Don Piela’s “What If” Sierra By Vengeance Racing

At first glance, one can’t help but instinctually look past just another, albeit meticulous, mid-two-thousand-teens half-ton pick-up truck. The middle-class male’s equivalent of a minivan: four doors, four-wheel drive, a small v8. However, this one packs a vengeance (pun 100 percent intended). The all-terrain tires, four-inch lift, and volunteer firefighter plate help disguise this sick-fast daily driver, which was exactly what owner, Don Piela Jr., of Elberton, GA had in mind when he set out to build it…twice. Although this truck is not flashy, it’s undergone the Vengeance Racing (VR) treatment and is not to be taken lightly.


The Back Story

Don’s affinity for fast rides came from his childhood, tearing up the streets of Virginia Beach in his family’s second-gen Trans Am with his father. Some of his fondest memories with that car were hearing the Quadrajet singing its beautiful symphony (your ears are tingling – I know). Once out of grad school and with a couple of working years under his belt, Don was ready for his dream truck. His local dealership searched far and wide to find him a brand new 2009 GMC Sierra with a 6.2-liter LS engine.

That truck made it all of four years and 85,000 miles until bolt-ons were simply not cutting it. In 2013, Don cashed in his tax return and commissioned the professionals at Vengeance Racing to install a Whipple blower and a set of full-length headers, waking the truck up with about 140 extra horsepower. This made doing rolling burnouts in a nearly six-thousand-pound truck possible and indeed, a hoot. He would later find out by happen-stance what a unicorn his 2009 was: 6.2-liter (an odd-ball year without Active Fuel Management [AFM]), with a 6-speed, and flex-fuel injectors.

Vengeance Racing

After falling in love with the 2009 which had proven itself to be problem-free for upwards of 150,000 miles (~65,000 with a blower- still with a stock 6l80E transmission and long block), Don thought it would be time to upgrade trucks to something new. Knowing what unraveled with his 2009 truck, he looked exclusively for a 2015 Sierra SLT with the Max Trailering package, learning those were outfitted with 9.76-inch locking rear differentials and larger cooling systems. Don knew this build would likely not climax with headers and a blower, so he planned accordingly.

In March 2015, Don purchased his new Sierra from Jimmy Britt Chevrolet. With only 2,500 miles on the odometer, the truck was off to Vengeance Racing, where the team there dove in head-first, starting with a healthy AFM-delete camshaft (we do not endorse AFM here in the performance world) sporting a larger fuel lobe; a Whipple blower; and long tube headers to start.

What made both the 2009 and 2015 trucks so special to Don, is that they are just ordinary-looking, regular trucks. However, they are sports car-fast while still being daily-driver reliable. Almost like GM should have taken some notes. Don told me over a phone call, “Nobody pays attention to either of them, except every now and again at a shopping center, a gearhead will look around when they hear the 2015 idling through.”

Vengeance Racing

Last year, at 190,000 miles, the 2009 model truck went under the knife to have a new OEM transmission and long block installed. “They were getting tired,” Don said. Per recommendations by the team at VR, John Megel Chevrolet tackled the task of installing the OEM crate engine and transmission without any hassles about the whiny thing bolted on top. We find it pretty exceptional when a factory dealer embraces customers who took on modifications the manufacturer should have done in the first place. What happened to the ’60s horsepower wars?

Round Two With Vengeance Racing

Around the time that the 2009 was being repaired, the 2015 was starting to show gremlins with torque converter shutter and a few valvetrain issues. Don looked at the idea of a new TRX or Raptor-R, however, the price tag and flashiness weren’t for him. “My wife and I run two pharmacies in Rural Georgia. We aren’t flashy people, and it sends the wrong message to our employees and customers,” Don said. So, back to Vengeance went the 2015, this time with a much larger budget. The goal was to build a GM “What if” truck with the money he saved himself from purchasing a new vehicle. What if GM built their version of a TRX? GM, take notes!

Vengeance Racing


Version 2.0 of the 2015’s modifications came with some time-tested Corvette and Camaro input from the staff at VR. Once again, the goal was to have a Corvette-fast, daily driver reliable, pick-up that he could still use as a mule. The list of new modifications is as follows:

Vengeance Racing 2015 GMC Sierra Build Details

LME (Late Model Engines) 416 cubic-inch short block

-Vengeance Racing CNC ported LT1 cylinder heads

-Vengeance Racing Cam Kit Plus for Gen-V LT

Katech wet sump high volume/pressure oil pump

-Innovators West 8-rib balancer and alternator pulley

-GM LT4 fuel pump

-GM LT4 injectors

Deatschwerks DW400 pump module

-Mighty Mouse catch can

Magnuson TVS2650 Magnum GM truck and SUV supercharger system

-Griptech 3.2-inch blower pulley

-Nick Williams 103mm Throttle body

-S&B cold air intake

-Pure Drivetrain Solutions Stage 1 8L90E transmission

Circle D converter

When I checked in with Don on my drive to Tampa International from Sick Week in my rental EV (fan of driving the Polestar, yes. Fan of the charging experience, NO), he said the 2015 was already up to 117,000 miles and counting. He can’t get enough of the truck. If there was anything I took from our conversation with certainty, it’s that I need to build a truck like his 2015. Don, my wife thanks you for the money I’m about to blow. Check out the ways Vengeance Racing can help you with your next build at

About the author

Jake Longolucco

Jake’s itch for hot rods and musclecars stems back to when he first learned to walk. He built his 1967 Chevelle at the age of 14, which he still pounds the pavement in today. Jake is a graduate of Roger Williams University, and has a career as a firefighter in southern Rhode Island. His free time is spent wrenching on, and drag racing, GM musclecars. Jake believes all hot rods should have a third pedal. His aspirations include: winning a Wally and driving one of his old cars cross-country.
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