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Midwest Truckin' Nationals First-Ever Event Diary: Reposted

It’s 6am on Saturday June 27, and we’re hitting the road bright and early to make it to St. Louis in time for the NHRDA’s 2nd Annual Midwest Truckin’ Nationals (MTN). The MTN is the diesel competition I’m slated to cover in a diary-style recap for event sponsor Area Diesel Service. The carload consists of my 5-year-old son Ollie, my wife Annie, and me. In the most cliché of circumstances, the boy and I are on our way to Gateway Motorsports Park for a day of full-throttle fun while the wife has opted out in favor of shopping. Thing is, though, we aren’t exactly the made-to-mold Midwest family it sounds like. In fact, far from the hardcore diesel competition fans we’ll be joining, we Donohue boys are rookies to the scene. We’re both amped to see some heavy horsepower in action.

On the 3-hour drive to St. Louis, Ollie peppers me with questions about what we’ll see, whose car / truck will win, and how tractor pulls work. Poor guy overestimates his old man’s manliness. “You know what, Mr. Bear? I can’t wait to learn all that today. We’ve both got a steep learning curve ahead of us, but I can tell you it’s gonna be loud and fast. And just about anything loud and fast guarantees a good time.”

First on my New Things Learned list for the day, it turns out Gateway Park is actually about 15 minutes northeast of St. Louis in Madison, IL, something I should’ve have looked up before reaching downtown STL. We finally get to the track a little late for the first few drag races, but I don’t think we’ve missed anything major just yet. Annie drops us at the gate, and we follow the sounds of booming engines, stopping momentarily for a picture of the NHRDA semi. Then we snake our way through the fans and find great seats just a couple rows from the track.

We couldn't pass the NHRDA diesel without at least one shot.

Now that we’re settled in for the show, let’s get to the competition diary.

Drag Racing

Here are the highlights from how the drag racing went down:


The first competitors of the day pull up to the starting light, as drag races begin with a couple trucks in the sportsman class. Let’s do this!


Scott McKinstry puts on a show in his 2008 Chevy Truck, laying down a serious burnout on his approach to the light. The burnout proves more impressive than his run. Too bad he couldn’t do more after the quick jump off the line.


Dan Zelton crosses the finish line in just 12.15 seconds. He’s driving a 2007 GMC. “What does that guy mean, ‘12.15 with a 1,’” Ollie asks, referring to the announcer’s call. “I have to assume the ‘1’ means one / one-hundredths of a second,” I bluff with no real certainty. Makes sense to me, though.


A couple of Texans face off as Wade Minter and Chris Boudar (sorry about the spelling, Chris) mark the first Super Street run, if I heard the announcer correctly. If the sponsors’ stickers are any indication, Minter’s royal blue 2006 Chevy looks built to make Team TripppleMax proud. … Ugh. Minter flubbed his start. Still betting on low times from Minter today.


Woah, boy. Ollie spots a motorcycle on the track. It’s gotta be well past the halfway point before the poor truck paired with it even decides to begin. It gets worse. The truck sheds its front axel housing, so says the announcer, because the driver made the run in 4-wheel drive. That’s gotta be a tough lesson to swallow. Looks like this may take a while to clean up.


“Dad! Dad! It’s Optimus. There’s two. They’re both like Optimus!,” Ollie yells as two decked-out, old-school hotrod semis get ready to roll. Big-time burnouts from both the ’84 Peterbilt and the ’63 Kenworth. I have to agree with the boy: This matchup is fun. … The ’63 dominates with a 12.31-second pass at 110.62 MPH vs. the new truck’s 15.41 seconds at 90.03 MPH.


Alright, here we go. Marty Thacker is on the track in his dragster, and he’s looking to take back the Elapsed Time record he lost when Jared Jones pulled off a 6.46.6-second quarter mile in 2014. He’s off. Fast. Wow! Just missed 200 MPH—well in my mind he did. He hit 199.35 MPH, but hardcore fans might not call that “just missing.”

I’ll say this much: that dragster is definitely the fastest thing the Donohue boys have ever seen in person. And we’re not the only ones in the crowd throwing high fives.


