About 15,000 people attended the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza this year — numbers that mirror the attendance count from 2012 and 2011. But why does Terre Haute experience a 25-percent increase in population for this particular event’s three-day duration?
In the simplest of terms, very few venues rival the caliber of diesel vehicles found at the Scheid event. Often referred to as the Super Bowl of sled pulling, the extravaganza is best known for drawing in the nation’s most competitive diesel pulling pickups.
Beginning in 2011, things got even better for fans, as Lucas Oil’s Pro Pulling League, an elite sanctioning body, took over the reigns of running the sled pull portion of the show. This brought in additional vehicle classes, stiffer competition, and further elevated the entertainment value for spectators. “It’s not your average truck pull,” said experienced sled puller and ’13 competitor Tyler Dillard. “Every truck is coming in with the latest and greatest parts, and they’re all set on kill.”
Within walking distance of the sled pull is Crossroads Dragway. Here, one of the largest gatherings of the country’s fastest diesel vehicles race down the eighth-mile dragstrip. Unlike many events held at Crossroads Dragway throughout the year, the stands are often packed with spectators during extravaganza weekend.
“The crowd is not comparable,” track operator Randell Peters told us. “We see roughly 200 to 300 spectators for regular events vs. a couple thousand for the Scheid event.”
Also unique to the extravaganza, it is one of the only events where you’ll find two chassis dynamometers onsite. These devices measure how much horsepower a vehicle makes, and they’ve become extremely popular in the diesel industry.
“They are a huge draw for any event,” said DP Tuner mobile dyno operator Mike Batterson. In just two days time, Batterson and his crew ran 77 trucks on their dyno. “If you want to see the biggest crowd during the day [before the pulls], come watch the dyno,” he added.
The show ’n’ shine is another big attraction, allowing passersby to get up close and personal with dozens of mint condition, diesel powered vehicles ranging from highly modified late model trucks to classic pickups with diesel engines swapped into them. For 2013, Purdue Diesel Club, a group formed by diesel enthusiasts at the prestigious college in West Lafayette, presented the show ’n’ shine. They were in charge of organization, judging which trucks won awards, and handing out prize money.
President of the club Daniel Hessian said the exposure alone was priceless. “Any publicity we can get is huge,” he stated. Hessian used the opportunity to make new contacts and meet potential sponsors for events the club hosts during the school year.
Just south of the show ’n’ shine, the fairground’s exhibition hall is chock full of diesel product manufacturer booths. From fuel systems to turbochargers to transmissions, you can find parts for virtually every facet of the modern diesel truck’s powertrain, or learn how each component works. In addition, Scheid Diesel reserves the east end of the hall for its technicians to perform onsite part installs for customers.
When you add it all up, the extravaganza has every type of activity a diesel guru could ask for, which helps explain the high turnout year after year. Dennis Perry, owner of diesel aftermarket company TS Performance and whose staff presents the drag race portion of the event, summed it up well. “It’s all in one location, and there is always something going on for spectators,” he told us. “Dan Scheid strives to give everyone the best bang for their buck, which is one reason this premiere event has had all the success it has.”
To residents, the extravaganza is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition that stimulates the local economy one weekend out of the year. But to thousands of diesel enthusiasts, it is the top tier event in the country. With an improved police presence in 2013 appearing to cut down on traffic citations, arrests and after-hour parties taking place outside the confines of the fairgrounds, maybe the positive side of what the event brings to Terre Haute will be front-page news in years to come.
— Mike McGlothlin