Cus­tomer-Owned Demons Face Off

Dodge De­mon Own­ers Race For Cash at the In­au­gu­ral De­mon In­vi­ta­tional

Hot Rod - - Contents - Elana Scherr

h“Hey, wanna come to an all–Dodge De­mon shootout?”

That was our in­vite from Bran­don Mass of Mass Trac­tion to join his team at No Prob­lem Race­way in Belle Rose, Louisiana, as they and the Mod­ern Street Hemi Shootout club co­hosted the first com­pe­ti­tion of Dodge’s 840hp, street-le­gal drag car. “Does any­one even have a De­mon de­liv­ered yet?” we asked, to which the an­swer was, “We only need two to race.”

As it turns out, there were four Demons run­ning for the cash prize in Fe­bru­ary, and all of them were in­tensely fo­cused and en­thu­si­as­tic about rac­ing, as you’d ex­pect of the sort of per­son who buys a new $90,000 car and takes it straight to the dragstrip. One of the cars had less than 100 miles on it!

At the time of this writ­ing, no other Demons have run against each other in com­pe­ti­tion, aside from Dodge press drives, so we’re go­ing to call Ron Silva of Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia, the de­fend­ing cham­pion, as he has the honor of be­ing the first civil­ian De­mon owner to put one in the 9-sec­ond e.t. range—a 9.94 at 136.47 mph feat ac­com­plished at Auto Club Famoso Race­way in Bak­ers­field, Cal­i­for­nia, at around pass num­ber 40 or so on the car. Silva is no stranger to HOT ROD, his 1971 De­mon and 1967 Valiant could be used to de­fine the term “sleeper.”

“You know what my other cars were like,” Silva told us, “so you shouldn’t be sur­prised that I or­dered the De­mon as soon as I heard ru­mor of its ex­is­tence. A street-le­gal drag car

in the 10-sec­ond range? That’s ex­actly what I wanted—this car was built for me.”

Silva’s sin­gle-seat car, No. 0465, is the most mod­i­fied of the Demons at the track for this event, with Forge­line rear wheels wrapped in 305/45-18 Mickey Thomp­son ET Street Rs, held on with ti­ta­nium lug nuts. “Don’t go telling ev­ery­one about those lug nuts; they take some spe­cial treat­ment—the av­er­age per­son shouldn’t use them,” Silva says. The tune is stock, straight out of the crate, run­ning a mix of SS100 and VPMS109, and he swapped out the street air fil­ter for the thin­ner, high-flow­ing race ver­sion; other than that, no ni­trous, no pul­ley changes, just fac­tory De­mon and a lot of prac­tice. At the end of the test-and-tune at No Prob­lem Race­way, he’d pulled off a 10.06.

In a car al­most the twin of Silva’s is Neph­tali Garibay out of Laredo, Texas. Garibay brought three dif­fer­ent sets of wheels and tires to try out var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions, but likes the same setup as Silva, the MT 305s. “The Nit­tos are hard to launch and the Hoosiers bog and walk,” he says.

Garibay’s car is No. 0550, and un­like Silva, he or­dered the full in­te­rior. “My daugh­ters love it. Nor­mally, my older girl doesn’t want me to pick her up from school, but now she and her friends all wait out front for me.” He says he en­joys shar­ing the car with peo­ple. “I give rides. That’s what got me hooked—back in the day, a ride in a fast car. I want to give that back.” Be­fore to­day, Garibay’s best time was a 10.50, but he was down to 10.10 by the end of the test-and-tune. He wants to give Silva a run for the money—and it’s a lot of money. Mass Trac­tion put up $2,000 for the win­ner of the shootout, and with only four driv­ers in the run­ning, the odds are good for any­one to take it.

With­out tak­ing any­thing away from Silva and Garibay, we have to say the most im­pres­sive De­mon per­for­mance of the first day was turned in by Nancy Gennarelli from North Carolina. Al­though she and her hus­band, Al, have a 9-sec­ond Hell­cat, nei­ther of them had been be­hind the wheel of their

brand-new De­mon, No. 0515. The sil­ver devil gave Gennarelli a hard time at the start, but by the end of the day, she’d worked her way down from a 10.66 to a 10.17, and that was on the stock Nitto tires. “We’re chas­ing that num­ber,” she tells us. “We don’t care about the money, we want that 9-sec­ond pass.”

If you think Nancy is a badass for show­ing up to race a car she’s never raced be­fore, how about Kristin No­tar­i­ano? Kristin and her hus­band, Kelly, showed up in an F8-green De­mon (car No. 0637), and not only had Kristin not driven it be­fore on track, she’d only ever driven once on track in any­thing! “It was a pickup truck, about 15 years ago,” she says, and we ap­plaud any­one whose first com­pe­ti­tion is in an 808hp mon­ster. Note that 808, not 840, be­cause the No­tar­i­anos kept their beast on pump gas, while the other three had a mix of pump and high oc­tane to un­lock Drag Mode and an ex­tra 32 ponies.

Satur­day morn­ing dawns cool and wet. No Prob­lem Race­way is bor­dered by swamp­land, and in the Cy­press trees, a mass of birds with voices like alarm bells ex­press their dis­plea­sure about our pres­ence, or maybe they were ex­cited for the day’s rac­ing? The De­mon in­spires a range of opin­ions from scorn to de­sire. In its own­ers, there is noth­ing but en­thu­si­asm for the race. Silva is the first car in the lanes, and be­fore the track ro­ta­tor has even cleared off to the side, he is in the beams and head­ing to­ward the score­boards: 10.10. A red Hell­cat fol­lows in the burnout box. Re­mem­ber when the Hell­cat was the flashy, new car at a dragstrip? Now it seems down­right sub­dued, even when there’s post-burnout tire smoke seep­ing out of ev­ery panel gap, around the gas cap and side-marker lights, a haze of ready-to-launch horse­power.

