The day started dark and gloomy. Rain fell the whole time I drove out on the 210 freeway to Fontana, strong enough to hydro-plane on the freeway.

I had mixed feelings about the weather. I hate rain and the coldness, but I was looking forward to driving in the conditions so I could really play around and get a feel for the cars on a wet surface. Since purchasing my Dodge Challenger, any time it has rained, I had been worried about the high torque of the car and the traction of the F1 Goodyear radial tires.

The entrance to Auto Club Speedway was impressive. Dark clouds gave the track an imposing silhouette and I took a couple of pictures immediately after parking.

I was the first to arrive, but soon after people began streaming in to the breakfast area. They had set up a buffet featuring eggs, bacon, pork sausage links, pastries and pretty decent coffee. By my third cup, Bill (aka CrankCase) and Rob (aka JaqDRipper) had arrived and the day began.

Ricky, the head instructor and leader of team Shake n’ Bake (the team Bill and I were eventually assigned to), welcomed us to the event and went through a quick Power Point presentation regarding the SRT division and product line. At the end of the presentation, they broke us into two teams of approximately ten people, Team Shake n’ Bake and Team Buttercup.

The morning events were driving the road course and autocross.

Team Shake n’ Bake began at the road course, which was a quick loop inside the large NASCAR track at the speedway. This is when the fun began.

As you can see, not only was it wet and rainy, but there were pools of standing water to contend with.

There were three Chrysler 300C SRT’s, three Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT’s, three Dodge Challenger 392’s, two 2011 Dodge Charger R/T’s, and one Dodge Challenger R/T. We broke into groups of two and piled into the back two of each group. The front car was driven by an instructor and our goal was to follow the instructor’s line around the track, keeping no less than two car lengths from his rear bumper.

Right away, we knew it was going to be a blast. The cars were drifting all over the place, but never out of control. It was exhilarating to push the limits of the cars on every single turn, hit the apex, and accelerate out, feeling the back end slide out just a bit until the power corrected the vehicle. I know I got the car sideways a couple of times before correcting it. I have never had so much fun inside a vehicle in my life. The 392’s were especially squirrely, thanks to the power. I managed to, literally, get the Dodge Challenger sideways on the track before counter-steering and dropping the hammer. We reached speeds above 100 mph on the straights and I recall looking down while drifting through a turn to see my speedometer was above 65 mph.

We each got at least one run in each of the vehicles. In the rain, the Jeep Grand Cherokees were FANTASTIC. If any of you get a chance to drive one, please do. The power of these engines with all-wheel-drive is a BEAUTIFUL combination. There wasn’t a single instance of body roll when it was wet (though later in the day when it was dryer the body roll was a little too much).

Unfortunately, the rain and the concentration from driving prevented me from taking many pictures, but they gave each of us our own USB drive that we plugged into the vehicles to record our runs.

When our time was up at the road course, we all caravanned over to the autocross area.

The autocross was a coned course in a parking lot, only two feet wider than the vehicles themselves. The goal was to get around the track as quickly as possible — without knocking over any cones. For each cone you knocked over, you were penalized two seconds. We received two runs in the 392 Dodge Challenger and two runs in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Bill got the fastest time in our group — a 36.5.

Once autocross was done, the groups came together for lunch which consisted of Macaroni and Cheese, Chicken-Andouille and BBQ pulled pork. GREAT food.

After lunch, the groups went off to the afternoon sessions, which were a head-to-head competition and the performance driving course. Team Shake n’ Bake started with the performance driving course, which was the same as the morning road course, but at higher speeds, and they replaced the R/T’s with another Dodge Challenger 392 and a 2010 Dodge Charger SRT. By now it had stopped raining long enough for a dry line to develop and we powered around the course once more. This time the instructor’s really opened up and we had some real racing (no passing though).

Afterwards, Team Shake n’ Bake went to the head-to-head competition, which was a track similar to the autocross track, but there were two people racing against each other. The winner of each heat was the first one to finish with less penalties (for knocking over cones or not coming to a complete stop inside the box).

We started on R/T’s and did three runs with them, then switched over to 392’s. It had rained again and was getting pretty cold, so we were all spinning the tires off of the line. At the end, we even had an instructor do the course and he ended up knocking over more cones than anyone else.

The last activity of the day we all got a ride along in a 392 with a driver. To be honest, they didn’t go much faster than we had around the track, hitting only 107 mph on the straightaways, and they seemed a lot sloppier around the turns.

We ended with a prize ceremony for the fastest of the day in autocross and the winning team (Team Shake n’ Bake).

All in all, it was a fantastic day. I met some cool people, gave out some cards (so we might have a couple guests to some events in the future), and just had a BLAST. I highly recommend the SRT Track Experience to EVERYONE!

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A good friend of mine invited me to be on his pit crew for their racing weekend at Kingdon Drag Strip. Without a second thought I accepted the invitation and began preparing for the trip to his house located on a wine vineyard in Lodi, CA.

I washed and readied the RV for the seven hour drive. To get a good start, I spent the night prior to departure sleeping in the RV. Four o’clock rolled around pretty fast, so I had a cup of coffee and got on the road heading for north I-5.

I arrived at Doug and Patty’s place about 11 a.m. and sounded my air horns to warn them of my arrival. They greeted me at the front gate and we said our hello’s. Doug’s daughter noticed that the tree branches overhanging the driveway were blocking my entrance, so without another word she pulled a large ladder and a pair of lopping shears out from the garage and proceeded to cut an entry way for me. After we positioned my RV, we talked about our plans for the weekend.

Friday was used to haul the enclosed trailer containing the dragster out to Kingdon Drag Strip to grab the best spot in the pits. We got the best spot for us, then unloaded the equipment and set up the huge Easy-Up canopy. That evening, we dined at a fabulous Italian restaurant where I enjoyed a huge breaded veal cutlet, salad, clam chowder soup, home made bread and a few glasses of Merlot.

