The Ultimate Callout Challenge is one of the most competitive, and extreme events in diesel motorsports. As you know, this event forces the top drivers in the industry to build basically a super truck to compete in three grueling events. Drag Racing, Sled Pulling, and the Dyno Competition. For three days not only are drivers tested, but their trucks and their crews are put to the test in hopes to put together a dream run for three days to take home all the cash and all of the glory.
We have selected a few trucks and drivers that have been here in previous years to see what their game plan is coming into this 2019 challenge. First on our list is Todd Welch, of Power Driven Diesel. You may remember him from the massive dually rear axle with the monster, cut tires in years past, but you may also remember him from the unbelievable explosion they encountered late last year.
For starters, Welches 1999 Ram 1500 was a buy-back from a repo company and has been frankensteined into what it is today. “I sold the engine for more than I bought the truck, so I had no money into it,” said Welch. “As far as I’m concerned, any truck with no investment is a perfect candidate for a race truck.” Keeping a lot of the suspension factory, that helped with keeping the truck riding lower to the ground.
We caught up with Welch some more to get his take on this upcoming event and to see how they feel about their performance last year. “Our 2018 event was crazy. We felt pretty good a couple of months before the event and then we started breaking camshafts. We had the engine together and did some dyno testing and when the power got high the cam broke,” said Welch. “It broke because of the p-pump helical gear. That puts an angular thrust on the cam and as you increase the fuel on a p-pump that increases the load on that gear and the thrust gets higher.”
After breaking the camshaft, the Power Driven crew made a new gearcase that utilizes a cam support in the cover to support the helical gear load. Once everything was put back together, the engine was dynoed again, and although the camshaft made it, the gear itself was compromised. It was starting to feel like an uphill battle heading into the Ultimate Callout Challenge because they were only a few days away from departing.
“The part that really sucked was the fact that we were leaving in just a few days. We couldn’t fix this engine in time, so we ended up building a quick backup engine,” Welch explained. “The main engines we build for UCC are based on the Hamilton Cams’ 6.7-liter Solid Iron Block. Our backup was only a sleeved, filled 12-valve 5.9-liter engine. We threw the backup together as fast as we could, did an initial fire up, and literally drove straight through a two-day drive to Indianapolis.”
For some, these kinds of setbacks would have just broken a team down and caused them to forfeit their entry, but Power Driven Diesel had a statement to make and nothing was stopping them. “We showed up in Indianapolis on day one of the events, and had to just unload the truck, take it to the track and make a low power run,” Welch said. “The run went great, so we started to turn up the power.” After making the initial hit and everything was smooth, they desperately needed to make a good pass, get a high score, and finish the day strong.
After turning up the power, Welch and Co. noticed that with more power they fed this Cummins engine, the track times weren’t reflecting the increases. Something wasn’t right. They tried to make one more pass and to say they were in a mess is an understatement. “We got back to the pits after that last pass and knew something wasn’t right,” Welch exclaimed. “We tore into it, pull the cylinder head off to diagnose what had happened, and sure enough, we were in a real predicament. The block had split all the way down the center.”
At times like this, it doesn’t seem possible that there is any good news, but fortunately for team PDD, they had done enough with the time they had. “We ran fast enough to still be in the competition, but not quite fast enough to be in the top 10. Once we had to use the backup engine, this contest became an endeavor to just finish in the top 10,” said Welch. “We wanted to for sure finish in the top 10 because you get an automatic invitation for next years event. So, with the first engine done, and now the backup engine done, we only had one other option.”
Remember that big 6.7-liter engine, the original that broke from their shop? Well, they brought it to put on display in vendor row. It was a complete short block but with a broken camshaft gear. After getting some expert advice from Van Haisley, turns out their gear weakness issues could be resolved with a USA gear versus a German gear. “Well, the backup, broken engine had a USA gear on the camshaft. So, Will and I stayed up all night piecing together the 6.7 engine with a USA gear and a cylinder head that had small valves that fit in a 5.9 bore,” said Welch. “To top it all off, the head was machined improperly for the 6.7 block so if it worked at all it would be a miracle. It would probably be a wasted effort, but technically we still had a way to compete, so we were going to try it.”