Along with the De­mon race, the Mod­ern Street Hemi Shootout is run­ning its nor­mal Su­per Pro and In­dex classes, so there are plenty of heav­ily mod­i­fied Hell­cats, Scat Packs, and SRT Jeeps. As the De­mon own­ers inch closer to the 9s, sev­eral Hell­cats and two Jeeps are al­ready there. The big dif­fer­ence? Psssssh. All the 9-sec­on­ders are on the gas, and we don’t mean the throt­tle pedal.

Silva gets back in the lanes and runs a 10.33. We meet him in the pits af­ter­ward to ask what went wrong and he laughs. “Noth­ing! I had it on the 808 tune with a bunch of weight in the back. I want to run the 10.5 class as well as the De­mon and the bracket race, so I want to fig­ure out how to slow the car down enough.” He pops the trunk and starts feed­ing in ev­ery­thing he can find to weigh it down—the De­mon-branded jack, the air com­pres­sor, and sand­bags.

Mean­while, one pit over, Al and Nancy Gennarelli are pulling out weight. “The other two guys are run­ning in the 10.00s,”

she tells us, “and the only dif­fer­ence is the tires and the pas­sen­ger seat.” Al swaps off the Nit­tos to the same Mickey Thomp­son ET Street Rs first thing in the morn­ing and wres­tles the seats out. Nancy suits up, rolls through the lanes, and runs a 10.10. Note to own­ers, take the seat out. As the Gennarel­lis learn, so does the car. On Fri­day, the shifts in the un­raced De­mon seemed softer than those in Silva and Garibay’s cars, but a few passes into Satur­day’s warm-up and Nancy is run­ning right on the num­ber, hit­ting just as hard. It’s in­ter­est­ing to watch the self-learn­ing tech­nol­ogy at work. “It sure is dif­fer­ent from twist­ing the dis­tributer, eh?” we joke to Silva, who grins ear to ear.

The Demons hot-lap and the day heats up: 10.10, 10.10, 10.12. 10.09, 10.10. Four dif­fer­ent cars, four dif­fer­ent driv­ers, and all run­ning within thou­sandths of each other. Even Kristin and Kelly, with just three passes on the car and hand­i­capped by fuel and tires are run­ning 10.30s. Among the cars that have cracked that 10-sec­ond bar­rier, at­tri­tion is seep­ing in. The high qual­i­fier, Ge­orge Mueller in a 2007 SRT Jeep, blows a head gas­ket. A mist­imed ni­trous blast turns the roar of a burnout into the heart-break­ing THUCK of a hy­dro-locked en­gine for a bright­green Hell­cat that had pre­vi­ously been deep in the 9s. The Demons march on: 10.10, 10.12, 10.07, 10.10.

Elim­i­na­tions be­gin. Garibay and Gennarelli are out of the bracket race fast, a break-out for one and just plain out-race­crafted for the other. “He ran an 0.11 on an 0.11 dial with a per­fect light!” Silva goes rounds in both bracket and 10.5. The Demons go against one another. Gennarelli takes out No­tar­i­ano. Silva takes out Garibay, a 10.10 to a 10.12. Silva is hus­tling, out of bracket, but still in the 10.5 class, and try­ing to cool off the car to face Gennarelli in the fi­nal. He’s got some­thing like 22 passes on the car in the past 24 hours, but it keeps run­ning the num­ber.

The De­mon was built to drag race. If you saw any of the FCA mar­ket­ing in the past year, you know that it of­fers util­i­ties nor­mally only found in track-only machines Line-Lock for bet­ter burnouts with no rear-brake wear and tear, Trans Brake to hold the car at the line, Torque Re­serve (Two Step) to build boost. The four De­mon own­ers at No Prob­lem were play­ing with these op­tions, but most end up rac­ing while do­ing the more fa­mil­iar foot-brak­ing tech­nique. “It’s just too much to think about while rac­ing, to learn a new thing,” says Gennarelli about

the trans­brake. “It’s un­pre­dictable. It takes prac­tice,” Silva says. One thing they all rave about, how­ever, is the De­mon’s en­gine and air-cool­ing fea­tures. Called “Power Chiller” and “Af­ter-Run Chiller” by Dodge, the De­mon uses the air-con­di­tion­ing re­frig­er­ant to chill the in­take air while in Drag Mode and runs the coolant pump in the pits even with the car off. It’s like run­ning your elec­tric fan off a tog­gle switch in an older car. The re­sults are on dis­play—no heat-soak­ing, no no­tice­able e.t. changes, and no need to panic as the rounds start over­lap­ping at the end of race day.

In the end, Silva breaks out in the 10.5 class, and the De­mon fi­nal finds him lin­ing his Tor Red wide­body up against Gennarelli in the Bil­let Sil­ver and matte-black ma­chine. The am­bers flash and he trees her! Silva gets it on a holeshot, with a 10.11 to a quicker but los­ing 10.09. Back in the pits, ev­ery­one is ex­u­ber­ant. The times were so close, the cars so close to the magic 9-sec­ond num­ber. It’s an old re­frain, “If only the weather…” but in this case, it’s true. If the Demons had had Silva’s Bak­ers­field-in-Jan­uary air den­sity with this track sur­face, we would have seen some records fall. In the end, it just means it’s yet to come, and these four folks, brave enough to haul out and haul ass in their brand-new, col­lectible, lim­ited-edi­tion cars, will al­ways be the first in the books to have raced the Dodge De­mon.

Nancy Gennarelli sums it up best: “The fun of this is that it was so new. No­body has cracked the box yet. By the next event, they’ll all be mod­i­fied.” This race was true fac­tory stock, a true street-car shootout.

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