We awoke early Saturday morning and drove the five miles to the drag strip. Several hours of car preparation and a few more of waiting took us up to around noon. We finally got the word that the dragsters were going to be called to the starting line. We towed the car to the pre-staging area and waited for their signal, thinking we had plenty of time before our run. Suddenly they said, “your next!” So, what normally takes five minutes had to be compressed into one minute or less. Lori, Doug and Patty’s daughter, rushed to get into her flame retardant racing suit, squeezed into the cockpit, then was belted firmly into the seat. Hans device adjusted, harness adjusted, then the gloves were systematically placed on her hands. Everything ready? Let’s hope so. The power cable was attached and Doug added fuel from a plastic squirt bottle into a small orifice atop the fuel injectors. Lori hit the switch and the big 400 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi engine came to life. It seemed to misfire a few times, something seemed wrong and Lori began waving her hands as if to tell us there is a problem. She kept the engine running but it sounded like it was going to quit any second. That’s when I noticed that we didn’t remove the towel from the air scoop. We ran over, pulled the towel out — problem solved. Things like that happen when you’re rushed.

Now that the car was running like it should, she inched her way to the starting line and as the car was rolling, my job was to wipe the right side tire of all rocks and debris. Note to self: … in the future, don’t wear shorts as the exhaust is belching out hot exhaust on bare skin. The signal was given and in a huge roar and wisps of blue tire smoke, the dragster was propelled down the asphalt similar to an airplane being catapulted off an aircraft carrier. Nothing better than being five feet away from all this action. It was truly an amazing sight seeing this car go from a dead stop to about 180 miles per hour.

We hopped in the bed of the push truck and met Lori at the far end of the track, where we then discussed the launching procedures and readied the dragster to be pulled back to the pits.

There was some technical difficulty with the electrical system at the track, so the clocks weren’t working all day, so we could only guess her elapsed time and speed.

The car was raised on stands so the valves could be adjusted and to prepare the car for the next run. At this point a problem developed. The motor wouldn’t turn over by way of the starter, so Fred, a pit crewman, crawled under the car, tool in hand, and attempted to crank the motor. It wouldn’t budge so we knew this was serious. After much discussion and advice from several other drag racing mechanics, the general consensus was that a connecting rod bearing had spun and seized the crankshaft. Other guesses were blower seizure or transmission failure. That put the car back on the trailer because these are not quick and easy fixes. Such is the life of a drag racer. Months and months of preparation, thousands of dollars spent and weeks of planning all come to a screeching halt — all over what might turn out to be a ten dollar part.

I know everyone was disappointed, including myself, but I lived a dream that I’ve had since I was 14 years old — to be on a pit crew of a blown, injected, Hemi dragster. It took a few years, but it finally happened. I’ll throw this one in my “Bucket List.”

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As recently reported in our club news section, Kenne Bell Picks WCC Member for New Supercharger Kit for the 5.7L Hemi, here is MrJ’s story:

During the Spring Fest 6 event, I had a conversation with another West Coast Challengers club member (dahboom) about how cool it would be to get one of our cars sponsored. Coincidentally, not too long after that, one of our club members (raVenX) posted a link from a Dodge Challenger enthusiast website on our club’s forum which alerted us all to an announcement by Kenne Bell, that the supercharger giant was looking for a test vehicle for their new supercharger system for the 5.7L Hemi Challenger. Believe it or not, I was very hesitant to inquire about it, but I thought that this might be my lucky break. My conclusion was that if I didn’t choose to accept the offer, that I would be left hanging with the idea of what my car would feel like with a supercharger. So, I submitted my information to Kenne Bell and crossed my fingers hoping that my car would be the one selected.

I was contacted by Kenne Bell the following day and was asked to send them more information about my car for further evaluation. The strange part about this whole process was that Kenne Bell didn’t directly tell me that my car was already selected. I was still anxiously waiting for them to give me the green light. A few days later I get another call, but this time it was good news I was hoping for. I was asked when I would be able to drop my car off. In other words, my car was selected! I dropped it off that same day. I was told it was going to take a minimum of one month, but there wasn’t a definite date. Being very busy at school during the wait helped me keep my mind off of the car. Three months later I was notified that my car was finally ready to be picked up.

I showed up at Kenne Bell’s location in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. Once I saw my car sitting in the parking lot with a Kenne Bell sticker across the windshield, I couldn’t do anything but smile. I have seen it on other supercharged cars, but it felt good knowing that it was now my car behind this sticker. I got in my car and took it for a spin with a Kenne Bell representative. The car almost sounds and feels like stock at low RPM’s, but once the RPM’s begin climbing, the well known whine from the Kenne Bell supercharger quickly becomes apparent. The car is now extremely responsive and surprisingly smooth. I was told the car would be a whole different animal — and they weren’t lying! The final dyno numbers were 480 rwhp / 490 rwtq, 565 flywheel hp, 576 flywheel torque! Pretty amazing!

I am extremely happy to be a part of Kenne Bell family and even happier to finally have my car back. Would I recommend a Kenne Bell supercharger to another Dodge Challenger owner? — Absolutely!!

** MrJ’s R/T Challenger was used a the test vehicle for Kenne Bell’s new 5.7L Hemi supercharger kit and the test vehicle used to submit the new supercharger application to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for emissions testing. We are happy to report that the Kenne Bell supercharger setup passed the strict CARB standards with flying colors. Because of this, no one desiring to install a Kenne Bell supercharger need worry anymore of whether or not their car will pass emissions testing after the install. In exchange for the use of his vehicle for testing, MrJ received the Kenne Bell supercharger kit as well as all parts and labor for free.

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