If anyone said this event would be easy, they would wrongly mistaken. This PDD has been put to the absolute test, but they’ve come this far, they kept on pushing. “We stayed up all night and had the engine done by around 7 am the next morning. The rest of the crew showed up and started working on pulling the old engine and putting in the new one as fast as they could,” said Welch. “It was now the dyno day and luckily, I had my runs scheduled late in the day. Once the engine was in we got it started up and it ran! It actually sounded pretty good, so we were ready to dyno.”
Just when you think the problems were over, fate had more in store for Power Driven Diesel. Although it wasn’t catastrophic issues, it just seems like problems piled on. On their first dyno run, Welch accidentally left the truck in valet mode. In valet mode, the truck is set to make the absolute minimum power and torque. Although the truck still made 1,000-horsepower, that’s lightyears away from where they needed to be to finish in the top 10. Once they had discovered what was going on, they put 1,000-cc’s to the engine with 400-cc’s still available. They didn’t want to risk scattering this back up because they have nothing left and still had the dyno portion to worry about.
“As is expected at this point, we had another crazy mishap. During my second run as I was just about to lay into it, the dyno operator started shouting at me to let out of it. It turns out we had a fuel line rupture and we were shooting diesel fuel out the grill of my truck,” said Welch. “I imagine in our haste to switch engines the line was damaged, and it showed up with the higher fuel settings on the pump. During the dyno event, you are limited to 20 minutes to complete your runs and get a score. At this point, we had a 10-second drag race run and a 1000HP dyno run which would just kill our chances at a top 10 finish. Our time was running out quickly so Will got up on the dyno and zip tied the crap out of those lines and said go.”
With time running out, Welch wasn’t about to let up until it either made some power or let go. Apparently, they did have some good luck somewhere hidden because the truck made 1,853-horsepower and that way enough to keep them in the top 10 hunt.
So, they are safely in the top 10 so far at the end of the dyno day which means it’s finally some rest time, right? Wrong. Welch’s truck is known for the massive rear end change for the sled pulling portion and that meant even after two days of driving, getting the backup engine running, destroying that, and rebuilding a Frankenstein engine for the dyno day, now it’s time to begin building a pulling truck.
“We do something that nobody else does in this event. We swap both axles for the sled pulling portion of the event, and we’re the only ones to run four cut pulling tires in the rear,” said Welch. “It is the most massive rear end set up that you may ever see. So, again, we’re up all night switching axles and praying this poor engine was going to make it just one more day.”
Something to keep in mind about Mr. Welch and his crew, they are not sled pullers. Before the Ultimate Callout Challenge, he had only sled pulled one time and that was from the 2017 event. After some struggles on the first pull, the truck was hopping, bouncing, and bucking, and while Welch was in and out of the throttle, all momentum was lost resulting in a short pull. Luckily for him, a sea of seasoned pullers approached him and gave him some tricks of the trade giving Welch some confidence heading into his second and final pull.
The advice? The most important to Welch was “When in doubt, throttle it out”. If you’re bouncing or hopping around, stay in it. Try to get as much distance as possible. “I knew that out of all of that advice, that is one I could certainly handle. Since the engine was still working with the USA gear, we decided to throw everything at it. All 1400cc’s of fuel and cranked up the timing, we were going for the kill,” said Welch. “I left a little harder and started bouncing again, but this time instead of feathering the throttle I just mashed it and it worked. I was just booking it down the track and it was awesome I had tons of power and I was totally flying until the fireball happened.”
