New Sponsor – Gunslinger Shifters

Gunslinger Shifters has sponsored MnChallengers in 2012 with a donation of one of their Carbon Fiber Automatic Transmission Shifter Handles. If you have ever experienced holding an “old School” pistol grip in your right hand, this is a modification that is sure to bring back the memories of your youth. If you have never held one before, once you do, nothing will ever feel the same. The pistol grip will be raffled off at Mopars in the Park 2012.

Hemi Shootout Update from Bradenton Florida

Hemi Shootout Update from Bradenton Florida by Todd Wilson

Okay it’s time to post the Bradenton Racing trip outcome. Without going into the details of the winter work performed on the car the plan was to take it easy by means of increasing my launch technique each run so that I got used to the new tires and tune. After the 3rd run of the day we had a 10.111 time which placed us in the top 3 of the qualifying rounds. The car felt great the first three runs. The 4th run of the day was my first elimination run in the “Index” category. I listed my time at a 10.000 and told myself that if I broke out all is good because I would then be in the 9’s which is our 2012 goal. I made a decision that I was going to get on this thing at the launch for the 4th run. I wanted to see if we could plant the new tires and get the front end off the ground. As it turned out I busted the yoke on the two-part drive shaft. We just got the thing up in the air and there is no other damage. I’ve been contacted by Arrington Performance and they informed me that the drive shaft will be covered under warranty. This is great news. I’m now looking at possible other options to include having a single tube drive shaft custom made. I do not want this to happen again. All in all we had a great trip. My friend John Lewis had the fastest qualifying time and he too broke his car. It would have been great to race John head to head but unless I add the NOS it will be tough to catch him. ~ Todd Wilson

SRT Track Experience – Orlin Orthmann

Drive it like you stole it. In someone else’s Challenger or other SRT vehicle. That sure sounds like a blast for a day…and absolutely is!

The SRT Track Experience is a one-day event that allows participants to experience the performance of the SRT vehicles. There are many events and locations to select from throughout the country. Several top NASCAR and road courses are included in the venues. There are two to four straight days of events at each stop.

This was my third year at the SRT Track Experience and I went back to Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI – five to six hours from the Twin Cities. It is one of the top road courses in the US holding races for several top racing series. The track is described as wicked fast. It is a 4-mile road course consisting of all racing aspects from straightaway speed to braking and cornering. The SRT Track Experience pass is included in the purchase of any SRT vehicle. The events are also open to anyone purchasing a pass through SRT or from owners who choose to sell their pass. I had so much fun the past years that I bought passes for two straight days in 2011. There are passes available for non-drivers too. These participants get to ride with the instructors.

Road America. Beautiful weather and scenery.

Entering the track at Road America.

Start/finish line from pit area.

On my first day this year, Dodge had the ACR Viper at the track. The race team was going across the US setting track records. I heard he got the record at Road America. We were sitting in a tent 50 feet from the start/finish line when he flew by at 170+mph – just a loud blur! He could be heard accelerating, shifting and squealing around the entire four miles from the tent. Awesome!

ACR Viper.

I would love to watch the video from the GoPro camera on the grill. I was the first one in black 392 in the background on my first day and got to wear the stickers off of those new tires.

Another bonus was other club members and Challenger owners also attended the events. They were Dave Arndt, Rick Gakewski, Ryan Reimers and Larry Kjellberg. Ryan and Larry attended the same two days I was at the events. Dave was my on-track partner the last day. Rick attended the last day, but was on a different team than the rest of us. Dave and I got the first run of the 392 Challengers on the last day and I can’t even describe the excitement and look in his eyes after we got out of the cars. It took a couple of hours for Dave to wipe the perma-grin off his face! There were two Challengers that joined us in Nelson on the cruise to Elmers this past fall. These were guys I met from SE MN and NE IA on my first day at the track. Hopefully they will join us again on cruises in 2012.

Dave and Orlin.

The SRT Experience is put on by Petty Enterprises – a real class organization. The opening of the program includes an introduction video where Richard Petty drives and describes the SRT vehicles as racecars with blinkers. Participants are fed a fantastic breakfast and lunch. There is all the pop, water, coffee, hot chocolate and candy you want in tents at the modules all day long.

Main tent for ceremonies and eating.

Overwhelming majority of participants owned Challengers! This has been true every year.

