Drag racing is about getting across the finish line first. We love to see 700- and 800-horsepower supercars and 1,000-plus-hp hypercars crack off sub-10-second quarter-mile times, but speed isn’t everything. Big rig drag racing is a reminder that high-powered engines don’t always translate into delivering high speeds.

Kuhnle Motorsports Park in Ohio recently held the inaugural Unc’s Semi Stampede, where big-rig competitors across several classes faced off in a Quebec-style uphill drag race. The McLaren 720S shouldn’t have anything to worry about here as these racers lumber along. A new video chronicles the on-track action where dozens of belching semi trucks race to tow loaded trailers across the finish line first.

These beasts make a lot of horsepower, but the torque is the real star of these races – and the copious amounts of black smoke add the theatrics. The massive engines, 19-litre V8 diesel beasts in the A-Class field, produce so much twist that the force can lift one of the front tyres when the engine unleashes all its power. 

The enormous weight in the trailers – well over 100,000 pounds (45,000 kilograms) – and the high-powered engines put the truck through tremendous stresses that are visible in the twisting action. The track’s slight incline added to the challenge, but the trucks don’t have to travel as far as your typical supercar, competing on 700-foot tracks.

Big rig uphill drag racing isn’t new, but it is gaining in popularity in the US. One event has been going on in Quebec, Canada, since 1981 – the Rodeo du Camion, or the Truck Rodeo. That’s when a dozen truckers brought some fun to the town of Norte-Dame-du-Nord. The event held its 40th anniversary in 2022, delayed due to the pandemic. The event draws thousands of spectators a year and collects donations for the community. The organization collected $5.6 million between 1986 and 2019 for the area, according to a 2019 TruckNews.com report.

Unc’s Semi Stampede stipulated that A-Class competitors have a 19-litre V8 diesel engine. The truck can have a maximum of two turbochargers, one injector per cylinder, and a fire extinguisher. There were also B and C Class competitors at the event with their own regulations, while automatic transmissions were prohibited in A and B.