If you’ve yet to see an uphill drag race with both bobtails and fully loaded trucks, you are missing out. These races are all about big horsepower and black smoke for days! Held on May 17-19 in Onaway, Michigan, the 2019 Great Lakes Big Rig Challenge brought in spectators and racers alike. Race trucks came in from all over the United States and Canada for the second year of these uphill drag racing events now held in the United States.
Leading up to the show, the forecast looked like it was going to be much better than the previous inaugural year, but as the event approached, the rain started moving in. Arriving to weather in the 70s on Tuesday, May 14th, I had high hopes the rain would hold off. This year’s event promised to be even more exciting with the addition of a parade to the schedule on Friday.
Friday began with trucks rolling in and getting set up. It was a beautiful sunny day and the rigs were performing well during the open practice. The open practice was open to all competitors and ran from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. During the day, a carnival was in operation and everyone was preparing for a weekend of fun for the whole family.
At 6:00 p.m. the trucks that were participating in the parade started lining up and then departed at 7:00 p.m. for the parade routed through Onaway. It was awesome to see and get photos of all the trucks in the parade, but by far my favorite was the trucks doing burnouts in the road along the way and seeing all the clouds of black smoke. After the parade, attendees had the opportunity to see and hear the Eric Chesser Band play some live music until midnight.
Many of the racing trucks arrived on Friday including Daniel and Tammy Boulanger’s “Le Quack” 2004 Peterbilt 379 with a C-15 CAT from Mattawa, Ontario, along with their son Mathew and his 2005 Kenworth W900 with a 3406E CAT. It was awesome to see some of the same racers come out who were in attendance last year, as well as some new racers this year, too.
Some familiar folks were registered for the NAST truck show including Eric Hassevoort of Rabbit River Transport with his 2015 Peterbilt 389 boasting a 13-speed Detroit, 3:36 rears and a 285” wheelbase, his brother Jeremy and his 2018 Peterbilt 389 wrecker with a 50-ton B&B body powered by a 13-speed 565 Cummins, and Eric Timmins of Zwerk and Sons Farms out of Vassar, MI with their 2018 Kenworth W900L equipped with an 18-speed CAT 6NZ Marine engine and pulling a 2018 MAC 53’ step deck with California Eagle roll-past tarps. These guys always look great!
Saturday started with a good amount of rain, but that didn’t stop the races. Upgrades had been made from last year’s show including asphalt that was laid down on the loop beyond the finish line that now goes all the way around the track and back to the pits. By early afternoon, cooler temperatures helped keep the races in full swing.
I had the opportunity to ride with Wade Lalone of Diesel Freak in his popular 2000 Kenworth W900 “Foolish Pleasure” boasting a 1MM 600 CAT engine. I giggled like a schoolgirl in that passenger seat as we made our way down the track. WHAT A RUSH! It was so much fun, and I am truly grateful to have had that opportunity. Racing for the day concluded around 7:00 p.m. followed by the Jedi Mind Trip Band, the race trucks throwing flames out of their pipes, and then fireworks at 10:00 p.m.
Sunday brought more racing action and, unfortunately, more rain, but the racing still began as scheduled following the National Anthem. The day concluded with the awards ceremony, which started around 6:00 p.m. The competition was tough, and everyone ran their best. It was great to see such friendly competition at this event, which was full of people who generally all got along and were just happy to be out racing together.
There are three classes each for the bobtail and loaded drag racing divisions, which allowed everyone the opportunity to participate. Class A was the high-end, with a 19-liter engine limit size, a two-turbo maximum and one injector per cylinder. Class B had a 16-liter engine limit size, along with a single turbo setup, and the ECM had to be Original Equipment (OE). Class C was open to strictly stock semi-trucks, blowing no smoke, with a 2,400-rpm limit.
All said and done, the event saw an increase from 2018 in all areas of competition with 29 show trucks entered in the NAST Show & Shine competition, 84 race trucks competed, 65 trucks (mix of race and show trucks) participated in the parade and approximately 15,000 people were in attendance. This year’s races were awesome, and I’m already on the countdown for the 2020 event!
Congratulations to all the racers and show truck owners/drivers who placed. All registered show trucks were entered in a drawing for prizes – congratulations to A. Hubbard for winning the set of Hogebuilt quarter fenders and to Corey Hassevoort for winning a Texas style Valley Chrome bumper. Stay tuned to the Onaway Speedway Facebook page for the date release and information for next year’s show.