ECKVILLE, Alta. – The North American Big Rig Racing (NABRR) series crowned a new champion this fall.
Hellbound Racing driver Darren Berdahl won this year’s championship while competing in the series for the fourth season.
The 2000 Rookie of the Year won three races this season en route to the championship, despite suffering some mechanical setbacks including a cracked head at one race.
He attributes the team’s success to its ability to make every event, even when contending with breakdowns to the 1958 Kenworth racer.
“Our success was mostly due to commitment and getting to all the races,” Berdahl told Truck West. “Every time the truck would break down, we would fix it, do all the repairs and be there for the race.”
Headquartered in Eckville, Alta. the Hellbound Racing team faced one of the most grueling travel schedules of the circuit’s competitors. Since the small rural Alberta town isn’t located close to a major oval track, Berdahl and his mechanic would visit each venue the day before the race to try to get in as much practice time as possible. The effort paid off.
“We were able to run fairly consistently all year,” Berdahl said, noting his No. 58 truck never finished in lower than fourth place this season.
Berdahl’s ’58 Kenworth is powered by a L10 Cummins 600 horsepower engine and the standard race spec’ Allison five-speed automatic transmission. He has a second truck that he’s now considering converting into a racer so he can field a two-truck team in next year’s NABRR series. However, he’s also contemplating turning it into a drag racer so he can master another racing discipline. Right now, his focus is on preparing the No. 58 truck to take another run at the championship in 2005. It may be the off-season, but there’s already work to be done to improve the truck and make it faster – something he said is essential if he wants to repeat as champion.
“It’s getting more competitive every year and the trucks keep getting faster each year,” he said.
He admitted that he benefited from the fact rival Peter Van Dyck missed several events and he knows he’ll have his work cut out racing him head-to-head all of next season.
“It would have been touch and go if Peter was there for every race,” Berdahl pointed out.
There are also a number of other competitors that will be eager to unseat him as champ in 2005 and Berdahl said winning a second straight title will be no easy task.
He relishes the challenge, however, especially considering he’s finished second in the championship the last two seasons to former winner Cory Riplinger.
Racing the NABRR series takes plenty of commitment. In Berdahl’s case, he is required to travel to 13 different races across Western Canada and as far south as California. That means leaving his 15-truck fleet Hellbound Services behind on a regular basis throughout the summer while he and his mechanic rack up countless miles travelling from race track to race track.
“It’s fairly hard but I have a lot of good workers and dispatchers,” said Berdahl. “It gets harder each year but we always make it work.”
While only the chief mechanic travels to the races with Berdahl, there are about six other team members that help out in the shop when the truck is back home, getting it prepped for the next event.
“We’re fairly bare bones when we go on the road due to travel costs and the difficulty of getting the time off work,” Berdahl said.
And while the sport’s recent growth has required an even stronger commitment from the series’ racers, Berdahl said it’s also encouraging to see the series flourish and attract more fans.
“It has consistently grown and every year it seems there’s more and more interest generated,” he said. “Hopefully next year we’ll hit some more tracks and then keep going back to the tracks that support us the best.”
Once fans see their first race, they return every time the trucks revisit the track, he added. Berdahl said it would be impossible to run the series without sponsors including: GTI Petroleum; Calgary Diesel; Alamo Industries; Rebel Metal Fabricators; Sully’s Mechanical; and Oggy the Polisher.