DIESEL Motorsports and its National Association of Diesel Motorsports (NADM) has a visionary, enthusiastic leader in president Ron Knoch. NADM has been the driving force in taking the diesel engine workhorses of the automotive industry into racing.
Since NADM began in 2007, the organization has supported and promoted diesel motorsports associations, clubs and events nationwide – from sled pulling to drag racing, in over 60 events, in six-seven events annually. This year he will also be adding ATVs, as well as a new track in Memphis at the IHRA strip.
Knoch describes the organization simply as “a marketing company that helps our sponsors market and sell their product to the diesel market in rural America. And we are starting to include three-quarter and one-ton gas pick-ups.”
Supporting local shops, tracks, suppliers, and the racers themselves is the whole point of NADM. He adds “We’re in the entertainment business. We are one of the true few sanctioning bodies for three-quarter and one-ton pick-ups, and we’re moving forward and pulling all the heavy-duty pick-ups together. As of 15 years ago, race tracks and fair grounds would not allow 4 x 4 trucks on the tracks.” Knoch notes “To this day, NHRA and IHRA do not have classes for pick-ups. We actually have rules under our sanctioning status for those trucks. We have our own SFI techs and insurance and everything. With our sanctioning, it makes it more acceptable for pick-ups to run on more tracks. Tracks like that. We have our own insurance and can cover them.”
According to Knoch, “We have definitely grown into different areas every year. The popularity of diesel vehicles is also growing.” The reason for this growth is the longevity of the vehicle, he says. “The average person keeps a vehicle 11 years, and trucks 13 years. A diesel pick-up can easily go 300-500,000 miles.”
In truck races nationwide, Knoch says participation is growing, too. “You can count on about 100 to 300 trucks per event participating in different classes. The kids are really getting into it again. That’s what kind of started this resurgence that began around 2013. Diesel racing originally started in 2001, and that was mostly older drivers in their 40s and up.”
But today, things are different. “Over the last five or six years, a whole new group has come into this sport. What is more American than a four-wheel-drive pick-up with big tires and big wheels and a lot of horsepower. That’s America!” Knoch exclaims. “Most of these kids are in rural America, and they have pick-ups and they like to drive because they have to. They use their trucks to drive to other towns to work or buy supplies, or in farm life, construction, or hauling. They want a good reliable pick-up. And the racing is an outgrowth of that. It turns into entertainment on the weekend.”
Knoch believes that among the main factors drawing these younger drivers to truck racing is their ability to make modifications on the vehicles by themselves, and then race them. “They keep upgrading parts, and that makes my sponsors happy, too,” Knoch says.
For 2020, he sees a lot of interest in grudge racing. “That’s where the kids race each other with no times on the time clock, just a light on what lane wins.” The introduction of gas as well as diesel trucks to racing is also a growing interest. “We’ve been doing it a few years, and while the winner comes down to an experienced driver, usually diesel wins. Certain gas vehicles do well, however, although we have restrictions on them, because of the weight difference. There are certainly fast gas trucks with super chargers on them, and the drivers think they can beat diesel. Sometimes they can, and sometimes not. It gives our diesel guys something to compete against that’s not their own, and they feel pretty good about it.”
Everyone in the racing industry wants to see more young people get into racing, and Knoch frequently sees the diesel segment of motorsports as a first-time experience for drivers.
“We often have to coach them. We do it on many races,” Knoch reports. “We take them on our track and have our experienced racers tell them how to time it with lights, and how to prep and take off the from the line. A lot of them are unfamiliar, or they’re afraid they will break their trucks, but that doesn’t happen a lot. I tell them it’s like going on the on-ramp on a highway but you don’t let off,” he jokes. “I’ll take my truck out there and train them and race with them, tell them to beat an old guy like me.”
He is passionate about supporting this new generation of drivers. “I love these young guys. They are full of energy and they love the sport, and a lot of my staff are that way, too. It’s fun dealing with the rural kids and their love of the pick-up.” He also enjoys hearing their stories. “I will listen to what people tell me they are doing on their picks-up for sometimes 15 or 20 minutes. I’m interested, I love hearing what they are doing with them, and I can take that information, and relay it back to my sponsors, tell them here is what you should be building for the next round of trucks.”
Knoch wants manufacturers to know that if they have any parts for diesel pick-ups, three-quarter or one-ton pick-ups, they should let people know about that. “I’ve met with manufacturers who don’t even know they have the parts. Then I look through what they have, and tell them, you have that, and maybe my guys would start buying them if you tell them about it.” He feels the reason that manufacturers don’t reach out to this market is that they think racing means performance parts only. “But it’s the normal parts that going to break. Manufacturers need to have those available, and let drivers know they have parts for heavy duty pick-ups.”
As a final note, Knoch says “We’ve been doing this for over 13 years now in rural America. We’re one of the few avenues for reaching the rural American enthusiast through our shows and our social media.”
And he plans to keep doing just that – racing for the long haul.
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