A number of passes later, plus a quick lunch break for us, and the two semi trucks are back. The announcer deems this Two-Stroke Detroit vs. Cummins. Again, the ’63 Kenworth—with the Big Cam Cummins—owns the ’84 Peterbilt. Both trucks are well worth the cost of admission, though. Lots of smoke and lots of speed.


The official Super Street sponsor, the XDP truck, looks awfully tough, but the driver elects to take the tree instead of risking anything on a solo run. I would rather see what the XDP truck can do out there, but, hey, at least we have the chance to pick up a little racing jargon about the starting light.


Ollie’s motorcycle is back at it, this time matched with a Camaro that looks a lot like the IROC-Z I took to prom some 22 years ago. Why my sister’s boyfriend let me—an unlicensed, 15-year-old idiot at the time—take his beautiful, uninsured Camaro to prom is beyond me. Well, maybe his motivation isn’t too tough to figure out. … Back to the race. Much like my prom night, the guy in the Camaro didn’t stand a chance.


The father and daughter duo who run (own, perhaps) DieselTV throw down in a couple of compact Chevy rides. I can’t see who’s driving which car, but the race for bragging family rights is something I can support.


Marty Thacker is ready to break that record. Ollie and I are suddenly big fans, and we want to see this happen. He’s got the RPMs flying before take off. Green light. He’s already down the track and pushed the MPH to 199.43! It’s a no-go on the record, though. It’s still just amazing to witness a car move that fast.


The elimination round begins as James Calhoun and his ’97 Dodge move to Round 2 with a solid pass.


It’s another showdown between our favorite semis, and the ’63 takes it easily yet again. I could watch these two trucks all day.

The throwback semis were easily the number 1 highlight of the day for Ollie and me.

Around 3:00pm

Debris on the track again! The relentless rain that had nearly damned the MTN entirely was kind enough to pause in time for the event. But it left the normally stellar track conditions a little less than optimal, so what is generally (I gather) a quick cleanup of debris is taking the crew quite a while today.

We duck out to the expo area to see the merch and talk with the Area Diesel gang for a bit. Ollie learns that turbochargers give the diesels we’re watching the extra power they need for stiff competition, or as he puts it: “That’s why they’re faster than Flash, Dad! It’s the turbo power!”

Mean Muggin’ Ollie says this turbo is the strongest.


The races have resumed, and the pace between runs picked up. Calhoun and his ’97 Dodge are looking good for the Sportsman class, as are Nathan Terrel and his Ford from the same year. Wade Minter is the other name that’s jumped out at me, and I’m sticking with him to take the Super Street—really doesn’t seem like anyone can give him a challenge at this point.


Travis Lane, a young kid representing Clever, MO, accepts a trophy for the Show n’ Shine contest. Clever is close enough to Springfield, MO that I’m claiming hometown association rights and claiming this as a win for Ollie and me. Good work, Travis.


The Super Diesel final race is about to begin. Dan Zelten is in a 2007 GMC in the left lane, and Edward Godat is on the right in his 2006 Dodge RAM. This should be close. Zelten’s significantly better reaction time of 0.208 vs. Godat’s 0.456 is enough to earn him today’s victory.


The Sportsman final pits James Calhoun’s 1997 Dodge against Nathan Terrel’s 1997 Ford. Calhoun burns out to heat his rear tires for traction. It pays off. His reaction time easily beats Terrel’s, and Calhoun takes the win for the class.


Wade Minter is guaranteed the win in the Super Street final, because Anthony Reams is unable to run the 1995 Dodge that made it into the last race. Minter will be flying solo… It’s a nice run even without the suspense.


Marty Thacker gives it one more shot, and it’s a hell of a pass. He manages his best ET of the day at 7.01 seconds. Unfortunately, that’s more than half a second shy of the record.


We get one final contest of the Primes. Let’s see if the Peterbilt can steal a victory. Nope. Not even close.


The burnout contest begins. It’s a crowd-noise system to determine the winner. Time to get loud. All but one of the competitors puts on a solid showing, and Brandon Hooper wins the burnout trophy in his ’86 Chevy.

