It’s possible the Roadkill Hellcat Charger is cursed with Roadkill fail-syndrome. Or maybe it’s just mad about its treatment in the three-way Dodge destroy-o-rama back in Episode 38. Whatever the reason, our early morning prep of the General Maintenance 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat for the Red List drag races at Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California, did not start off well.
We remembered a jack, but not a jackstand, and the battery on the cordless impact was dead. Also, we left the tire pressure gauge on the kitchen counter, 98 miles south. Then someone (not naming names) used the wrong hose on the cool, little compressor that comes with the Hellcat and partially filled one drag radial full of tire sealant, which is an extremely messy substance and not a good replacement for air. Here is actual video of that fine moment in pit crewing.
We left the guys trying to pick gooey sealant out of the compressor fins and took a walk through the pits, because if a parking lot full of 10-second wagons, twin-turbo’d Corvettes, and an AMG Mercedes on slicks can’t bring a smile to your face, you’re reading the wrong website. The Red List series is a drag-racing event organized by motorsports enthusiast Jesse Iwuji, and it attracts a diverse group of cars unlike any other drag race we’ve seen. A Ferrari F12 (6.3L V12, rated at 730 hp, MSRP of more than a house at $320,000) sat next to a primered 1960s Nova. Every other pit space housed a Hellcat or a Nissan GT-R. Sprinkled between them were El Caminos, GTOs, Barracudas, and Mustangs of every generation. Even amongst the new cars, almost nothing was stock. Factory tires had been swapped out for drag radials or slicks. Stock boost had been doubled and formerly naturally-aspirated engines were force-fed induction with aftermarket superchargers, nitrous kits, and finely piped turbos. Our 707hp Hellcat was on the low end of horsepower. If you looked down on the track from space, we bet you could have seen the pent up propulsion, wriggling like heat waves across the staging lanes.
One of the reasons the Red List Group’s races attract so many high-powered street cars is the unique scoring system used to pick the winners. There are no handicapped starts or time-consuming ladders. It’s all heads-up races and a run-all-day format, but each pass earns points, so a quick car making hot laps can win over a faster car, if that faster car needs more cool-down time. The result is way more run time than a normal bracket race, which results in more participants who are new to drag racing.
For example, in one of our rounds, we managed a 0.049 reaction time, that got us a point. We ran an 11.45—faster than 11.50, and that scored us 2 points. We won the round, and that got us 3 points for a round total of 6. If we’d had a better 60-foot time, we could have nabbed another point, and if we could’ve pulled a 10.99 out of the Hellcat, we could have done better yet. Confused? Don’t worry about it. There are intrepid mathematicians in the tower keeping track of all your passes—or at least, trying to. “When mistakes are made, we do our best to fix them…we’re only human,” Jesse says about working out the occasional bug in his experimental system.
It may be a little hard to follow, but it’s really fun to participate because even though a red light or a round loss costs you points, it doesn’t put you out of the game like it does in traditional drag racing. Just swing back around and line back up for another run. Our only regret was bringing a stock Hellcat on worn-out Nittos to a race where low-11-second passes are slow. Forget bringing a knife to a gunfight, our poor little Charger was a spork at a tank battle! When we reported our best time of (a losing) 11.36 at 123 mph back home to Roadkill headquarters, Freiburger mocked our disappointment. “Imagine a world where low 11s is too slow for a 4,500-pound four-door,” he said. We live in that world now.
It’s absolutely astounding to see how many people are out there racing brand-new Hellcats and CTS-V Cadillacs with smaller pulleys, lightweight driveshafts, bumped-up tunes, and smaller wheels with sticky tires, and those are just the domestic cars. Move over to the high-tech world of European and Japanese imports and you’ll be surprised that the Famoso starting line didn’t change its GPS coordinates from the insane torque at launch. We spoke with Nigel Colon about his top-five finish in a twin-turbo 2014 Porsche 991—that’s a new 911, for you non-Porsche folks. Nigel was running 10.18 at almost 140 mph with his lightly modified car. Off the showroom floor, he says they’ll run mid- to high-10s. “Pound for pound, these cars are up there with supercars,” he says. “It’s all stock internals, stock transfer case, hubs…one thing about the Germans, they make for a bulletproof launch.” The horsepower of the Porsche, even with the Cobb/ByDesign tuner upgrades to ECU and aftermarket exhaust and intake, is no more than the tuned-up American cars, but oh man, the all-wheel-drive and launch control made it hard to beat. “I can’t outlaunch the computer,” Nigel told us. “You can’t beat the technology. I can be next to a guy in a race car, he’s doing a wheelstand, but I’m just hot-lapping it, and then I drive it to dinner.”
