Speed Demon Blasts 481 MPH with BBC Duttweiler Power

by John Baechtel
George Poteet’s Speed Demon blown fuel streamliner is now officially the world’s fastest wheel-driven, piston powered vehicle by a substantial margin, establishing a new SCTA record of 470.016 mph with a certified terminal speed of 481.576 mph at the end of the timed mile. This is more than 21 mph faster than the previous record established by Danny Thompson’s Challenger 2 at 448.757 mph in 2018. And while not officially recognized by the FIA world record authority, it is considerably faster than the current FIA 458.440 mph world land speed record set by Don Vesco’s Turbinator (a wheel-driven turbine-powered  car in 2001.
The Speed Demon is unique in that it is a single-engine car driven only by the rear wheels in a venue where conventional wisdom insists that multiple engines and four-wheel-drive are essential to achieving those speed levels. It has four wheels with the two front wheels aligned in tandem which is also considered to be inherently unstable compared to front steering and driven wheels that ride beside each other. The Speed Demon has encountered no difficult running in its own configuration and is currently faster than all the other competitors.
SCTA Tech Inspectors never have a problem examining the Speed Demon. Everything is open and accessible for inspection and crew chief Steve Watt stands by to answer any questions they may have.
The Speed Demon virtually owns the whole upper half of the record ladder for the SCTA’s Unlimited Blown Fuel Streamliner class using various displacement engines to fit different classes. For 2020 the team came with four different bullets in its piston-powered arsenal, all twin turbocharged engines running on methanol. The primary engine for this effort is a 555ci Dart based big block sporting upwards of 3200 horsepower. The goal with this engine was to set a record above 450 mph which would also secure the Hot Rod Magazine Top Speed of the meet trophy for the ninth time. The AA/BFS (Blown Fuel Streamliner) record stood at 417 mph and the team felt that that they could raise it to more than 450 mph.
The brief, but smokey oil fire burned up some wiring and sensors, all of which were replaceable. The crew had the car completely cleaned up in a matter of hours, but the wiring harness required an overnight repair.
The best laid plans often breed success, but not without a few detours along the way. After an initial checkout pass at 380 mph to verify the car’s systems, Poteet’s second pass at 411 mph fell short of Tom Burkland’s 417.020 mph record, set in 2004. After a brief tuning session back in the pits, George made a third run resulting in an encouraging 447-mph average in the fifth mile and a 455-mph exit speed. Unfortunately, an oil-based engine fire occurred, burning up some of the wiring. A backup pass for the record seemed improbable at this time. After downloading and reviewing the data logs, the team decided to forego the normal trip to impound for record qualifiers.
The big block engine was removed, and team members began readying the 442-cid LS based A-class engine. When the data indicated that the number four cylinder had leaned out considerably, other team members converged to pull the cylinder head off the big block. The number four piston had a gaping hole in the center of it from the lean condition. When the piston holed, it pressurized the sump causing the valve cover gaskets to fail and spray down the hot engine bay, hence the minor, but smokey engine fire.
It was quickly determined that the cylinder was not damaged, and a replacement piston was fitted by team members Chris Raschke, Charles Jenckes, Kenny and Keith Koldsbaek, Christian Taylor and John Baechtel working feverishly with the engine upended on the floor of the trailer. A few small scratches were quickly cleaned up by four or five strokes with a ball hone and a new set of file fit rings was installed. The field repair was successful. By the end of the day the engine was repaired, and the LS engine was pushed aside in favor of reinstalling the big block. The data indicated an overall lean condition on the fuel map with something causing a severe lean issue in the failed cylinder. After test flowing the injectors, it was felt that a manifold issue might be the problem, so the number four cylinder was programmed for fifteen percent greater enrichment than the rest.
Don Ray and Spencer Taylor guiding the freshly refurbished big block back into the car for another go at the record. Racing is often all about the "thrash" and the Speed Demon crew are masters of these challenges.
