Interview: Dan Scheid Discusses Diesel Performance


If you are in this industry, then you probably already know the name Dan Scheid or at least Scheid Diesel. We, were recently presented the opportunity to sit down with Scheid and jumped at the chance.

IMG_9821Many of you know Scheid as the guru behind high horsepower tractor pulling engines and his wizardry with the Cummins engines. His story goes back much further than that. Scheid started out working at a diesel fuel injection shop back in 1970. By ’72 he was working with some tractor pullers and and doing more than just factory replacement. One of the guys at the shop who Scheid worked under was really building a name for himself and decided to buy a fuel injection shop.

So, Scheid went to work for him and instantly took to the high performance stuff. “We got extremely active in high performance setups, complete tractors, built tractors from the ground up,” said Scheid. Scheid’s primary focus was on the fuel injection side, but all that came to an end in ’77 when his father suddenly passed away.

Scheid went back to the 100 acre family farm to work and take care of things. That could have been the end to Scheid’s diesel career, but fortunately for us diesel enthusiasts, it is hard to find someone who knows what they are doing. People quickly started pushing Scheid to work on their stuff. It wasn’t long before he turned the rental house on the property into a fuel injection shop. In 1982, Scheid moved his operations into Terre Haute, Indiana, and became an authorized shop for Bosch, Stanadyne, and a few other others. That was it. This was how Scheid started. Today, Scheid Diesel is one of the powerhouses in the performance market with three locations and dozens of championship’s on record.

Notice the billet engine block. Scheid Performance has pioneered billet aluminum 5.9L Cummins blocks.

Notice the billet engine block. Scheid Diesel has pioneered billet aluminum 5.9L Cummins blocks.


Diesel Army: When it comes to making power, what were some of the major obstacles early on and how does that compare to today?

We don’t do spark plugs. I heard a rumor that spark plugs were being superseded by diesels – Dan Scheid

Scheid: Air and fuel were the main obstacles. There wasn’t a problem to get up to 1,200hp to begin with, but once we started exceeding 1,200hp the weaker links started mounting up pretty quickly. We really needed more air flow with cylinder heads. Today, the focus is more on setting the engines up and clearances within the engine. We have to be more precise with bearing clearance, cylinder clearance, valve settings, and cylinder head porting. Today, all of our cylinder heads are CNC ported and that has made a tremendous amount of difference. The days of slapping a motor together, not taking any measurements and not paying attention to detail are gone. It is down to the “nitty gritty” and there is a fine line if you are going to make the amount of horsepower we are making at this day and age.  You know you’re looking at a super stock engine producing an excess of 3,000hp in a 390 cubic inch engine. There are a lot of things to take into consideration to keep that type of horsepower together and in one piece.

Diesel Army: Looking at today’s engine, what are some of the obstacles to making more horsepower?

IMG_8966Scheid: Major obstacles right now, like in Super Street class is power management. Being able to manage the horsepower going down the track and applying the horsepower at the right time where you can get the tires to hook and get the momentum to move on down the track. We have seen that not only in pulling, but drag racing as well. It can be more of a factor in drag racing than pulling.

Diesel Army: Let me make sure I understand this. From an engine standpoint, we have the power we need. The issue is the rest of the drivetrain and getting that power to the ground efficiently. Is that correct?

Scheid: Yeah, that is the main issue. It is getting it to hook up to the track; power management.


Diesel Army: A while back you were experimenting with 12 piston fuel injection pumps trying to get the fuel in faster. Today it appears you are back to the six piston injection pumps. What changed?  

Scheid: We still run a 12 pump on our Super Stock truck but you are right, the newer trucks are running a six. The main reason has to do with the 12 lines as much as anything else. Getting them timed out isn’t easy. There is, also, new technology in the six cylinder pumps and there is more availability for 16 mm blender pumps. The output of the 16mm pumps is quite high, so we can definitely compete with the six cylinder pumps.

