These days, there’s nothing more exciting than going to a truck show, but when there is also drag racing and truck and tractor pulls, then it really gets exciting! Dragway 42 is nestled in West Salem, OH – a small town in the northern part of the state with a population of less than 2,000 people. If you look the town up on Wikipedia, they actually mention the racetrack! Opened in 1957, Dragway 42 has been around for over 60 years. A few years ago, it underwent a complete ground-up renovation and reopened in the spring of 2017. It’s a multi-purpose facility that can host drag racing (which it is best known for), autocross racing, tractor and truck pulls, concerts, music festivals, and many other events. But on October 16-18, 2020 it was all about the King of the Street Challenge and the Big Rig Showdown.
The King of the Street (KOS) Challenge is the toughest street truck challenge open to any street legal pickup, gas or diesel. The challenge combined point totals over the three-day event with the winner earning the “King of the Street” title. The challenge consisted of sled pulls, dirt drags, 1/8-mile drag races, dyno runs, and then a drive on the street. It was quite the spectacle to see. Some of the big rigs in attendance participated in the KOS events, while others just came for the truck show. Overall, there were not that many big rigs at the event, thanks in part to the harvest season still going in full swing, but the trucks that were there were awesome.
2019 was the first year for this event at Dragway 42. That year, the show was held at the end of the racing season, in early November, which made for very cold conditions. This year, for the 2020 event, they moved it forward a few weeks to mid-October, which was better, but still not ideal. It’s pretty cool around that part of the country that close to winter. You might get lucky, but don’t count on it! In 2019, most people were wearing big winter coats, hats, and gloves. Thankfully, 2020 was a bit warmer, which brought more trucks to the Big Rig Showdown from states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
With sun and temperatures close to 60 degrees, the weather was great on the first day. I got to meet plenty of people, take some great pictures, and pass out back issues of 10-4 Magazine that I had. I ran into Denver Geitgey and Steve Eaton, the track announcers, who were out doing some live feeds on Facebook. I gave them my last copy of the magazine and, later in the evening on one their broadcasts, they mentioned 10-4 Magazine. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick around to hear it in person, as I had left early to take advantage of the nice weather and do a photo shoot nearby. Thankfully, I got a lot of good pictures that day, because it got cold and started raining the following day.
As I was taking pictures of the trucks participating in the truck show, the pulling trucks started arriving on flatbeds, RGNs, and in old moving vans. There was one truck I was definitely looking forward to seeing pull the sled down the track – a bright yellow 1974 Kenworth W900A that was once featured in Overdrive Magazine as their “Tractor of the Month” in October 1980. At the time it appeared in Overdrive, the yellow truck with black stripes was a working truck that pulled a dump trailer. Back then, it had a butterfly hood, a big V-12 Detroit Diesel, a 13-speed transmission, and a 60” Double Eagle sleeper.
John Mann of East Canton, OH started using the truck in sled pulling competitions. He eventually changed the 13-speed to an Allison automatic and added twin turbos to the motor. At some point, the butterfly hood was replaced with a fiberglass model. John was a very successful puller with the old Kenworth and won many competitions across the country before retiring in 2012. Sadly, John passed away in April of 2020. The truck was then sold, and the new owner, Gene Dunn, has since re-powered it with a 3406 Cat and a manual transmission. I had never seen “Lady Butterfly” run before, but it did very well, making an impressive 400-foot pull.
There were many impressive pulls throughout the afternoon and into the evening. Lee Gangle of Copley, OH and his Big Cam 2 Cummins-powered turquoise 1980 International Transtar Eagle had a great pull, as did South Side Salvage of Salisbury, PA and their “The Scrapper” Cat-powered yellow 2003 International 9900i. Tom Brown of Tom Brown Trucking in Caldwell, OH did an impressive pull with his brown and white 1980 Mack V8-powered Superliner, but Ed Zeglen and his white Cat-powered 1986 Freightliner FLC were not so lucky. Suffering a broken yoke and leaf spring on his run, Ed got out of the truck at the end of the pull, picked up the pieces of metal, and drove off with the front rear axle out of alignment. It was a fun and memorable pull, for sure!
Some of the winners from the truck show were Charlie Dean of Graysville, OH and his Kenworth W900L day cab painted with a two-tone blue Seminole scheme (Top 3 KW and Top Paint); Kayla Wallis, a driver for Reinsfelder, and her 2021 Kenworth W900L with a white and black Apache paint scheme (Top 3 Working Class, Top 3 Best Paint, and Top 3 Ladies Ride); Jordon Johnson, another driver for Reinsfelder, and his 2020 black Kenworth W900L (Top 3 Working Class, Top 3 Best Chrome, and Top 3 Interior); and David Vantassell, a driver/dispatcher for Hunter Contracting of Eighty Four, PA and his dark red with dark gray stripes heavy-haul Kenworth W900 (Best KW and Best Combo). Not bad for someone who had just moved an oversized load to Toledo and then came back to watch his buddy Ed Zeglen make a pull down the track!
Hopefully, next year, the event will happen again and more people on social media will see it and promote it. This would be an even better event with more promotion and visibility – I hope they get it in 2021. For details about other events, pics, and videos, visit the track’s website (www.dragway42.com), and be sure to follow “KING Of The Street Challenge – KOS” on Facebook. I would especially like to thank Dan Renovetz (AKA Mr. Detroit Diesel) for supplying me with the information about “Lady Butterfly” and its history. The 2021 event is scheduled for October 15-17. We hope to see you all there!