The World’s 5 Fastest Diesels: Duramax Edition
From the moment diesel lovers began taking delivery of their Duramax-powered Chevrolet and GMC HDs back around the turn of the century, they knew GM’s 6.6L V8 was very different from the outdated 6.5L it replaced. At the time (2001), the Duramax was a marvel of an engine, introducing both common-rail injection and aluminum cylinder heads to the diesel truck segment. Now, some 18 years after bringing this technology to market, the Duramax remains one of the best platforms to make horsepower with, and you can find them in some of the fastest vehicles in all of diesel drag racing.
So who’s the fastest? After scouring the NHRDA record book, pouring over results from every major national diesel event over the past decade and combing through our own comprehensive archives, we’ve narrowed it down to the top five Duramaxes in the land. Below, you’ll find the quickest elapsed times and the fastest trap speeds ever obtained by a Duramax-equipped vehicle of any kind. Three rails, an S10 and even an old Willys Americar made the list. All of them have blasted the quarter-mile in seven seconds or quicker, with one even going mid-6s and breaking the 200 mph barrier.
For the full lowdown on these quarter-mile killers, keep reading.
1. NGM Diesel: 6.53 & 200.77 MPH
Wade Moody’s NGM Diesel-backed, Flo-Pro and Industrial Injection-sponsored rail has been setting tracks on fire since 2016, when things really started to click for Moody and his team. After first dipping into the 6s with a 6.99 at the 2016 NHRDA Midwest Truckin’ Nationals, Moody has been gradually shaving tenths off of his E.T.s, as well as adding trap speed. In June of ’17, Moody flew through the traps at 200.77 mph, and almost exactly one year later he eclipsed the 1320 in 6.53 seconds. Not only is Moody’s rail the quickest (and fastest) Duramax drag racer on the planet, but it’s not too far off the pace of the overall record of 6.31 and 226 mph held by Scheid Diesel.
Said to produce 2,100hp, the Duramax in Moody’s rail is pretty serious. It’s based on an NGM Diesel-designed, billet-aluminum block that makes use of a dry sump oil system. The reason behind the aluminum block is two-fold: weight savings and durability. Since introducing the first billet-aluminum Duramax block back in 2012, the folks at NGM Diesel have all but perfected them. Wagler rods, Diamond pistons, Industrial Injection injectors and CP3s and parallel (i.e. true twins) BorgWarner turbochargers sum up the major components that make this fire-breathing Dmax tick. The whole package is stuffed in an ’05 Spitzer chassis and bolted to a Rossler Transmissions TH400 with a Pro Torque converter. Moody’s one-of-a-kind dragster tips the scales at 2,500 pounds.
2. Banks Power: 7.17 at 181.08 MPH
In what was one of the most highly-anticipated debuts in diesel drag racing history at the time, the Gale Banks Engineering dragster was released on the heels of the company’s record-setting Pro Stock truck, which was also Duramax-powered. The rail was built on a chromoly, slip-joint Spitzer chassis with a 275-inch wheel base, wore a slick, unpainted carbon fiber body with the company’s infamous Sidewinder snake on each side and weighed in at just 2,290 pounds. After being completed in 2008, the rail made several shakedown passes before setting the new Duramax record (at the time) in the spring of 2009. It would be a full six years before Wade Moody topped the Banks team’s 7.17 elapsed time.
Twin-Turbos and Nitrous
Thanks to parallel turbocharging (and proper wastegating), nitrous oxide and a Big Hoss intake manifold, the Duramax powering the Banks dragster had plenty of fresh oxygen. All fueling was controlled by a Bosch standalone ECU, and the engine made a respectable 1,200hp on the dyno. In the car, the Duramax routed power through a Molinari Racing Products clutch and a Liberty five-speed transmission before making its way to the Mark Williams rear axle. A few years later (and after a substantial hiatus from drag racing), the Sidewinder dragster reappeared packing a 427 ci Duramax with a twin screw supercharger up top, but to our knowledge no subsequent attempts were made to set any more records.
3. NGM Diesel: 7.44 at 187.55 MPH
Before Wade Moody was busy setting the current, all-time fastest Duramax record in his rail, he regularly piloted this 2,800-pound, ’02 Chevy S10 to mid 7s at more than 180 mph, even earning an NHRDA Pro Stock championship along the way. Despite making his 7.44-second pass at 187 mph more than five years ago, it still stands as the official NHRDA Pro Stock record. Believe it or not, the same Duramax engine and Turbo 400 transmission that power Moody’s rail at the present time were plucked from this tube chassis mini truck—which essentially means one powertrain holds multiple records.
4. G&J Diesel: 7.46 at 186.26 MPH
One of the most unique vehicles in diesel drag racing belongs to Brad Makinen of G&J Diesel. His ’41 Willys Americar is sponsored by MBRP, driven by veteran drag racer Jarid Vollmer and competes in the Pro Stock category within the NHRDA. The WWII-era coupe weighs just 2,700 pounds thanks to a Hairy Glass fiberglass body and a chromoly chassis built by Tommy Mauney. Appropriately named, it’s known in the diesel industry as the Batmobile. With Vollmer at the helm, the Gotham City Special has made a host of seven-second passes since being introduced in 2014, along with earning three Pro Stock titles (2016, 2017 and 2018).
When the Batmobile ran its best pass of 7.46 at 186 mph back in August of 2016, the LBZ-based Duramax was sporting a partially-filled block, dry sump oil system, Carrillo rods, Mahle pistons, ported heads from Wagler Competition Products and ARP fasteners throughout. A twin-turbo arrangement allowed a 64.5mm Garrett GTW3884R turbo to feed each bank, while a Wagler air-to-water intercooler—mounted on top of the engine—vastly reduced intake temps. The 1,400hp Duramax was backed up by a three-speed Lenco with a Bruno’s Automotive converter drive. Much of the aforementioned setup is still in use on the Batmobile today, with the car recently wrapping up its third consecutive Pro Stock championship at the 2018 NHRDA World Finals.
5. Grand Rock/Power Flow: 7.64 & 170.41 MPH
After drag racing for 30 years (and competing with diesels since 2006), Jeff Dean partnered up with Grand Rock Exhaust to campaign this Duramax-powered rail. Introduced in 2011, the 2,100-pound dragster definitely had weight on its side when pitted against virtually any other diesel-powered dragster in existence. While Dean’s dragster never set any records, it did nab a few notable finishes, including a big win at the 2012 TS Performance Outlaw Drag Race in Bowling Green, Kentucky—a mainstay event with one of the biggest year-over-year turnouts in the diesel industry.
Single Turbo, Nitrous
In a move that just made too much sense, the same LBZ Duramax that made it possible for Dean’s ¾-ton Silverado to run 10s was swapped into the rail. To keep things simple, the engine was left void of an intercooler and equipped with a single S400-based BorgWarner turbo from Fleece Performance Engineering. Without an intercooler, nitrous was used to keep in-cylinder temps down. A Powerglide transmission from Hughes Performance handled the shifts that shuffled Dean’s dragster through the quarter-mile in seven second intervals.
Select photography provided courtesy of Stainless Diesel’s Amy Gilbert and the National Hot Rod Diesel Association.