Inspiration is a powerful thing. With enough of it, it can alter the course of your hobbies, your passion, and even your life. Back in the summer of 2006, Stainless Diesel founder, Johnny Gilbert, found himself at Milan Dragway taking in a race sanctioned by the Diesel Hot Rod Association (some of you remember it simply as DHRA). Already aware yet interested in learning more about the relatively new phenomenon of diesel drag racing, he was in for a treat. Avid drag racer and lifelong gearhead, Jim Layden, happened to be competing in the 12.0 Index category—and he was running the number virtually every pass.

Moving in for a closer look, Johnny met a receptive Jim in the pits and learned that the truck, a P-pumped second-gen Cummins packing compound turbos, was originally purchased to serve as Jim’s tow rig. So when it wasn’t blasting through the quarter-mile in 12-seconds flat (or the 11.97 it also ran that day), the Dodge was hooked to a travel trailer. Jim had to split the First Place money in 12.0 that day on account of a rainout, but the seed had been planted in Johnny’s mind that diesel was the winner. Soon (as Jim did), Johnny made the switch from gas to diesel racing.

Now, some 14 summers later, Johnny and the Stainless team have the fastest Pro Street diesel in the world, hold ODSS Pro Street records for both trap speed and elapsed time, just wrapped up a second Pro Street points championship, and operate as one of the top turbo manufacturers in the diesel industry. As for Mr. Layden, the lights-out drag racer who went on to earn more than his fair share of 12.0 and 7.70 class wins in the decade that followed that first encounter, he has the utmost admiration for the spectator he met up in Milan. “Johnny has always impressed me,” Jim told us. “He went from hauling parts to basically being on top of the game in diesel—not only in racing but in parts manufacturing.”

Anyone care to take a guess as to why Johnny is so approachable in the pits? You never know who you might inspire.