Shockwave to Bring Extra Heat to Kelly Services Night Under Fire

While Chris Darnell has driven everything from go-karts and motorcycles to sand dragsters and stock cars, he's famous for flying in the flashy and fiery triple jet engine-powered Shockwave truck at venues across the country.

He says there's something about the way it soars to 300 mph, and the way it smokes, sounds and shakes that satisfies every one of his senses, and now, he's preparing to put on a show as part of the highly anticipated 40th Annual Kelly Services Night Under Fire, Aug. 12, 2017 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

Darnell, who lives in Missouri with his wife, Brooke, and daughters, Reese, 9, and Taylor, 7, talked with Summit Motorsports Park about Shockwave, its sizzling performances and what fans can expect when he pulls the brightly-colored behemoth to the starting line at the event expected to draw a capacity crowd.

What was your first exposure to Shockwave?

I was just three years old the first time I saw Shockwave in action. It was owned by Les Shockley at the time, and a few years later, when I was seven years old, I got to sit in it when Les' son, Kent, was the driver and he was doing a car-burn for my parents, Neal and Marilyn Darnell, as part of a show for our family-owned motorsports production company. I remember it like it was yesterday. Ever since Darnell Racing Enterprises had the opportunity to buy Shockwave from Les Shockley several years ago, we've run it full-time. Sometimes I drive it and sometimes my dad drives it.

What did your team do to the truck to ready it for your performances?

When we got the truck, we took six months to completely rebuild it because it needed some work and it needed some modernizing. We improved the aerodynamics of the truck and put a new vinyl wrap on it. Believe it or not, the frame on the truck is all chrome moly tubing, and the shell of the body was from a Peterbilt 379. The engines are Westinghouse J34-48s, and they came out of T2 Buckeyes, which are Navy trainers for fighter pilots. The truck can run any type of jet fuel, kerosene or diesel, but we run diesel because it puts on a better smoke and fire show and doesn't change the performance of the truck. The truck burns about 200 gallons of diesel fuel per performance. 

Climbing into the cockpit of a highly combustible truck is not for everyone. What compels you to do it time after time?

I make a living doing this, but there are plenty of other ways to make a living, so that tells you how much I enjoy it. I like the adrenaline rush I get when I'm strapped into the truck and going over 350 mph. In addition to drag races, I do a lot of air shows, where I'm racing airplanes, and I've even raced F-18 fighter jets. As part of those shows, the airplanes will dive-bomb on the truck, and I go to the end of the runway and the plane comes in at 150 mph, 10 feet off the ground next to me, and I light the afterburners and take off to go catch them. I call Shockwave performances assaults of the senses because it's hot, there's a lot of smoke and a lot of noise, and the ground literally shakes. I take a lot of pride in our show. It's been around for a while, and it's incredible and iconic.

Can you feel the heat in the cab of the truck?

It depends on the wind and everything, but on a hot day, it will get to be 140 degrees in the cab where I'm sitting, with the fire behind and above me. I can still handle it, though, because the intake from the jet engines is there so there's a lot of wind coming through the cab. I always tell people that the truck wants to kill me, and my job is to keep it from doing that.

You and Shockwave were featured a few years ago at the Kelly Services Night Under Fire at Summit Motorsports Park, but this year's event is poised to be bigger and better than ever in celebration of its 40th year.

I'm really excited to be part of it. It's one of the coolest shows I've ever done. I love the fan experience and how the event always has a capacity crowd. The fans seem to be into jet trucks, and Bob Motz has been a staple there, and all of those fans have been great to us. With (Summit Motorsports Park president) Bill Bader, Jr. adding fireworks to the mix, it's going to be something you don't want to miss and something you'll never forget. 

In addition to Chris Darnell and Shockwave, the all-star line-up for the 40th Annual Kelly Services Night Under Fire on Aug. 12, 2017 includes eight well-known Funny Cars, four jet engine-powered dragsters, two jet engine-powered Funny Cars, a wheelstander, Nostalgia Drag Racing League's Pro 7.0 category, ScottRod's AA/Gas vehicles, a $100,000 fireworks display and much more. Summit Motorsports Park is at 1300 State Route 18, Norwalk, Ohio. For tickets and information, call 419-668-5555 or visit

Interview by Mary Lendzion
Summit Motorsports Park Media and Public Relations
313-686-0776 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



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