In the past there were only two places that held Quebec style uphill, side by side, semi-truck drag racing. Now there is a third – Kuhnle Motorsports Park in Thompson, OH. In January 2022, Kuhnle Brothers of Newbury, OH bought Thompson Raceway Park. This raceway has been a dragstrip mecca in central and northern Ohio for over 65 years. Often referred to as simply “Thompson” by many, my dad took me there a few times when I was little, but I hadn’t been back there since.
Over the past six months, Kuhnle Brothers has invested a lot of money and time in the raceway, which is now called Kuhnle Motorsports Park. Investments in the track have been made to include new LED lighting, an increased pit area with lots of pavement, and a new uphill drag racing track. They are also building a truck pulling track, which should be ready this October (2023).
Wanting Quebec style uphill, side by side, semi-truck drag racing events which included both loaded and bobtail classes, Kim Kuhnle scheduled their inaugural event, called Unc’s Semi Stampede, on June 30 to July 2, 2023. The name “Unc” is in honor of Kim Taylor Kuhnle, known as “Unc” by family and friends. Obviously, the public wants more events like this because it was reported that over 6,000 people were in the stands to watch the races.
The first day of the event (June 30) was practice day. Gates opened at 6:00 AM and practice runs started at 10:00 AM. The weather was ideal for the event, with temps in the low 80s, and partly sunny and hazy, mostly due to the smoke from nearby Canadian wildfires. This first day saw non-stop action which lasted all day. During this time, we were all learning who was who, and who to pay attention to when the racing began.
All told, there were 74 entries that were from Canada, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri. The longest race entry came from San Antonio, TX, which was Rick Hernandez and his 2001 Pete 379. Roger Kral, a veteran driver at Kuhnle Brothers (who celebrated 50 years of driving with Kuhnle back in November 2021), took a few laps down the track, as did many of the other Kuhnle drivers. As the day ended, a bunch of Canadian entries showed up (they came together in one big group).
On the second day of the event (July 1) racing started at 9:00 AM, and there was plenty of action throughout the day. Trucks also began rolling in for the truck show. Some trucks came from the local area, while others came all the way from Somerset, PA. Todd Gribble brought out his newly updated 2012 Peterbilt 389, Chad Walker brought out his 1985 Peterbilt 359 that was recently stretched, and Chad’s cousin brought out his teal colored 1973 Peterbilt 359. NAST showed up with some trucks, along with the local ATHS chapter, and parked them in the staging lanes of the drag strip by the spectator entrance. The truck show area also had vendors and a variety of food options.
Temperatures on Saturday were in the mid-80s, but later in the day the rain came. Racing slowed down a bit, but still continued. One thing that was great was the fact that there was a shuttle that took spectators from one end of the facility to the other. Murphy Tractor & Equipment supplied the tractors, and the Geauga County Fair provided the people hauling wagons. The guys that were driving the shuttles never stopped in the rain. They were still going, even though they were exposed to the rain on the old farm tractors they were using to pull the shuttles. But, regardless of the rain, they continued to shuttle people all day.
On the last day of the event (July 2), the Final Eliminations were to be completed rain or shine. This was a rain or shine event. There was no rain policy, meaning the rain wasn’t going to stop the event. It slowed it down a bit, but the event carried on. I talked to a family, and they were sitting in the bleachers when it was raining, and it didn’t bother them one bit. These folks were truly some diehard semi-truck drag racing fans, no doubt! The event was completed on schedule, and the rain finally cleared out in the middle of the day.
This is mostly a male dominated sport, but there were two women entered in this event. Tammy Zimmerman of Clinton Township, MI (a veteran driver for Kuhnle Bros.) was the first woman to compete in the Big Rig Challenge in Onaway, MI, and she was competing at this event, as well. Chanelle “Cha-Cha” Beaudin-Cobb of Montreal, Canada, and her 2003 Peterbilt 379 was the other woman entered and competing at this event. It was cool to see the ladies give the guys a run for their money!
With this first event now under their belts, Kuhnle immediately began planning their second event – which is being called “Unc’s Fall Brawl” and will be held on October 6-8, 2023, again at Kuhnle Motorsports Park in Thompson, OH. They are claiming this event to be “The Ultimate Uphill Showdown,” and said, “When the smoke turns black, there is no turning back!” For more details or to register for the next event, please visit www.kuhnlemotorsports.com. And the racing winners for Unc’s Semi Stampede 2023 were:
A CLASS (BOBTAIL):
1st Michael Jeanson; 2nd Sylvain Noel; 3rd Travis Van Kessel.
A CLASS (LOADED):
1st Sylvain Noel; 2nd Martin Lalonde; 3rd Michael Jeanson.
B CLASS (BOBTAIL):
1st Laverne Zimmerman; 2nd Joe Baehr; 3rd Justin Nevius.
B CLASS (LOADED):
1st Lavern Zimmerman; 2nd Justin Nevius; 3rd Barclay Stewart.
C CLASS (BOBTAIL):
1st Andre DeSantis; 2nd Neals Dams; 3rd Dave Bradshaw.
C CLASS (LOADED):
1st Dave Bradshaw; 2nd Andre Dagenais; 3rd Allain Dallaire.
1st Adam Devine; 2nd Arnold Knaggs; 3rd Justin Middaugh.
1st Steven Householder; 2nd Arnold Knaggs; 3rd Terry Wexel.
FREE FOR ALL (LOADED):
1st Michael Jeanson; 2nd Eric Lachine; 3rd Lavern Zimmerman.