The first annual Diesel Thunder spring break
Spring Break and Florida have been synonymous for decades, but Michael Cassady has thrown some black smoke and high speeds into the mix by bringing his Diesel Thunder event to the Sunshine State from Mississippi. When longtime Mississippi Diesel Thunder sponsors Hardway Performance and Suncoast Performance told Cassady about a newly re-opening dragway in the Florida panhandle, the diesel fanatic knew he’d have a hit on his hands. Around 2,000 people packed in and around the Emerald Coast Dragway in Holt, Florida, on March 10, 2017, for open test and tune, and Saturday, March 11, for race day of the first annual event. With a dyno and six classes of drag racing action planned, the crowd was set to redefine the meaning of Spring Break.
The Diesel Doctor’s portable dyno started things off with towers of smoke and the roar of engines. The more than 50 entrants were divided into Cummins, Duramax and Power Stroke classes, but each truck had a shot at the top Dyno King prize for highest combined horsepower and torque numbers. Michael Yahaas took the most powerful Cummins win with 978 horsepower and 1,612 lb-ft of torque. The top Duramax across the rollers was Matthew Jackson’s at 824 hp and 1,454 lb-ft. And Tony Lee topped out the Power Stroke category with 954 hp and 1,541 lb-ft in his Ford. But Jacob Briggs stepped high above the competition to claim the coveted Dyno King title when he put down 1,327 hp and 2,265 lb-ft of torque.
After touring the booths of the many vendors, the crowd began to gather at the drag strip as the 68 competitors in six different classes started to line up for their chance to hit the strip. The staple of the Sportsman ET bracket class gives many diesel enthusiasts a chance to feel the thrill of drag racing without having a purpose-built vehicle, and the
Diesel Thunder race was no exception. Vehicles of all shapes and sizes poured in for the ET class, but the field was eventually pared down to Joseph Dunningham and Larry Brown. Larry Brown and his flatbed daily driver all the way from Texas ran a 7.34 on a 7.33 dial-in against Joseph Dunningham’s 9.12 on an 8.90 dial-in to take home the Sportsman ET class win.
Moving on to the index classes, the 7.70 group was full of entrants all ready to prove their mettle. The finalists pushed hard for the win in the last round, neck and neck to the end. Austin Wilson gave up the win with a breakout and Danny Elmore’s Power Stroke, dubbed Zombie Killer, took the victory. In the 6.70 class, the machines battled their way down to the final two of Susan Stump and Jimmy Spinelli. Stump lost when she slept at the light while Spinelli made a 6.83 pass down the eighth mile for the class victory. But Stump’s ’34 Chevy with a Cummins heart wasn’t done for the day.
The Pro-modified class came down to very different generations of classic Chevrolets, both of which are powered by Cummins diesels. Susan Stump and her matte black and bright purple 1934 Chevy rat rod made it into another class final when she was the only driver to step up as a challenger for the lone Pro-mod. Since the ’34 met the qualifications for the class, she was matched up against Ryan Milliken’s bright green and black 1966 Chevy Nova. Sadly, the classic showdown ended with Milliken’s Nova tripping the red-light before the race began, and Stump was able to take home a win after proving her chops as the only competitor to make it into two class finals. And of course the crowd lit up as Jared Jones took the Scheid Diesel dragster, the only rail entered, down the
track at 157 mph in a 4.46 second pass.
The Pro-street/super-street class was a unique hybrid of two classes that would rarely if ever race each other, but the Super-street class really stepped up to the plate. A 0.3-second handicap was going to be used for the Super-street trucks to balance the scales against the usually faster Pro-street class, but the Super-street trucks didn’t have to use it even once. Jimmy Spinelli made it into another semi-final but ended up losing to Dustin Jackson by a mere 0.93 seconds. Michael Dalton, with his new Pro-street truck, and Jared Ring, a Super-street, lined up for their semi-final round, and Ring punched the throttle hard to jump ahead of the bright orange Ram, even after Dalton red-lit from the start. But in pushing hard for the win, Ring put on a light show of sparks and debris when his primary turbo shattered to pieces around the 60-foot mark. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, Ring was unable to piece his machine back together for the Pro-street finale against Dustin Jackson, so without the semi-final default winner after Dalton’s red-light, the final race would end up as a bye-run. Despite it being a bye-run, though, Jackson and his triple-turbo Cummins-powered Ford Lightning still put on quite a show for the crowd with a 5.40 second eighth mile drag at 124 mph.
Attracting race entries ranging from a little diesel Chevy Cruze sedan all the way up to a dedicated rail-frame diesel-powered dragster, Michael Cassady and his crew put on quite the show for the fans. As of this year, Spring Breakers have a new destination in Florida with the Diesel Thunder race at the Emerald Coast Dragway roaring to life. Even considering there was a very limited amount of time for preparing the event, the first annual Florida edition of Diesel Thunder went off without a hitch. With the prospect of Cassady and company hosting an even bigger event next year, we think we know where your next spring vacation should be. UDBG
Susan Stump got her Cumminspowered ’34 Chevy rat rod down to the finals in two classes and took home the win in the Pro-mod division as well as runner-up in the 6.70 Index class.
Head-to-head battles between powerful diesel trucks kept fans on their feet throughout the day. This lean and mean Cummins was spooled and poised to take on the track. It took three turbos and Cummins power to get there, but Dustin Jackson took his...