The National Hot Rod Diesel Association came back to Speedworld Raceway Park in Wittmann, Arizona, for fun under the sun for the 5th Annual Desert Diesel Nationals (presented by Strictly Diesel). Diesel drags are growing fast in popularity. Where else can you tow your race car to the track, unhook it, and enter both vehicles to race? The amount of spectators present was impressive.

Even though the diesel engine has been around for many years, racing diesel-powered vehicles has been more popular mainly in Europe. We remember back when we were going to automotive school and the students in the diesel program helped the staff build a funny car with an Allison engine as the powerplant. The diesel engine has evolved from a workhorse to competing against its counterpart: the gas engine. The diesel was never designed to go fast. The change in the design of the turbocharger has helped increase the airflow to the pistons, building the necessary horsepower to make a 7-second pass in the quarter-mile.

Thick, black smoke filled the area above the starting line as each vehicle made a pass down the track, blocking the sun only temporarily before the slight breeze took it away. The race was not only for pickup trucks and tractors; there were a few diesel-powered VW cars competing with the bigger vehicles.

A pair of jet dragsters came out for round three of the show. They warmed up the engines with a fiery display followed by a smoke column four stories high. A funny car came out for an exhibition, bellowing exhaust smoke from both sides as it made its trip down the quarter-mile. There was an exhibition of speed when the alcohol-powered Fueled Alters made their passes on the track.

Competition was open to everything from Sportsman to Pro Stock Classes. During some of the elimination, it was common to see a big rig racing a pickup truck—especially when P. Hernandez and his team from Tijuana, Mexico, raced their 11-second ’56 Kenworth tractor.

As part of NHRDA’s program, a $1000 prize was given to the best burnout contestant. The Bad Habbit Peterbilt made it look easy turning the tractor’s four rear tires and blowing the air horn. It must have been the air horn that gave it the edge, as the other contestant’s vehicle did not have one.

To find out more about the National Hot Rod Diesel Association and its events, go to: www.nhrda.com.