Wiring guru Greg Pyles labored overnight to repair the wiring system; several sensors were replaced as were several burned solenoids on the air shifted Liberty transmission. The body insulation was also repaired, and the car was ready to run by mid-day Sunday. Hopes were high since the car had run 455 mph on only seven cylinders. The fourth run ended in disappointment when the pinion shaft in the rear end gave up the ghost. Fortunately, the team had a spare. Danny Drinan, Steve Watt and the rest of the crew quickly changed the rear end and got back in line for the car’s fifth pass of the meet. Another issue with a failed boost regulator on that run cause them to make further adjustments and get back in line for a sixth run.
Late Monday afternoon, they qualified for the AA/BFS record with a speed of 428.182 mph. Tuesday morning they finally set the new record to 439.246 mph based on a 450.311 fifth mile average combined with the previous day’s qualifying speed. Still, Poteet and the team were not satisfied, and engine builder Kenny Duttweiler knew there was plenty of speed left in the combination. George wanted to set a record well over 450 mph to reclaim the title of fastest piston powered car. (That title was formerly held by Danny Thompson, who drove the Challenger II AA Fuel Streamliner to a 448.757 mph record in 2018.
Finally, on Wednesday afternoon all the planets aligned. Joe Galati once again helped George suit up and Speed Demon streaked to a 469.298 mph average through the fifth mile, qualifying to raise the record even higher. Thursday morning, George astounded onlookers with a 481.576 mph exit speed netting a 470.733 average and resetting the AA/BFS record to 470.016 mph, a staggering achievement for a rear-wheel driven piston-powered car and one that served notice of even greater potential.
With little time remaining, the team quickly swapped the big block out for a 256-cid twin turbo small block to attach the E-class record of 348.150 mph, the only one that George does not yet own. Unfortunately, an oil pressure light came on and George aborted the run. The team was unable to pinpoint the cause before the end of the day and the meet was coming to an end so they packed up and headed home, snug in the knowledge that no other piston powered car was anywhere close to the blistering speeds they recorded with the big block engine.
The 2020 Speed Demon supercrew: Eric Hoyt, Kenny Koldsbaek, Christian Taylor, Spencer Taylor, Herb Sones, Ron Main, Chris Raschke, Kenny Duttweiler, Graham McOlgan, George Poteet, Steve Watt, Don Ray, Scotty Farmer, Alex Pyles, Greg Pyles, Jason McOlgan, Tommy Horne, Joe Galati, Dan Nelson, Scott Lacey, Brian Maxwell, Keith Koldsbaek, Danny Burrow, Jimbo McCoskey, Shane Tecklenburg, Danny Drinan.
George Poteet, seen here with grandson Graham,  has the wherewithal to pay his own way for these records, but he is quick to credit the extraordinary team effort and the individual contributions by every team member. Affectionately now known as “The Men in Black” they are the backbone of a successful effort. Additional support comes From Automotive Racing Products (ARP) the official supplier of all fasteners on the car and Lucas Oil Products who provide all the essential lubricants.
Start 'em young and they'll be hot rodders forever. Here's the youngest crew member Graham McOlgan up on the trailer pulling a valve cover off the 557 for inspection. He's proud and inspired by his record setting grandpa.
The Speed Demon brain trust from left to right: Crew Chief Steve Watt of Maxwell Industries, Engine Builder Kenny Duttweiler of Duttweiler Performance and Tuner Shane Tecklenburg of Tuned by Shane. In addition to Poteet’s amazing string of records, each of them can now claim the unofficial title of world’s fastest car builder, world’s fastest engine builder and world’s fastest tuner.

The Speed Demon has consistently proved to be the fastest, most resilient traditionally powered car in land speed racing history.  Whenever anyone starts to get close, the team digs deep and puts more speed on the record books. We all know that 500 mph is a steep hill to climb, but only the Speed Demon seems capable of sneaking up on it a little bit more every year. Time will tell.  

Photography by Mark Gewertz, Holly Martin, Michael Harrington, Chris Raschke and John Baechtel

Vieo courtesy of Shari Dannenfelzer Polk, K.C. Polk and Debbie Dannenfelzer.
Video courtesy John Wylie

Steve Watt
Maxwell Industries
4277 Transport St., Unit F
Ventura, CA 93003
805 798 0953

Automotive Racing Products (ARP)
1863 Eastman Avenue
Ventura, CA 93003
805 339-2200

Duttweiler Performance
1563 Los Angeles Ave.
Ventura, CA 93004
805 659 3648

Lucas Oil Products Inc.

302 North Sheridan Street
Corona, CA 92878-4067
800 342-2512
951 270-0154

Shane Tecklenburg
ST Consulting
21602 Surveyer Circle
Huntington Beach, CA 92646
714 318-5845