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Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge

May 18-20 2018, Onaway MI –  Performance Diesel Inc. (PDI) was on display and a proud sponsor of the Inaugural Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge in Onaway Michigan. The travel from PDI headquarters would be just under 2100 miles. Starting at the break of dawn the Monday before the show, with over 2000 miles of beautiful country to take in I settled into PDI’s 2018 Peterbilt 389 (The Imposter) pulling the 53’ show trailer. Traveling across Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and finally Michigan.  As the sunset on Wednesday, I was joined in travel with some of the crew from Reliable Road Service, a PDI Distributor. PDI joined with Reliable Road Service to co-sponsor the show.  Thursday morning first item on the to-do list was getting the Imposter and PDI show trailer washed up and ready to shine at the show.

We arrived at the Onaway Speedway mid-morning Thursday. An awesome sight was the giant American and Canadian flags flying high above the oval track. The weather was great. (A bit cool) but sunny and nice for setting up the display trailer.  We spent most of the day setting out our Cummins display with PDI’s Add-A-Turbo, Big Boss Tuner, and latest X15 intake manifold. The Caterpillar display engine was set up with a PDI Exhaust Manifold & Turbo. Combined with the crew from Reliable Road Service and JD Projects (PDI Dealer from Webberville MI), we put together a great booth.  The scene was set for over 65 trucks scheduled to race, 35+ Trucks in the show and shine contest, and a carnival for the expected 25,000 to 30,000 spectators.

Friday, the first official day of the show had the trucks running practice runs up the drag strip. The Show and Shine trucks were getting parked and all cleaned up, while the masses of people began pouring in.  (It was noted that there were over 1200 campers/RV’s over the weekend) The weather was a little windier and cool, a micro-burst came through and tried to take the PDI awning for a ride, but some quick hands secured it before much damage was done.  With the awning securely strapped to the 1200+ pound engine displays, we were all in for Friday.  There were different classes of trucks for the uphill drags.  There were bobtail (no trailer) and loaded trailer. The loaded trailers were set up to 140,000 pounds!  With the weight of the truck and trailer, it put a lot of the competitors weighing in at 155,000 – 165,000 pounds. This was a very exciting thing to witness, with the higher horsepower trucks pulling the front tire off the ground when they would launch from the starting line. We had many people come to the PDI booth and had a great day visiting with customers and friends!

Saturday brought a whole new level of excitement, as this was the day that official uphill drag racing would begin.  It also brought some complications as it started raining around 7:00 a.m.  The rain delayed the racing action some, but it was a great day for people to come and get out of the weather under our 1000+ square foot awning and learn about all the great options PDI offers for more horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency.  The rain came down non-stop for over 8 hours on Saturday.  They were still able to run a lot of the C class (stock trucks) and some of the B class (modified higher HP Trucks) throughout the afternoon.  There was a great array of carnage during the drag racing, from broken U-joints, twisted off drive shafts, blown rear ends and blown turbos!  The spectators were undeterred and many never left the rain-soaked grandstands all day!

Sunday was the final day of the Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge and brought with it the best weather of the weekend.  The drag strip was cleaned and ready for the final day of racing.  The A class trucks (heavily modified for high HP) were out in full force and put on a great show. Many of these trucks traveling down from Canada, where they have raced this uphill drag style for over 20 years.  We saw an awesome display of big horsepower and torque from many trucks, and in watching the semi-final and final rounds, it was every bit as important to hit the gears and get off the starting line when matched up with an equal opponent. To the surprise of many, the top two trucks in the A class loaded trailer were 14.0L Detroit Diesels! The end results were all in, trophies and cash awarded to the top winners in each class. The show was over folks! Our dealers, Reliable Road Service and JD Projects along with myself and Will Hall (PDI Sales Technician) were able to get the big show booth dismantled and put away late into the evening Sunday.

Monday morning we left the Onaway Speedway and traveled North over the Mackinac Bridge.  This was a neat experience in crossing a 5-mile long suspension bridge high over the Great Lake Michigan.  This bridge is what connects the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) of Michigan to Lower Michigan.  The scenery across the U.P. was incredible with lush forest. We stopped at a great small town restaurant for lunch, The Farmhouse Restaurant which sits right on Highway 2 in Gould City MI, within walking distance of the shore of Lake Michigan. Phenomenal food with great hospitality! We spent most of the day Monday traveling through a soggy state of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The end of the line for this trip was in Sioux Falls South Dakota, where the Imposter and PDI show trailer will stay for a week until the next show in South Dakota.

It was a great inaugural event, PDI was proud to sponsor and be part of the Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge in Onaway Michigan.  We look forward to next year’s event (assuming it happens).  Please join us at the next stop on the show circuit at the Wheel Jam Truck Show, June 1-3 in Huron South Dakota!


Lance Brown


Events Manager

  • Jim Rohrer

    Great coverage. Like to hear more from other events

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