The SRT vehicles included in the 2011 program were the Challenger, Charger, Chrysler 300C and Jeep Cherokee – all automatics. Only the Challenger had the new 392 (6.4) Hemi. The Challenger is the only SRT vehicle built for the 2011 model year. The others were the 2010 models with the 6.1 Hemi. There were some 2011 R/T Challengers and Chargers used in some of the events this year. The only thing they do to the vehicles is increase the air pressures so they handle better on the track. Otherwise, the vehicles are exactly the same as we have in our garages. I was told they have an endless supply of F1 tires and sets are usually changed every three or four days – depending on the track. The first year I was there, the lineup included the SRT4 Caliber with a stick which was used only in the Autocross. In all the years they have run this program, there has never been any major engine or transmission failure in any vehicle. This program is actually one of their best testing grounds and means of feedback for the SRT vehicles. The vehicles get absolutely pounded, but they are bulletproof. For 2012, they will have their new fleet – all with 392s. Can’t wait!

The SRT fleet.

Chrysler 300C SRT8s.

Challenger 392 SRT8s. Now you know where and why I got my SRT windshield logo.

Jeep Cherokee SRT8s.

There is a limit of 40 drivers each day which are broken into 2 groups of 20 and led by crew chiefs. I was on Team Buttercup both days with Ryan and Larry and the last day with Dave. Each group rotates through the modules during the day. There is a team competition for the best total combined times for all autocross team members. Awards are given to the winning team and individuals at the closing of the program. There are parting gifts for all participants. The gift this year was a nice SRT duffle/trunk bag.

The day consists of four different driving modules.

1) Driving Dynamics – This starts with the basics of racing techniques. You are taught how and where to brake and accelerate. Then you get on the track to get a feel for the vehicles and track. The speeds are limited in this session – generally up to 100 mph (unless the instructor likes what he sees or knows you). Drivers run in packs of three with the instructor leading two participants – all in the same SRT model. They want you to keep a three car length separation from the car in front of you.
2) Autocross Challenge – This is an obstacle course set up with over 4000 small orange cones. It is a timed event. You get two runs in the Challenger and one run in the Jeep. The best time of the three is your time. Hitting any cone is a costly two second penalty. There were a couple of participants that hit double digits on the cone meter.
3) Challenger Head-to-Head Challenge – This is similar to autocross except you are racing another participant in Challengers. It includes making complete stops in boxes. Again, hitting cones or not stopping completely or out of the box is a penalty. A clean run is more important than speed. This is an elimination competition.
4) Performance Drive – This is Driving Dynamics stepped up a few notches. This is where you really get to test and feel the performance of the SRT vehicles. If you keep within the recommended spacing, the instructors will push you to the next level. Safety is first, but drivers can really hammer down. It helps to have a good partner. This will test you and see where you are willing to go. It will include putting the vehicle on the edge and probably sliding sideways through some corners. This ain’t no MnChallengers cruise! There was rain and wet pavement at times during both days so the top speeds on the track were about the mid-120s. Last year, we reached speeds in the mid-130s on a dry track. I did a couple of ride alongs with the instructors for advice and see how real racers attack the course. Being a stick owner and not having driven an automatic in a Challenger other than at this event, it was nice to see how effective the instructor was with the paddle shifter. I copied this shifting for the rest of my runs. All driving must be done with the ESP on or they will send you home…period.

The first year I was at this event, one of the modules was 1/8 mile drag racing with a real lighted starting tree. We were even given printouts of runs and reaction times. Everyone wanted to see the Challenger and Jeep in a drag race so we lined them up. The pavement was wet and the Challenger did a lot of spinning, but it was not even a contest for the Jeep. This module has since been eliminated so we get more track time. In addition, we now make two laps at a time on the track instead of one. The drag racing was fun, but I like their choice of more track time.

Rules of the road for Driving Dynamics and Performance Drive.

The Autocross winner.

Ryan in the Challenger Challenge.

SRTs on the track and heading to pits during Performance Drive.

On my first day, I was the first one out in our group for the Autocross. This initial clean run ended up being the third fastest time for the day. I made the podium and won a nice SRT T-shirt. My Jeep run was actually faster, but I hit one cone. Our team had the three fastest times of the day for both groups, but lost the team competition. I just missed the podium in the Challenger Challenge on the second day. I raced the same team member four times before a winner could be determined. I won the fourth race, but unfortunately I stopped a few inches short in one of the boxes.

Autocross winners – 2nd, 1st, 3rd.

Autocross times.