Seems like the ol' boy whose sad burnout left the crowd laughing should talk to my friends at Area Diesel.

The drag racing comes to a close, and the winners—all listed in Table 1—get some well-deserved camera time with the DieselTV crew.

Table 1           Drag Racing & Burnout Winners

MBRP Performance Exhaust | Diesel Drag Racing Results
Top Diesel Winner Dragster ET:
MPH: 199.11
Marty Thacker Robinson, IL
Top Diesel #1 Qualifier Dragster ET:
MPH: 199.35
Marty Thacker Robinson, IL
Top Diesel Low ET Dragster ET: 7.01
Marty Thacker Robinson, IL
Top Diesel Top Speed Dragster ET: N/A
MPH: 199.11
Marty Thacker Robinson, IL
Super Street Winner 2006 Chevy ET: 9.93
MPH: 139.62
RT: 0.441

Wade Minter Maypearl, TX
Super Street R/U 1995 Dodge ET: BROKE
Anthony Reams Leslie, MO
Super Street #1 Qualifier 2006 Chevy ET: 9.51
MPH: 146.04
Wade Minter Maypearl, TX
Super Street Low ET 2006 Chevy ET: 9.51
Wade Minter Maypearl, TX
Super Street Top Speed 2006 Chevy ET: N/A
MPH: 146.04
Wade Minter Maypearl, TX
Super Diesel Winner 2007 GMC DIAL: 11.90
ET: 12.16
MPH: 110.34
RT: 0.208
Dan Zelten Eagle River, WI
Super Diesel R/U 2006 Dodge DIAL: 11.90
ET: 11.93
MPH: 111.96
RT: 0.456
Edward Godat Yellville, AR
Super Diesel #1 Qualifier 2006 Dodge DIAL: 11.90
ET: 12.00
Edward Godat Yellville, AR
Sportsman Winner 1997 Dodge DIAL: 13.45
ET: 13.74
MPH: 83.70
RT: 0.075
James Calhoun Kent, WA
Sportsman R/U 1997 Ford DIAL: 15.00
ET: 15.21
MPH: 88.37
RT: 0.312
Nathan Terrel N. Manchester, IN
#1 Qualifier 2008 Chevy DIAL: N/A
RT: 0.008
Scott McKinstry Keller, TX
Burnout Contest and Show n’ Shine
Burnout Winner 1986 Chevy N/A Brandon Hooper Warrenton, MO
3.0 Class 2nd Place 1998 Dodge N/A Travis Lane Clever, MO

Sled Pulling

The sled pull competitors showed off what real power is all about:


The announcer calls out that the tractor pull is about to be underway for the 8500-pound Pro Stock Tractor Class. Fantastic. I’ve been fielding Ollie’s excited questions for quite some time while they prepped the lane.


Driving his 1973 John Deere, Alan Sheer pulls off a distance of 323.01 feet. The announcers tell us he needs a strong showing if he hopes to defend his Points Championship from last year. … Back-to-Back Championships are impressive; guess I found my guy to root for.


That’s pretty cool—a souped-up 1923 Ford T-Bucket lines up for a pull. T Time, driven by Dennis Rock, drags the sled a respectable 321.04 feet, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to cut it today.


Country Fever, a 1932 Ford, carries the sled 309.09 feet and looks good along the way. Then I see he’s overdone it, requiring a tow to get off the dirt. Hate to see these beautiful diesels going down to engine trouble.


The final pulls are over for this first round of action, and the announcers call out the big winners. Dennis Rock’s T Time is today’s champ, with a distance of 321.04 feet. Second place goes to Black Sheep of the Family, Drew Declerck’s ’97 Dodge, for a pull of 319.06 feet.


The 4-Wheel Drive Modified Class gets set to pull. Judging by the first competitor, Samson the ’79 Ford with a 650 Cubic-Inch engine, these bad boys are going to unleash some monster thrust. Driver Terry Bay and Samson run out of steam at 278 feet.

Huh. Looks like they’re going to drop the sled weight a bit for the class and give Bay another shot. Right on queue, Ollie asks why Samson gets to go again. The boy loves that all the trucks have nicknames. Same here. Hmmm… Delilah has a nice ring to it for my 2008 Subaru Outback. Sound fitting?


