When it was announced that Chrysler would be returning to the factory wars of drag racing back in 2008, nobody was quite sure how it would work out. Blending the past with modern touches had resulted in the return of the Challenger, and the new Drag Pak version of that body design would be the first race-only package Chrysler had built since the 1968 Hemi Darts and Barracudas. The cars were delivered unfinished, to deliberately let the owners build them to their specifications, and Chrysler filed paperwork with NHRA regarding the engine legality, offering the 5.7, 6.1, and later 7.0.
For Jeff Teuton, and the family and crew out of Southland Dodge’s Louisiana-based race team, racing the new cars has been a labor of love. Based out of Houma, the Teutons have been noted campaigners in the Chrysler sportsman ranks for decades; stepping into the latest iron was a natural.
“To date, I’ve probably done more with these Drag Paks than anyone else,” says the dealership owner and long-time sportsman racer. “We did development for some of the first ones, and I did some of the race work on the prototype V-10 as well. We’ve run a bunch of them.”
The V-10 was the latest version, using a specially-tuned Viper engine installed into the Challenger body. Released as a drag-only package as well, it arrived just as Ford and GM got serious again, and began doing package Mustangs and Camaros that were supercharged. As a result, the factory wars are back, so we traveled to Gainesville, Florida, last March to watch how a weekend of racing a multi-car sportsman team works.
On hand at the NHRA Gatornationals were three of the five Drag Paks that the team owns. Jeff was in the blue car in Super Stock, and driver Kevin Helms was in both the red car in Factory Stock, and the V-10 car in Super Stock. The V-10 had formerly been slated for Factory Stock as well, but due to its lack of competitiveness against the supercharged competition, it was instead classed into SS/DA. Classed in A and B categories, Factory Stock is a recently-devised, heads-up class that NHRA runs at specific national events. Following Gainesville, the rules were revised to move the V-10s away from the supercharged cars into FS/B with additional weight.
The 2010 blue car is well-traveled, having won Stock Eliminator at Indy back in 2011 using a Magnum engine. It again made a highly visible statement at Indy last year, when it was driven by young Joseph Teuton, and went almost up on the back bumper several times. This was in Factory Stock trim, using a Gen II 426 engine and weight removed. Here in Florida, the blue car was a little tamer. “Right now, it’s got a 12-year-old 360 crate engine in it that we used to run in Top Stock,” laughs Jeff. “It’s not too fast, but it’ll go rounds; just right for a 70-year-old!”
One thing about the legality of the all the Drag Paks are their diversity. With the fuel-injected old school 360, Jeff says the blue car will fit into three Super Stock GT classes based on car weight; swap in 5.7 or 6.1, it will go into three regular Super Stock classes based on the weight changes. Put a 426 aluminum crate engine in it, and it will run in Factory Stock/B, which has a 3,350 pound minimum, with engines between 400-450 cid (and a 392 engine would get to run on a 3,250 pound minimum, since it is under 400 cid).
Meanwhile, the 2010 red car driven by Helms, who is a noted bracket racer and a full-time employee of the team, was in FS/B at Gainesville, using the 426 crate engine. After swapping out the differential before Valdosta, the car did several big wheelies before it settled down; it clocked 140 mph before the weekend was over. This car and combination can run in three classes in Stock as well –AA, BB, CC – but the 426 combo is not legal in the Super Stock GT categories.
“It would be able to fit in there if they made the weight break a little lighter, to run GT/AA on the 8.00 pound weight-break, it would need to weigh over 3,700 pounds,” Kevin told us. “Get something down to about 6.00 or so, and we could do something.”
Since all of these various legal V-8 combinations between the cars can be swapped out, and since they all use fuel injection due to the modern body design, dialing the combinations in is part of the process. John Morris, the team’s race mechanic, has worked with Jeff for 30 years, and told us about some of the effort that goes into the change.
“We will decide what classes to run before we leave home. If we change from, say, the 6.1 to the 5.7, we only need to hook things up and flash the computer; it takes a few minutes,” he told us. “But if we are going to the 360 crate engine or a 426 from that 5.7, we reinstall a whole different computer because we have different fuel system manufacturers – FAST, AEM and Big Stuff – for each engine combination.”
John also makes sure things stay running. At Gainesville, Kevin’s fresh engine actually tore up an SFI-certified flexplate on Thursday; nobody else had the unique unit for the late-model Hemi at the track, but another Florida, racer named Mac Reeves had one and agreed to meet Kevin in Ocala, with it that afternoon. As a result of the breakage, Kevin was not able to get to the FS/B class final against David Barton’s Challenger, but was able to have a car to race the rest of the weekend after they put it in overnight. First thing Friday morning, the car was running much better; so much so, in fact, that Kevin lost on a double breakout and his weekend was over.
Jeff was having his own share of frustrations. Part of the challenge at this point in the season was not being able to test much before this race, though the team had run at the NHRA point race in Valdosta, Georgia, prior to coming to the Sunshine State. “One day, we were ready to go to No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, and had to go back to the shop to fix the generator on the truck. It was only going to take a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, the street outside the shop gets blocked for a Mardi Gras parade! So we lose another day; that’s the sort of year it’s been.” Says Jeff
The blue car was in GT/HA and went rounds at Valdosta, before it broke a differential in the third round; the team worked to change it, but it was late enough in the event, that the clock ran out and they were wheeling it out of the trailer when Super Stock began running down the track again. Now, running in GT/IA at the Gators, the car shifted down into first gear during class eliminations due to a faulty chip used in the transmission, though Jeff won the class when his opponent was a no-show.
The first-second shift can be done using a solenoid. Unfortunately, an rpm-based fuse that holds the solenoid closed in second gear had fried. Jeff wisely lifted as the engine rpm went sky-high. Once the problem was found, a heavy-handed hammer made sure that particular chip would not create problems again. “What do you do?” he shrugs. “That’s never happened before.”
Ready for action, he won the opening round of eliminations, but, like Kevin, fell to a double-breakout (both racers below their dialed index number) in round two on Saturday. As Kevin had been taken down in the V-10 in round one, the team was packing up by Saturday afternoon.
“We wanted to have our A game here, but it just didn’t work out,” Jeff says. “We’ve got a lot of promises, but we’ve also got no parts for our A-game yet. Our real problem has been the lack of parts; we have supported Mopar and tried to get what we need, but there was a lot of stuff that just started arriving. We have some things we want to change, like the adjustable roller-rocker arms, so we can remain competitive, but not having that available before the season started makes it frustrating for us. But we’ll be back.”
Weapon of choice for the current season is seven liters in this 2010 Challenger, which was
The latest engine was this 426 gen III Hemi that was built for this car to race in Factory
Kevin also wheels the team’s V-10-powered edition, which has made strong showings in the c
The Viper V10 has also been worked for horsepower, and gets the most attention in the pits
The blue 2009 car is well-traveled and has been driven by several people; it was one of th
How versatile is it? The blue car, after running with 426 gen-three power at Indy, now hos