Maintenance matters in messy mud racing

Staff writer

Dirty, sloppy, loud, and fast are words that only scratch the murky surface of all that goes into the heavy horsepower beast that is mud bog racing.

Charlie Holub can tell you all about it. He has competed in various mud racing events for the past 15 years.

“Some think it just looks like rednecks playing in the mud,” Holub said. “Mud racing is different than other sports. There is a kind of voodoo to it.”

The best way to categorize what Holub does is as a drag race in the mud, and like any sport, there are some general rules. For instance, he said a typical track is about 175 feet long and each contestant generally gets one pass — chance to race — per event.

“You’re running in a bog pit,” Holub said. “Sometimes tracks are more water than mud.”

No mud pit is the same, Holub said. Racers have to decide how to setup their trucks for maximum performance under conditions that always change.

“It’s like racing on top of slop or a snow packed road,” Holub said. “There is no traction.”

Holub said if a pit is of a rough consistency, his truck generally does better. He uses a tire that isn’t as wide as some, and if he goes fast enough he can glide across the top of the bog pit.

Like other racers, Holub uses modified tires, in which large portions of rubber is removed to achieve maximum traction.

Holub said he has cut his own tires in before using a power saw but it took him 40 hours of labor just to do two tires. So now he pays a person $200 per tire to do the modifications as needed.

“I like going fast, and speed costs money,” Holub said. “But the fastest truck doesn’t always win.”

What really counts are consistent good passes, Holub said. However, most races are won or lost in first 10 feet of the initial launch.

“From a dead stop I’ve clocked a time of 3.01 seconds,” Holub said. “Motors are high maintenance when you start pushing that kind of horsepower.”

Holub said it is common for racers to build, rebuild, and modify their trucks.

“Trucks can get pretty exotic,” Holub said, “Mine meets the outlaw pro-stock common setup.”

Holub said his dad was a mechanic, so he learned many different mechanical skills that have helped him work on his vehicle.

By welding the chassis, running the wiring, and hand making metal parts such as the rotors, Holub transformed an Isuzu Pup into a dragster-style “rail” design with a supercharged engine he calls the mud puppy.

“I did all the fabrication except for the engine,” Holub said. “Stan Williams from Williams Service in Florence built the engine. He plumbed the nitrous and tapped the heads.”

Holub said for an added speed boost, some racers uses blown alcohol, but he favors a nitrous oxide injection system.

With the combination of expensive modifications and the high amount of wear and tear mud racing puts on his truck, Holub has to perform standard system checks between every race. He uses a computer that logs data from his truck, looks at the RPM curve, and checks for anything that might have gone wrong.

Holub said he used to go to about 25 races a year, at events as far away as Nacogdoches, Texas, but since cut back to about seven a year to put more time into his construction company.

However, he recently experienced success at a mud race in Bunker Hill because of all the maintenance he performed on his truck.

“I beat the self-proclaimed fastest racer in the USA,” Holub said. “Actually he beat himself.”

Holub said the racer has a reputation for employing several mechanics, buying other peoples trucks, and transporting them around in a semi-truck.

“He’s all about the money,” Holub said.

Holub has won other events due the speed of his truck, but this time he won because his opponent’s truck broke down on the starting line.

As a result, Holub was awarded $1,400 in prize money and a trophy. He plans to put the money back into his truck to prepare for a national event in the badlands.

“I’m the underdog,” Holub said. “People point their finger and laugh but paint doesn’t make you go faster.”

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