“ShockWave,” the famous jet-powered drag racing truck known around the air show circuit, suffered a catastrophic failure Saturday. Unfortunately, Chris Darnell, 40, passed away after an apparent failure of the tires caused the triple jet engine-powered truck to lose traction and begin to roll.
The birth of “Shockwave”
“Shockwave” began as a novel idea of Les Shockley, a drag racer who had bigger ideas. What began as a 1970s Peterbilt road tractor, Shockwave had its original engine and sleep compartment removed and gutted. Three Pratt & Whitney jet engines were strapped on, each producing 12,000 horsepower.
“Everybody likes it. It’s something they can relate to. Everyone sees trucks on the highway. They’ve just never seen one with 36,000 horsepower.”Les Shockley in an interview with The News & Observer
Shockwave made its debut in 1984, wowing crowds at drag races and air shows. The truck had bucket seats and a heavy roll cage, so a passenger could ride along. Shockley would routinely invite fighter pilots along, who would compare the trip as similar to a catapult launch from an aircraft carrier.
Shockwave sold to the Darnell’s
After Shockley turned 52, he passed on performing duties to his sons, Kent and Scott. After a few years, Darnell Racing Enterprises purchased Shockwave and all performing rights. Chris Darnell, along with his father and another driver, operated three jet trucks across the country. America is in air show season, and a big five-day Fourth of July air and balloon festival is going on in Battle Creek, Michigan.
In a race between Shockwave and two other aircraft, a tragic incident occurred about 15 seconds into the run. An explosion can be seen under the truck, causing the left tires to rupture. This caused the truck to spin, and it began tumbling away from the crowd.
“His love for motorsports and passion for his craft always inspired us and those around him.”Air Force Thunderbirds
Sadly, Chris Darnell passed away from his injuries, his family reported on Facebook. A tribute from the Air Force Thunderbirds can be read at this link. The Battle Creek Police Department announced that the Federal Aviation Administration was leading the investigation into the accident, along with other agencies.
Rest easy Chris, we have your shift.