Diesel Fireworks: The 3 And 4-Second Oil-burners You’ve Got To See To Believe
It was a record-setting year for diesels blazing the eighth-mile—in more ways than one. Not only was a new high mark set for the quickest overall diesel in the land, but more than one compression-ignition hot-rod dipped into the 3-second zone. And that’s not all. A handful of full-size (and four-wheel drive) trucks earned 4-second timeslips, a new big-tire apex was established in the diesel Pro Mod category and several drivers raised the ceiling for their respective engine brand (Cummins, Duramax and Power Stroke). Below, we’re highlighting the vehicles that effectively rewrote the record book for diesels in 2023.
Mattie Graves - Duramax Dragster
One driver that has tremendously helped reinvigorate the Outlaw Diesel Super Series’ Pro Dragster class is Mattie Graves. After running a 3.96-second eighth-mile in late 2022 (which earned her the fastest driver in diesel for a period), she kicked off the 2023 ODSS season by resetting the class record at 4.04 at 189 mph. Beyond the confines of ODSS, Mattie has driven the twin-turbo’d, Duramax-powered Hollyrock Customs rail to a blazing 3.94 at 190 mph. She also brought race-in, race-out consistency to the table, which culminated in her winning the ODSS Pro Dragster points chase in 2023.
Michael Cordova - Cummins Dragster
For more than a decade, Michael Cordova had been working toward a goal of one day driving the fastest diesel in existence. On September 30th it became reality. Following a 3.95-second pass that, while fast, was anything but smooth, his Cummins-powered dragster went A to B in an unprecedented 3.87 seconds. The new eighth-mile E.T. record forces every vehicle in the Pro Dragster category to do more than simply break into the 3’s, but live there. Unbelievably, the rail’s front-end was all but totaled just weeks before it made the record-setting, 3.87-second pass. Michael credits HammerTech Racecars for getting the car back out on the track.
Jared Jones - Cummins Dragster
With so many head-turning passes put up by Mattie Graves and Michael Cordova, the story behind Jared Jones, driver of the Scheid Diesel rail, almost went untold for 2023. Although Jared didn’t put up a 3-second pass in the diesel-only, ODSS racing series, he did run a 3.99-second eighth-mile in route to a record-setting quarter-mile blast at an NHRA event—a jaw-dropping 6.00 at more than 240 mph. Within the ranks of ODSS, Jared and team Scheid mustered a best elapsed time of 4.01 this year, as well as a class-topping 196 mph.
Justin Zeigler - Cummins 2006 Dodge Ram 2500
In addition to setting a record in 2023, Justin Zeigler defied the odds in one of diesel drag racing’s fastest categories. From wire-to-wire, he swept the Pro Street field, never losing a single race all season. At the final event of the year, Justin and his ’06 Ram showed up to party once more. This time, Justin decided to run the tune-up he’d been saving—the one that had a 4.7xx written all over it. The result was a 4.74-second eighth-mile at 159 mph, which reset the class records for both elapsed time and trap speed. What’s more is that he was nursing what appeared to be a hurt engine on that pass. Cummins is king in diesel motorsports for a reason.
Johnny Gilbert – Cummins 1963 Corvette
It was no surprise when veteran Johnny Gilbert left his mark on the ODSS Pro Mod category this year. A former Pro Street champion and record holder, it was only a matter of time before his split window ‘vette, first unveiled in 2021, became the car in the class to beat. Right out of the gate, Johnny and the Stainless Diesel team set a new ODSS record of 4.14 at 177 mph at the Rudy’s season opener in Rockingham. Later in the year the car would go 4.08 and 4.09 in testing, rocket to a 185-mph trap speed and also collect a 1.01-second 60-foot. Officially, Johnny’s Cummins-powered Corvette is currently the quickest and fastest big-tire diesel Pro Mod on the planet.
Derek Rose – Cummins 2006 Dodge Ram 2500
The title of world’s fastest 4x4 diesel was in the possession of Derek Rose before 2023, but this year he moved the record even deeper into the 4’s. A pair of 4.41-second eighth-mile passes this fall say he’s on a different level than anyone else—but also that roughly 3,000 hp is being applied to the track in order to get his 3,950-pound Dodge up to 173 mph in just 660 feet. While the truck’s heft all but forces Derek into the Pro Mod category, he found himself dabbling in the Pro Truck N/T category at No Mercy 14. No matter where it’s competing, Derek’s Ram will likely hold the crown of the fastest 4x4 diesel for a while.
Nathannial DeLong – Power Stroke 2008 Super Duty
It was a big year for camp Ford. A plethora of records were set for the brand, including the 7.3L, 6.0L and 6.4L Power Stroke engines specifically. At the top of the heap is Nathannial DeLong, driver of the Rudy’s Performance Parts Super Duty—a nitrous-huffing, 3,900-pound 6.4L-powered Super Duty that competes in the ODSS Pro Mod class. At the home opener in 2023, Nathannial drove the truck to a 4.62-second pass at 164 mph, making it the quickest 4x4 Power Stroke through the eighth-mile, as well as the fastest eighth-mile Power Stroke according to trap speed.
Dan Zelten – Duramax 2007 GMC Sierra 2500
Dan Zelten and his ’07 GMC squeaked past Tyler Burkhard for the title of quickest 4x4 Duramax this season thanks to a wild, 4.95-second blast at 149 mph back in July. Perhaps the most impressive part of Dan’s feat is that his GMC spends most of its time in the ODSS 5.90 Index category. Shaving almost a whole second off of his eighth-mile elapsed time called for some serious horsepower—and thankfully his SoCal Diesel-built, 7.1L stroker of a Duramax was up to the task. Big compounds from Midwest Turbo/C.R.T., S&S fuel, a MoTeC ECM, a BTS 4R100 transmission and steadfast support from Truck Source Diesel have all helped make Dan’s drag racing program the success that it is.
New Personal Bests Were Rampant
Contrary to what you might be thinking after reading this far, it wasn’t just the sport’s heavy hitters who set new records in 2023. Dozens of drivers all earned new personal best ET’s and trap speeds this season. From the index racer who entered a heads-up grudge race or decided to turn things up at the local test ‘n tune, we saw many 7.70 diesels collect low 7-second timeslips, 6-second trucks break into the 5’s and others persistently shave tenths off until meeting their goal(s). If you haven’t yet been to a diesel-only drag race, it’s worth considering. It’s a sport that is growing in both competitor turnout and on-track entertainment—and 2024 promises to be even more captivating.
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