Diesel Army: Most of the higher horsepower engines use a mechanical injection pump. Do you see the industry moving away from mechanical and moving towards electronic control?

Scheid: Yes, we’ve got some new fuel systems that can apply to the 3,000hp SS (Super Stock) class but we haven’t devoted enough time to getting the details and bugs worked out.  I feel pretty confident that it is going to roll toward common rail and common rail will probably take over from mechanical fuel systems in the next three years. It will be a big impact anyway I would say.

We started doing a lot of common rail stuff a few years ago for the SS class, but the mechanical systems and the 12 valves really took off. They started flowing a lot of air and making a lot of horsepower, which brought us back to mechanical horsepower. The 12 valve is something we have to focus on to stay up with the competition. We are still working with common rails. We are a Bosch Motorsports dealer and their ECM gives us total control on the fuel side of things.


Brad Deeter’s sled truck, called Oversize Load

Diesel Army: What was the driving factor to switch from twins to triples?

Scheid: The major thing there is cost. We don’t have to get such an exotic second stage turbo to get the power. We can simply use two big turbos. It is a lot more economical to go to three turbo set up with a twin stage. But twins can be very competitive. Brad Deeter’s truck has a twin set up on it and it is competitive.


Diesel Army: With the triples, tell me about the pressures you are seeing? Is there growth there for the future?  

Scheid: We are not at super high pressure; we are running about 135psi which is relatively mild compared to three stage four turbo set up on a super stock tractor. They can run in excess of 300psi. We are not even close to that. The potential for growth is unlimited. It is just going to be a matter of what the parts will take.

Diesel Army: How much of a hurdle are the emissions regulations?

Scheid: Emissions are not much of an issue on the performance side, but we need clean diesels. If diesels are going to progress in the US; then they have to run clean and emissions are going to have to be clean. If we are running down the highway and hit the throttle and blast someone with a puff of smoke that is probably the worst thing that can happen. It’s one thing if you’re at a pro competition, but it’s a different thing when you are out on the highway. It is like the events that have been running on the news; they are commercializing these ‘coal rollers’ and that’s about the worst thing that could happen. You are going to be aggravating a lot of people with a lot of clout and they are going to come down really hard on us. That could hit a show like our Extravaganza pretty quick. That would be a tragedy.

IMG_0377We are concerned about smoke on the drag racing side. We run the top dragster and there are guys talking about smoke being a problem. Sometimes you can’t even see the scoreboard when you are down at the end of the track, but in that Top Dragster class you see a lot of different kinds of set ups. In Top Dragster you run against a wide variety of engine setups; like Alcohol engines and blown engines. They run anywhere from a 6 second to 7.50 second ET. Having innovation within these classes is good and gives people different stuff to look at. We can take a 390 cubic inch diesel engine and we can run with an alcohol engine that’s pretty cool.

We qualified 10th in Norwalk, ran a 6.21 at 225 mph and went three rounds. We got our first check from NHRA for $300 at a national event with John Force and all those guys as well. We went to the next divisional event in Ohio and qualified 8th there. I heard a few rumors of people complaining about smoke. In the end, what are we going to do? Get in a room with an alcohol engine, diesel engine, and gasoline engine and let them idle for an hour. Then we will see which one is worse. We will see who is contaminating more. I don’t know that it’s the diesel that is contaminating more.

Scheid Diesel was a household name in diesel tractor pulling before diesel trucks were ever regularly offered by the OEMs. They have been able to keep up with the times and continue to be a leader in the industry. They also hold a yearly event called the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza, which has become one of the largest diesel events in the country. If you aren’t familiar with them, check out their website or Facebook.


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About the author

Chad Westfall

With diesel running through his veins from childhood, Chad has more than a decade of experience in the automotive industry. From editorial work to wrenching, there isn’t much he hasn't conquered head-on. When he’s not writing and shooting trucks and tech, you’ll find him in the shop working on turning the ideas floating around in his head into reality.
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