Old meets new: Jeff Teuton...
Old meets new: Jeff Teuton faces off against a first-year B-Body at Indy. Jeff had a good year in 2011 with a Stock Eliminator win at Indy.
They're winning races and going quicker and faster each time out. That's what you heard about the Max Wedge cars and the 426 Hemi-powered Darts and Barracudas long ago. Now you're hearing it about Mopar's factory-built Challenger Drag Pak cars.
We spoke with people who are working on, racing, and winning with them to find out more about Ma Mopar's latest factory race car.
Larry Griffith, co-author of the Authenticity Guide to the '09 Challenger Drag Pak cars, says he's now ready to update his. "What we'll do is go back, and do a little more detail [we need] to make one of those engines live, and work with all of the do's and don'ts," he says.
Read it and weep--Larry Griffith's...
Read it and weep--Larry Griffith's lightweight LY ran a 9.59/138.2 last fall, and he says it's got potential to run in the 9.40s. Charlie Fitzsimmons filled in for Griffith at Indy last year, and made a strong showing in the Arrington-powered ride.
That work of Griffith and his partner, Larry Pontnack, led to one of their Drag Pak Challengers running a winning 9.59-second e.t. at 138.2 mph at Cordova Dragway Park in late November. "We know we can make it run 9.40s," says Pontnack of their cars' potential. "There's no doubt in my mind that we can run 9.40s."
One place it may do that is at Gainesville Raceway, at the Tire Kingdom Gatornationals. "That's the plan right now," says Griffith. "One of our cars will run at Gainesville."
The one they take there will benefit from what they learned about the factory LY-Body race cars, along with their own speed secrets. "We can give you a lot of that," Griffith adds, "but for a lot of the engine and little parts, we're going to [work] with Arrington Performance."
Drag Pak Challengers are approved...
Drag Pak Challengers are approved to use a 360 Magnum, a late-model Hemi, or the new Viper engine, depending on the class they run in. An Arrington-built 6.1 Hemi produces at least 640 horsepower for Larry Griffith's Challenger.
Griffith and Pontnack run engines built by Arrington Performance, and the engine builder there who specializes in Drag Pak engines, Danny Glad, says their 6.1 Hemi can make as much as 640 reliable horsepower. "We've had really good luck with those engines," says Danny. "It's hard to believe that you can run a Stock Eliminator engine with that displacement and make 640 horsepower. It really amazes me how those engines can make that kind of power."
And they're doing it within NHRA's rules for Stock classes. "You have to run the stock main caps and the stock block," Danny adds, "and you have to run a stock crankshaft, too."
That's where Danny's skills as an engine builder (whose experience includes building engines for Alan Kulwicki's NACAR Winston Cup team during their 1992 championship season) comes in. "Basically, what you're doing is blueprinting it," he says. "They give you a .015-inch tolerance on the stroke, so you want to carry that out to the max—just shy a couple thousandths for error in measurement in the tech line."
What happened to Drag Pak...
What happened to Drag Pak Challenger number 001?
Danny says that their race engines are good for about 60 runs before a rebuild is needed, plus there's no problem getting parts for them. "All the major manufacturers have parts," he says. "You can run aftermarket rods, like a K1 or a Manley; you can run an aftermarket piston, but it has to be approved with an NHRA part number on it. JE Pistons has one, and Mahle has one."
All that reliable power needs a chassis that can turn it into win-light-lighting e.t.'s. That's where another specialist at Arrington, Jason Hensley, comes in.
According to Jason, the lightweight Challengers needed to go on a diet. "The biggest problem with them, when you get them, is the weight distribution," he says. "They're so front-heavy that they're really hard to get enough weight out of the car, so that you can put ballast in the rear to get the weight distribution to where it needs to be."
One trick: Swap the spindles. "They come with the SRT8 front spindles," Jason says. "The R/T spindles are a couple pounds lighter a side, so we get a set of R/T spindles and make those work."
In back, ride height is critical. "One time before I went to the track, I put the car on the scales and set it up, and found a ride height that I really wanted to go with," he recalls. "Once I got to the track, the car wouldn't do anything—it spun every time. I raised it up half an inch in the rear, which changed the rear geometry on the four-link by changing the instant center point a little bit. Once I did that, the car worked really good, and I liked the change." Unfortunately, another half inch didn't lead to any improvement. In fact, he says, the car handled worse than it originally did.
Based on the '11 Challenger,...
Based on the '11 Challenger, and finished in Stock and Super Stock Eliminator trim, the '11 Drag Pak car with a V-10 was and still is the only V-10–powered Drag race package car.
Jason also says that shock tuning helps in getting the Drag Pak cars down the track, but there's not a lot else that can be done trackside. "You really have to get it almost spot-on before you even make a pass on the car," he says. "The front weight is so heavy, and the ride height is real sensitive as to what it needs. They're pretty tough to get down the track initially, but once you get 'em, they're not too bad."
Describing Jeff Teuton's run in Stock Eliminator at the MAC Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis last year as "not bad" is a huge understatement. After winning his A/Stock Automatic class, Jeff—a longtime Mopar racer—bested a field of 127 other doorslammers for the Stock Eliminator crown. "Yeah, we snuck up on 'em when they weren't looking, and I got ahead of 'em," he says.
That took a car that ran consistently. "It just worked good, back-to-back-to-back," Jeff adds. "All you've got to do is get in there and drive, but it's pretty steady.
Along with the chassis, they had their 6.1 Hemi dialed in. "We got the horsepower pulled down to where it wouldn't spin the tires, and we got the weight where it likes," he says. "It just ran rounds!"
With the information they gained, especially last season, the Griffith and Teuton Challengers, and other lightweight LYs, will be strong runners again in NHRA's Stock classes.
We really wish this paint...
We really wish this paint scheme would've been picked up by someone. We like the throw-back to the Sox & Martin team.
Jeff says they'll have one of the '11 V-10–powered Challenger Drag Paks to race in 2012, along with their Hemi V-8–powered ones. "We're going to have the 360 in our blue car like we did this past year," Jeff says, "and we're going to have the red Challenger, which more than likely will either be a 6.1 or a 6.4. It'll probably alternate back between a five-speed and an automatic."
Meanwhile, Larry Griffith says he and Larry Pontnack will focus on NHRA's Division 5 at the tracks closest to their home base in Illinois.
What do they think of the Drag Pak cars in Auburn Hills? "We've been very happy with the program," says Dale Aldo, Mopar Motorsports' marketing manager. "The customers have taken the cars and done a fantastic job."
Yes, that's a V-10 in a Challenger...
Yes, that's a V-10 in a Challenger Drag Pak. Yes, you'll see it on the strip in 2012.
Dale adds, "It's been a fun thing to see this, because these cars are the grandsons of the original '68 Hemi 'Cudas and Darts, and people have really embraced them. It's been a joy for everybody here at Mopar to be associated with them."
And it gives you a good reason to stay in your seat at the drags when the Stock cars roll up to the line!