Safe rac­ing

Diesel Power - - Contents - By John Le­hen­bauer

OUT­LAW DIESEL Su­per Se­ries com­peti­tors take diesel drag rac­ing se­ri­ously. They con­tinue to push the sport for­ward with tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tions that yield them higher top speeds and faster elapsed times in the eighth-mile. As the trucks (and cars) get faster, they have to be up to par with the re­quired safety equip­ment.

No mat­ter a com­peti­tor’s skill level be­hind the wheel, even the best must have the proper safety gear. Be­cause there are so many vari­ables that can af­fect a ve­hi­cle trav­el­ing at high speed, it is im­pos­si­ble for any­one to know if or when some­thing might hap­pen on the track. So hav­ing as much good safety equip­ment as pos­si­ble is im­per­a­tive. From the most mi­nor in­ci­dents to the harsh­est crashes, ev­ery­one wants to walk away un­scathed.

The amount and type of safety equip­ment re­quired for the var­i­ous ODSS classes varies. Much of that de­pends on how quickly the eighth-mile (or quar­ter­mile) will be eclipsed. In classes that break the 7-sec­ond eighth-mile mark, a key safety com­po­nent that must be in­stalled is a roll­bar or rollcage. The over­all amount of cage work nec­es­sary de­pends on e.t.

The bare min­i­mum for a truck com­pet­ing in the Flo-Pro Per­for­mance Ex­haust 6.70 In­dex Class is a roll­bar (spec­i­fied by NHRA guide­lines). But trucks that run in Fire­punk Diesel Out­law 5.90 or quicker classes must have a spec­i­fied full rollcage, and, in some in­stances, a com­plete chas­sis.

When build­ing a cage, use the cor­rect ma­te­rial, sup­ports, and gus­sets that meet or ex­ceed reg­u­la­tions. Tech in­spec­tion will be a breeze if it’s done right. I have heard sto­ries about peo­ple who de­cided to try to cheat the sys­tem by us­ing thin­ner-walled tub­ing and in­fe­rior ma­te­ri­als or tried to cut cor­ners to some­how save a few pounds. I ask you: Is a per­son’s well­be­ing worth a cou­ple of pounds? Big sanc­tions like the NHRA de­vel­oped spe­cific rules for a rea­son: to give peo­ple the best chance of walk­ing away if some­thing dras­tic does hap­pen.

Even in the ODSS’s slower classes, where there are fewer reg­u­la­tions (Jamo Per­for­mance Ex­haust E.T. Bracket and

ATS Diesel Per­for­mance/Diesel Power Mag­a­zine 7.70 In­dex), it never hurts to be con­scious of what could hap­pen on the track and take steps to be pre­pared. Hav­ing a roll­bar or cage in­stalled is never a bad thing, es­pe­cially if the truck may even­tu­ally be mod­i­fied to run in a quicker class. I un­der­stand these cat­e­gories typ­i­cally con­sist of a large num­ber of (if not all) daily driv­ers, which may make hav­ing pro­tec­tive tub­ing run­ning about the cab a bit awk­ward. The sig­nif­i­cant other might not like climb­ing over a door bar to get in and out of the truck.

An­other safety item that’s good to have in any class is a fire ex­tin­guisher or sup­pres­sion sys­tem, even if it is not re­quired. Fire can be dev­as­tat­ing to a ve­hi­cle or driver if it’s not prop­erly dealt with.

At the Hard­way Sun­shine Show­down in Septem­ber 2018, a 7.70 truck caught fire at the start­ing line. The driver took the green light and started down the track but pulled over as soon as he re­al­ized the prob­lem. After quickly jump­ing out and see­ing the flames, he be­gan hol­ler­ing for peo­ple to help be­cause he didn’t have a way to put the fire out. Luck­ily, the flames didn’t re­ally flare up and there was an ex­tin­guisher nearby that some­one grabbed and used to quickly put the fire out.

But let’s say (worst-case sce­nario) he had gone fur­ther down the track and there wasn’t any type of fire-sup­pres­sion de­vice handy at the point where he stopped on the track. The dis­tance would have pre­vented the fire crew from get­ting there be­fore the flames re­ally erupted, en­gulf­ing the truck. If the rig had an ex­tin­guisher or other type of sup­pres­sion sys­tem on­board, the driver could have pos­si­bly dealt with the flames be­fore things es­ca­lated or at least kept them un­der con­trol un­til re­in­force­ments ar­rived. It doesn’t take long for a flare-up on a ve­hi­cle to go from a sin­gle small flame to a roar­ing car­be­cue, es­pe­cially on race ve­hi­cles where com­po­nents and fluid tem­per­a­tures can be highly el­e­vated.

It doesn’t sound like much, but a sim­ple squeeze-han­dle-type fire ex­tin­guisher in a con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion (they don’t do any good if you can’t get to them) can make a huge dif­fer­ence when try­ing to sub­due a small fire. Us­ing dirty rags and T-shirts to snuff a flame isn’t quite as ef­fec­tive.

Keep rac­ing, be safe, and re­mem­ber: It never hurts to be pre­pared.

A roll­bar with down bars through the back win­dow meets re­quire­ments for the Out­law Diesel Su­per Se­ries Pro-Flo Per­for­mance Ex­haust 6.70 In­dex Class, but it is a long way from what it takes to com­pete in SunCoast Diesel Trans­mis­sions Pro Mod, like the RLC Mo­tor­sports Ram. Be­cause of the high speeds and things that can hap­pen to a ve­hi­cle when trav­el­ing that fast, a Pro Mod rollcage is an elab­o­rate co­coon of tub­ing meant to pro­tect the racer.

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