My favorite SRT vehicle to drive was the Challenger. Maybe a bit biased because I own one. It has a stiffer and more “squirrelly” ride than the others. It was more unstable – especially on the wet pavement. It is amazing how well the Charger and Chrysler 300C drive for a “sedan”. I really enjoyed the 300C ride. Believe it or not, the Jeep, which sports AWD, will run circles around all other vehicles. The launch of the Jeep is just incredible and you would not believe its handling and control of the road. The new 392 Hemi has 40-50 more HP than the 6.1 Hemi. Being a 6.1 owner, I could definitely notice the increase in power. Until you have driven on a course like this, you will never experience the braking power of the Brembos. It is amazing how they can woe down a two-ton plus muscle car much less a heavier sedan or truck. The steering is also incredible. Driving on the wet pavement was actually a good thing being able to experience how the vehicles will react and engage the ESP.

The last thing drivers get to experience at the end of the day is Hot Laps. Participants get to ride shotgun with the professional drivers at full speed, with the ESP off. This is the ride of your life! Speeds can reach 150 mph and it is unbelievable these vehicles can go through corners the way the instructors drive them. This year the Vipers did not come out for hot laps. One drop of rain keeps them in the trailer. In past years, seven lucky people get a ride at speeds over 165 mph. No luck yet for me.

Participants are given a flash drive so they can enjoy their driving experience again later. These are plugged into the recording devices in the cars as you drive them. There is one camera out the front windshield and another camera on you in most vehicles. Speeds, tach, times and location on track are also displayed on the video. I have some good video of me this year almost sideways in the 392 Challenger in the rain – just a bit aggressive getting on the gas out of a corner. I still do not know how I did not spin out. I have some great video of Dave quite “loose” in the rain. Unfortunately, my hot lap from each day did not get recorded. The violent driving most likely shook the flash drive loose. All I can say is the first day hot lap in the Challenger was the best ride I have ever had in any car! As we took off, the instructor told me he was going to give it everything he could…and he did. I was hanging on to anything I could through some of the corners. WOW!

Hot Laps – Strapping in for the ride of my life!

SRT became a separate division within Chrysler. This is only a good thing for the Challenger. The Challenger is currently scheduled to run production through 2014. With the Challenger being the flagship car of this fleet, I can only see them wanting to continue production beyond that year. The muscle car wars with Camaros and Mustangs are hot like back in the day. While talking with Chrysler this past fall, I was told this is the feeling around Chrysler as well although nothing has been announced at this point. I have to believe the real 426 Hemi is on the drawing board somewhere at Dodge. Maybe a ‘Cuda? A new Viper will be out. There has been some talk of bringing the Magnum and Caliber back into the SRT program. The recently released Dart could also be a part of the future.

The SRT Experience is not only a blast, but it is where I found out about MnChallengers last year. I saw a couple of participants with MN plates and told these guys I had heard about a pack of Challengers cruising around the Twin Cities area. They told me about the club and the threads on ChallengerTalk. I went on my first cruise a week later on the Oct 2010 Fall Cruise. Those two guys were Ryan and Larry.

I plan to go back again for all three days in 2012. The full schedule including Road America is not available until the end of January. I will be buying some passes once registration is open. If anyone has a valid SRT Experience pass from the purchase of a Challenger (or knows someone who does) that is not going to use it, please contact me and we will work something out. I would love to have a club member who wants to go fast as a partner…I guarantee you will enjoy every minute of the event!

Additional information :
Map of Road America – Official site for SRT Track Experience
driveSRT on Facebook – Lots of pics

driveSRT will be doing a tour of the US again in 2012 with their new SRT vehicles. They are looking for clubs as they cross the US. I sent an email to the contact I was given for the tour while at the SRT Experience and told them about MnChallengers (site and Facebook) and how we would like them to come to the Twin Cities area and join our club on a cruise. Hopefully I will hear back and our area will be on their upcoming tour schedule.

If you are interest in seeing the new 2012 SRT vehicles, tune in to the Speed Channel and watch program Test Drive – The SRT Group. They take out all four vehicles driven at the SRT Track Experience. Tommy Kendall gets the Jeep over 160 mph on the Autobahn. The new Yellow Jacket SRT8 Challenger on the program is really cool!

MnChallengers Swag

MnChallengers – Swag

You want it, we got it. Jackets, patches, hoodies, shirts, can coolers, stickers. We’ll have it all at Mopars in the Park. See Steve Benson or Mike Hewitt and we’ll get you what you need.

Jacket with Sewn Patches – $135
Patches Only – Large $60 or Small for $10
Jackets Only – $40
Hoodies – $25
Full Zip Sweatshirts – $35
Shirts – $15
Can Coolers – $20
Stickers – 1 for $4 or 3 for $10

NOTE: Large patches are sold out. We will place the next order when 6 pre-orders are received.

