.278 seconds in an '05 Ram at 105.09 mph. Trent Nell, who had a top qualifying speed of 143.22 mph, blew his engine in the semifinals (a huge fireball blew everywhere), got the win, and coasted to a 10.16 at 116 mph but could not race the final round.
An enthusiastic crowd filled...
An enthusiastic crowd filled the Rocky Mountain Raceway stands as diesel trucks battled down the quarter-mile.
There were some nice incentives in all this fun. Organizers paid out $4,000 to the winners and finishers of the three classes. As an enthusiastic crowd filled the stands, we couldn't help but notice that this was much more than a "guy thing." Families with excited kids munched on hot dogs, burgers, fries, and nachos. Fathers brought their sons. Teens brought their dates. A quick look at T-shirts spoke of the enthusiasm fans had for diesel trucks.