Roger Greg* is pushing the RPMs for that boost off the start. He really kicks it up once he gets Time 2 Play rolling. I have to say, all those extra revolutions make for a badass soundtrack coming out of that engine. And Roger’s 305-foot pull land him in second place so far.

*I’m not certain I’m hearing Roger’s last name correctly. We’ll correct the spelling if anyone lets us know.

Don't know what turbos these drivers are working with, but even Ollie & I can tell they're not factory-installed.


The 4-Wheel, Modified results are in. Dustin Ridder’s 328-feet pull wins the class with runner-up honors going to Bobby Crawford for (if memory serves me right) closing out the class with a final pull of 318 feet.


The 2.6 Class is up next, and the announcer lets us know much-needed Championship Points are on the line for these drivers. I like the higher stakes.

Representing Nixa, Missouri, Amy Greenway and her truck Sally are first to the dirt. Ollie perks up to shout for all the world, “Nixa, Dad! That’s right by Springfield. We have to root for Sally!” Sure thing. “You got it, Buddy. I like that local loyalty. … LET’S GO AMY!”


After a couple of not-so-stellar pulls by other competitors, Sally is back on the track—this time with Jim Greenway behind the wheel. A dominant pull of 332.07 feet leaves Greenway with what appears to be a safe lead. “YES! … YES!,” Ollie hollers.


Another Missouri driver, Dustin Smith out of De Soto, is having trouble with Rowdy Reputation, the 2001 Dodge. The exhaust is pouring white smoke, and it’s got the announcer worried he’ll have to drop out. Dustin decides to push through the risk, and it pays off with a 329.07-feet pull.

That run puts Smith in second place behind Greenway’s monster pull from earlier. The final pull pits wife against husband, as Amy Greenway tries to best 332 feet. … It’s not to be this evening, and Mr. Greenway gets the winner’s crown. None of my business, but I have to wonder how that plays out in the Greenway household. I’d be bragging my way to sleeping on the couch, but let’s hope Jim is smarter than that.


The St. Louis arch looming in the background, with the sun now nearly set, as things heat up for the 3.0 Class. Guess who’s loaded into the cab of that 1994 Dodge and ready to haul? It’s Jim Greenway yet again. Wonder if he can run away with this class as decisively as he did the 2.6. … 339 feet! That’s not a bad bar to set on the first run.


Kevin Cole’s 1998 Dodge Twisted Goat looks like a mean machine. But he blows the turbo and craps out after 270 feet. Out comes the tow. That’s a rough break.

After one last pull that doesn’t measure up, that’s a wrap. The drivers are finished and Jim Greenway owns the top two classes.

I’m not sure who’s happier, the victor or his new little fan Ollie.

Table 2           Sled Pulling Winners

NHRDA Sled Pulling Series
3.0 Class Winner 1994 Dodge Distance: 339.02 Jim Greenway Nixa, MO
3.0 Class 2nd Place 1998 Dodge Distance: 270.10 Kevin Cole Pacific, MO
2.6 Class Winner 2007 Dodge Distance: 332.07 Jim Greenway Nixa, MO
2.6 Class 2nd Place 2001 Dodge Distance: 329.07 Dustin Smith De Soto, MO
2.6 Class 3rd Place 2001 Dodge Distance: 327.07 Aaron Powell West Plains, MO
Work Stock Winner 2006 Dodge Distance: 318.03 Kyle Dowson Auburn, IL
Work Stock 2nd Place 1997 Dodge Distance: 313.03 Drew Declerck Moro, IL
Work Stock 3rd Place 2005 Dodge Distance: 308.09 Eric Loy Brighton, IL

Heading Out

What a day at Gateway Motorsports Park! One last high five for a day well spent, and Ollie is out cold the minute we get him buckled. I have to admit I’m barely keeping my old eyes open myself. My final take on the 2nd Annual Midwest Truckin’ Nationals? The NHRDA put on a great event, and I believe the boy and I may just have to make a regular habit of joining the fun.