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IHRA: Doing it with diesel

Why does John Robinson’s Top Dragster have a diesel engine?

Easy. “I own Texas Diesel Power, a diesel repair shop,” he says, “and I don’t know how to work on anything else!”

Obviously, Robinson, of Weatherford, Texas, knows his diesels, though. At the Good Vibrations Texas Nationals at San Antonio Raceway, Robinson clocked a run of 6.5709 seconds at 211.57 mph. Billowing black smoke, and with a sound completely different from anything else on the track, fans were in awe of his rail.

Robinson has been running diesel-powered dragsters for years, including a coupe and a Funny Car. He has learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t – though there is a cadre of diesel dragster enthusiasts out there, the cars and the powerplants are far more varied than in regular drag racing, where you can build practically anything from off-the-shelf parts.

The Cummins diesel in Robinson’s Power Service Diesel Additives-backed dragster began life in a Dodge pickup truck. The block is aluminum. He recently dynoed the engine at 2,500 horsepower, with 3,200 pounds of torque. With that kind of muscle, you can be sure that the transmission takes a beating, and making one strong enough has been a challenge.

As far as dependability goes, though, the engine has been all but bulletproof – he ran it for a year and a half and never pulled the oil pan. The number 6 bearing did fail, though, and Robinson is still trying to figure out why. “It shouldn’t have. The rest of the motor still looked like new,” he says.

Maximum turbo boost is an incredible 142 pounds, and he leaves at 60 pounds. “The dragster is very different to drive than a standard one, requiring a lot of finesse as it builds speed,” Robinson says.

Watching the number 467 Top Dragster smoke its way to over 200 mph is memorable – you won’t believe your eyes or your ears.

Article by, Tuesday, 12 April 2016.

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