Much to my amazement and joy, I found out that my nephew Gary bought a Dodge Challenger and races it in Arizona where he lives. Having my new 2011 Inaugural Edition 392 Dodge Challenger on order and anxiously waiting delivery, he invited me to spend the weekend with him, all expenses paid, and accompany him to the track. I jumped at the opportunity.


FRIDAY


Gary picked me up at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona, late Friday afternoon driving his 2010 Dodge Challenger with tinted windows and blacked out lights and side markers. It really looked sinister. I marveled that this car is a daily driver and weekend racer — and its immaculate. We drove to his home so I could visit with his family and his four dogs. His wife (my niece on my ex’s side) packed up the kids and headed out to spend the weekend in the snow. This left Gary and I with nothing to do except go racing all weekend long. I drove his car that evening to get used to the pedal setup, shifter, etc. Cars with twin Hellion turbos don’t react the same as your ordinary car, obviously. At this point, I’m getting nervous about tomorrow’s debut on the drag strip. My last trip down the 1/4 mile was in 1965.


SATURDAY


The next day, we awoke early, drank a few cups of coffee and got to Speedworld after about a half-hour drive. We signed in, and got in line for Tech Inspection. Both my helmet and the car passed. We then proceeded to the pit area and waited for the track to start the first of its runs. This is where the tension really started to build. Gary made his first run in the mid 12’s at about 115 mph, after which he rolled back to the pits and popped the hood open to help cool off the engine in between runs. It was about this time that two of his racing buddies arrived. We got acquainted and looked over their cars. Dave had a Buick Grand National and the other guy, Troy, who is Gary’s mechanic, pulled up in a 1932 hi-boy coupe sporting a blown, small block, Ford engine. He made several passes with a best of 9.97 seconds at 137 mph, but left with a touchy torque converter. Dave made several passes in his Buick Grand National (more on this later). Okay my turn to run the 1/4 mile. Gary instructs me with about 20 to-do’s, half of which I forgot or couldn’t do. I put on my helmet and jacket, turned off the traction control, checked the tachometer, checked the boost setting and was ready for my first burnout in this car. I rolled into and through the water box and lit the tires up with okay results. I inched up to stage at the Christmas tree but could barely see the staging lights because the sun was directly in my eyes. I was already nervous when I noticed it getting pretty warm inside of the car. I began thinking that the car was overheating — until I noticed that Gary left the heater on full furnace blast to help cool the engine after his last run. I tried to inch up to staging line but my left leg was shaking so badly by now that I had to keep the clutch depressed and needed to put my left hand on my knee to give it support. Then I thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” I finally staged and waited for the progression of the yellow lights. On the green light, I launched with the best of my ability. I got my three shifts in and made it onto the return road with a great amount of relief. I ran a 14.4 ET at about 101 mph. Very slow, but I got rid of the nervousness and had settled down after that initial run. See video.

I made a total of about six runs with my best time being a 14.09 ET with a top speed of 108 mph (turbo boost setting was set at half for my runs). 6-speed Challengers are notorious for not being launch-friendly until you have about 150 passes with it. Gary made about six runs and got a low of 12.14 ET at 120 mph. That’s the second lowest ET for a 6-speed on the ChallengerTalk.com forum, so he was happy from that point forward. His goal for next week is to get into the 11’s with new tires, wheels and stronger axles.

We left Speedworld for the day, went out for an early dinner, went home to feed the dogs then set out again for an evening racing session. We had to re-pay and re-pass the tech inspection but did noticed that the temperature was now down to 43 degrees. We waited for some of the other cars to make a few runs to warm up the track for us. I made my first evening run and got a fair launch, shifted to 2nd gear and the rear end started to skate from side to side. I hit 3rd gear and it stared to skate again due to poor traction, but I stayed in it without lifting my foot from the pedal both times, In the end, the tire spin hurt my elapsed time and top speed.

Gary’s friend Dave asked me if I would like to take his car for a pass. It took me .0082 milliseconds to answer in the affirmative. This is a supercharged Buick Grand National built in 1987 and seemed to be very fast considering it only had a V-6 in it. He gave me some instructions on how to drive it and I left for the staging area. This Buick had an automatic transmission in it. I did my burn out, then staged with the Christmas tree. On the green light, I hit it and I was off for the ride of my life. I was definitely scared by how fast I was going but stayed in it the whole time. I stopped by the booth to pick up my time slip for the run and it was an 11.60 ET at 118 mph. Not bad, I thought. A while later, he said do you want to go again, so I made two more passes with each improving on my time. He saw that I was getting close to his personal best, so he set up the blower boost and he met me at the staging area. He guided me into the water box, watched my burnout, lined me up on a good spot on the track and told be to watch the boost gauge and jack the car. I took off on a perfect launch and reigned in an 11.43 ET. When I rolled into the pits, he had a grin ear to ear. Gary said he jumped up and down when he saw my ET flash on the track board. Dave then said he wanted to make a pass but only ran a 11.45 ET, so that made me feel extra good. His next run was an 11.41 ET, so that made him feel extra good. Closing time was 11:00 pm so, sadly, we had to leave for the day.


SUNDAY


Sunday morning couldn’t come fast enough. We got to the track when it opened and Gary and I both made a few passes. We were careful all weekend about not to break anything on the car, because it was my ride back to the airport as Gary’s wife was away with their other car. It got towards the late afternoon and things were winding down. At this point I was feeling like I didn’t do too well in the Challenger. Slow times I know. I missed a shift and that slowed my speed, but oh well.

Just then someone came over to me and said they want to get a video of both of the Challengers in a drag race, since we were the only two Challengers out there. I knew the other Challenger was running mid to high 13’s so in order to beat him, I would have to make my best run ever with Gary’s car. A loss at this point would just ruin my weekend.

We drove to the starting line with him making the lane choice for his 2010 Detonator Yellow SRT Challenger. We staged, the light flashed and he jumped me out of the hole by over a car length. 5500 RPM — Bam! I made my 1st to 2nd shift and caught up to his rear fender. Bam! 2nd to 3rd shift, and I was at his door. Bam! 3rd to 4th gear, and I caught him at the 1,000 foot light and could see the finish line up ahead and started praying that this turbocharged monster that I was driving would keep pulling — and it did. I beat the other Challenger. I went to get my time slip and I was never so happy. My time was 13.60 ET to his 13.85 ET. My speed was 112.75 mph. This was the perfect ending to a perfect weekend. This race can be seen on the video below.

For the weekend, I was able to improve my time by about half second from worst to best. Now, I’m very encouraged that with more seat time that I’ll get those launches down.

I Hope you enjoyed the read. –Bill (aka CrankCase)

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