01) Stacy Hanson
02) Ron Olson
03) Linda Scharffbillig
04) Scott Woolley
05) Bill Conrad

MnChallengers Store – Club Stickers

MnChallengers Store – Club Stickers

Club stickers have arrived from VinylDecals.COM and they did a fantastic job. Stickers are a great way to promote the club. They’re also a great way to raise money for the club. Please buy some for your cars, your fridge, your cooler, your toolbox and anything else you can think of. Pricing below.

$05 Small: 3-inch MnChallengers logo, die cut, black on white sticker
$05 Medium: 5-inch MnChallengers text, cut vinyl sticker
$10 Large: 16-inch MnChallengers text, cut vinyl sticker

MnChallengers – Event Schedule – 2012

MnChallengers – Event Schedule – 2012

Saturday 21st – Mystic Lake Casino – 6pm (Prior Lake) Sheldon Bryant

Saturday 12th – Cruise to Clearwater – 10am (Maple Grove) Craig Olsen

Saturday 10th – Lunch Cruise then Autoshow (Shakopee)
Saturday 24th – Annual Meeting at Turtle’s (Shakopee)

Sunday 1st – Harbor Bar Cruise (Oakdale) Teresa Neville
Saturday 7th – Breakfast Cruise to MnC&C (Shakopee) Steve Benson
Saturday 14th – Rock Falls (Rock Falls) Pat, Dave, Rick & Cory
Saturday 21st – Northside Cruise (Elk River) Corey Lotzer

Saturday 19th – MnChallengers Club Picnic (Saint Paul) Heather Sweet
Sunday 20th – Taylors Falls Cruise (Lino Lakes) Craig Olsen

Saturday 2nd & 3rd – Mopars in the Park (Farmington) Steve Benson
Saturday 16th – Waconia BBQ & Fund Raiser (Waconia) Craig Olsen

Saturday 7th – Star Prairie Cruise (Stillwater) Steve Benson
Saturday 14th – Drive-In Movie Night (Cottage Grove) Craig Olsen
Friday 20th thru 22nd – Car Craft (Saint Paul) Dan Wolff

Saturday 11th – Elko Speedway (Elko) Craig Olsen
Saturday 18th – Bernard’s Car Show – 9am (New Richmond) Mike Weise

Monday 3rd – MnChallengers Fall Picnic (Maple Grove)
Saturday 8th – Wheels & Wings (Osceola) Mark Schlenker
Saturday 8th – Cruise to Mopar Ponderosa (Prior Lake) Steve Benson
Sunday 9th – Racing at Rock Falls
Saturday 8th – Mopar Ponderosa with MWM (Prior Lake) Steve Benson
Saturday 15th – All Mopars Show (Chanhassen) Steve Benson
Sunday 16th – St Croix Wine Festival (Vadnias Heights) Mark Schlenker
Saturday 22nd – Lowbrow High Octane Cruise (Lakeville) Steve Benson

Saturday 6th – Bluff Country Scenic Byway Cruise (Preston) Steve Benson
Sunday 14th – Frankensteiners Ball (Anoka) Teresa Neville
Saturday 20th – Racing at Rock Falls Craig Olsen

Saturday 3rd – Boonie’s Cruise (Lonsdale) Steve Benson

Saturday 8th – Racing, Burgers & Beer (Savage) Steve Benson

Saturday 19th – Mystic Lake – 6pm (Prior Lake) Sheldon Bryant

Cruise to Pancake Breakfast at Little Log House in Hastings (4/13/12)
Cruise the Lakes from Harriet to Hwy61 with stop at Ford Lock & Dam #1
Cruise to Hinkley Casino thru scenic Wisconsin
Cruise to Muscle Car Restoration Open House in Chippawa Falls
Cruise to Fast Freddies Rod Shop in Eau Claire with BBQ
Cruise to Wabasha then over to WI 35 for Lunch
Cruise to Waconia Dodge for car show and BBQ
Cruise to Fury Motors in South Saint Paul for Tech Session & Pizza
Cruise to Hastings with Reserved Parking & Dinner
Club Picnic at Crosby Farm Park in Saint Paul (Giant Fire Pit)
Rock Falls Raceway
Mopar Ponderosa Tour and BBQ
North Saint Paul with Reserved Parking & Dinner
Raceway Park or Elko Speedway
Track Time/Driving School at BIR $295
Drive-In Movie Night – Cottage Grove or Vali-Hi
SRT Experience at Elkart Lake WI $500 (8/29-8/30)