Customer-Owned Demons Face Off
Dodge Demon Owners Race For Cash at the Inaugural Demon Invitational
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.