The engine that they threw together has done so much over the course of a couple of days. Way more than they ever expected it to but after being pushed to its limit, she let go. As any non-puller would, Welch let off the throttle when he saw a fire. That caused his run to be short of the possible one, but they still managed a 290.917-feet. That distance was enough to make their total score place eight overall punching their way into this year event.
“We honestly didn’t even know if this would work, and what happened to the engine was what we thought would happen. The head wasn’t machined right, and with the pressure of the horsepower, the head lifted a touch and oil got into the turbos and boom, there was our fire,” Welch said. “Although it may not seem this way, I feel like the event went great for us.” With such a crazy week behind them, they are coming into 2019 with a prepared truck and they are going for gold.
So, knowing anything can happen, they are bringing an army of horsepower. “This year, we will have a main and a solid backup engine. Both engines are based on the Hamilton solid 6.7-liter block. Our main engine is and will be incredibly strong,” Welch explained. “We have an amazing bottom end consisting of billet main caps that are cross-bolted as well as the main studs. We have a massive ¾” thick engine girdle that should keep the mains from walking around. The backup engine is still very stout with a 5/8” girdle with the cast iron mains and studs of course.”
Both of their engines will utilize the Hamilton War Head’s with runner intakes and they have overcompensated for the camshafts breaking by going to a tool steel cam with a billet gear in addition to the cam support in their gearcase. On the air side of things, they will run the same set up like last time which is triple Garrett GT55’s.
Power Driven Diesel now has two full years of UCC experience and really understand what to expect and how to survive at this level of power. Their destruction is not exclusive to them as there were many teams to had issues in blowing engines up and going through transmissions, too. Welch is sure that once the dust settles on day three this year, they will be one of the top trucks.
Finishing off our interview with Todd, I asked him simply who his support team was at the shop and what companies help them get to where they are. Doing grueling events like this can not be done alone. “Will Terry is my business partner and crew chief. He has done an amazing amount of research to get our engine up to the level it is now. Dustin is our transmission guru and he has made us a transmission that is second to none. Last year, we did the whole event on one transmission. We had major engine issues of course but no transmission concerns. In fact, the transmission was fine after the event, I used that same transmission in my next race,” said Welch. “Then we have the rest of the shop that helps immensely. Lonnon is an electrical genius and wires up everything to work great. Josh is a great racer himself and has really gone to town trying to lighten up the truck for the drag race. Jamison, Conner, and Myer are the mechanics who are making everything go where it should.”
There are standout companies that really are the backbone of this build and Welch and team Power Driven Diesel cannot thank them enough. “Hamilton Cams has helped us out immensely with these blocks, heads, and camshafts. Diesel Performance Converters has been a huge help in supplying torque converters for our transmissions, and Ferrell Diesel Performance is our go-to p-pump shop who put together this monsterous pump for us,” Welch said. He went on to say, “Vibrant has been a huge help with all of our plumbing on both liquid and turbos, and of course, our shop Power Driven Diesel. Even after all of the help we receive, this is a crazy expensive trip for us in both man-hours and money.”
After all hell broke loose last year, between the engine explosion and their almost unbelievable issues at the 18′ UCC event, they threw together one hell of a weekend and are coming back in only a few short months. We can’t wait to see Todd and the guys out in Indianapolis again this year and know they are going to put on one hell of a show. For those of you who want to see all of their action from last year, it is all on film on their growing YouTube page. For more information about the Ultimate Callout Challenge, check out their website. For more information about Power Driven Diesel, check out their website, here. Stay tuned to Diesel Army as we will have 100-percent coverage and day-to-day results from this year’s event.
You can see the Power Driven Diesel team take on the best in the diesel world at the Ultimate Call Out Challenge. All of the UCC action from Lucas Oil Raceway will be broadcast live RIGHT HERE on SpeedVideo. This broadcast is brought to you by presenting sponsor Fleece Performance along with Lithium Pros, BD Diesel, Fab Fours, Fluidampr, Driven Racing Oil, Edelbrock, SCT, and MAHLE Motorsports.