It all sounds pretty tempting, but don’t trade in your old-school cars just yet. There were three muscle cars in the top five, all equally happy to hot lap. John Harris won the last Red List race in his 440-powered 1963 Dodge 330 wagon, and he says there’s plenty of opportunity to win points just by being a more experienced racer. “I was probably the oldest guy there,” he says. “I’m 63, and the wagon has been a race car since the 1960s.” The Dodge is fast and popular, turning heads in the parking lot in a way the new cars never do, but there were several cars running quicker than John’s 10.39. How did he still manage the top-five finish? He won rounds even against quicker cars by cutting a better light and running more consistent passes. “I ran 11 races,” he said. “I only lost two.”
One of the races John lost was against a Drag Week racer, so you know the competition was stiff. Jarrett Faggart’s 1972 Nova looks like a 10-second car. It’s an 8-second car. The shiny, black Chevy straddles the line between new-car tech and old-school race car with a single-turbo 6.1 LS under the hood. It’s a street-legal setup and a great reminder that you can win a race with a beefy Dodge big-block in a dedicated race car, or with a $90,000 Porsche, or with a junkyard truck motor and some mechanic skills. Jarrett built the engine in his shop, keeping the stock crank, but upgrading to Callies rods and a custom JFR piston of his own design. Ported Trick Flow heads top it off and a single 76mm BorgWarner moves the air. The important thing is getting out there and racing. Jarrett says he likes the Red List format for the same reason John does: lots of runs. “It gives us a lot of chances to make passes and figure out settings. I thought we did pretty good on a little 275 radial tire. The car isn’t even mini-tubbed or anything!”
So our top five included a Dodge, a Porsche, and a Chevy, and it gets rounded out by Michael Bolding’s Nissan GT-R—another high-tech marvel—and the overall winner, a naturally aspirated, carbureted, Pontiac-powered 1968 GTO. We’ve seen dyno-tuner Harry Khodanian’s HK Motorsports bored-over Goat at car shows before, so we can vouch for its streetability, and now we can assure you the 469ci, pump-gas Pontiac runs 10.14s and all day long. Harry did have a few hurdles before the hot laps. “It was no walk in the park to make this happen,” he told us. “ It was 12 brutal hot-lap passes and a flat front tire that I fixed in the staging lane with a can of flat-tire sealer.” If only we’d known, we could have sent our tire-sealant expert over there!
All the winning cars put on a great show, but so did the rest of the participants. Eddie Rios from Addiction Motorsports smacked the whole Mustang racing community with a dueling glove when his 2015 stock motor ’Stang went 8.98 at 152 mph. “It’s the first 2015 stock motor car in the 8s,” he told us. “This is a full-interior street car, not gutted. The valve covers have never been off. The only thing done to the engine was tapping the pan for the turbo drain and changing the oil after that. There were three cars chasing the 8-second pass. Their weather wasn’t good and our weather came around, and we were able to get it done. One guy broke the motor trying to get the record. Records really are just something the community keeps track off…nothing really official.” Official or not, it’s pretty cool that the record currently sits with the tuning shop where HOT ROD does our dyno tests!
Surrounded by all these record-breakers and winners, you might think we felt a bit down about being stuck in the 11-second range. Not at all! There were a ton of Roadkill fans there all super-excited to see the General Maintenance in all its faux-patina glory. We talked to spectators about their projects and got some tuning tips from some of the other Hellcat racers in attendance. We may not have won, but we finished in the top 20 and sacrificed the remaining tread on the General to do Christmas-tree-obscuring burnouts, which earned us a roar of approval from the crowd. Our number one goal was to make it through the day without the 123-mph wind tearing the scoop of the General’s hood, and we did return it intact, although it got pretty nerve-wracking watching it flutter at the top end. What’s the lesson here? Go racing! Go! Race! Now! In everything.