One Lap of America: Days 5-8

By Mike Musto

 

Day 5:  Motorsports Ranch, Cresson, TX & North Star Dragway, Denton, TX
Pros:  Drag racing in a Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker is a magical experience
Cons:  Motorsports Ranch road course in Texas is confusing as hell for newcomers
Transit:  672 + 69.5 = 741.5 miles

 

Each track event on One Lap is comprised of two sessions per day consisting of 1 recon lap, 3 hot laps and a single cool-down lap. That means very little time to get your bearings and more importantly, learn the correct racing line. Get it right first time around and you’ll have a great time. Get it wrong and bad things happen — fast.

 

OneLap_Dodge_Day5e

 

Today’s event was a bit different as One Lap management decided to have us run two different track configurations, meaning we’d have only one chance to get it right. The short course was first. It was tight with elevation changes and it’s where the Challenger’s weight started to come into play. Short braking zones and decreasing radius corners meant lots of tire squeal and hard braking. Course two was a bit more flowing with a long straightaway. Here the 392 not only came alive, but emitted an exhaust note that was simply glorious.

 

As a driver you always need to take stock of track conditions and, more importantly, see if you’re pushing a car past its limits. On a road course such as this, I found it prudent to back off the throttle and find out where the limits of the car really were. Remember, this was a BONE STOCK vehicle that had a total of 1, 200 miles on it when we took possession. We’d been running it flat out for the last five days and it never missed a beat.

 

Part II of our journey consisted of a 47-mile run to North Star Dragway in Denton, Texas, for a little bracket racing. I’ll say this now. I am not a drag racer. I’m not good at it and more often than not, I blow the lights. My first run was against the first-place Nissan GT-R. This was bracket racing, so remember that just because you’re first across the line, that doesn’t mean you’re the victor. The key is to set your time and then not run below it. Our first run was marginal at best. I peddled the car off the line, got way too much wheel spin and dialed in at 9.1 (this was 1/8th mile, and yes, I know that’s terrible). We had set our next run at 9.0, however due to a bit of over excitement I buggered the light and well, that was it. We packed up and headed for Hallett Raceway in Oklahoma, a run that we thought was going to be uneventful until…

 

TORNADO CROSSINGs

 

I’ve driven through bad weather before, lots of it in fact, but never have I driven through tornado conditions in the midwest. Our 227-mile journey was supposed to take a little less than three hours. Thanks to Mother Nature though, we spent the next 8.5 hours driving through the hardest rain and wind I’ve ever experienced. Through flooded streets, flying debris, extreme wind and total blackout conditions, the Challenger never faltered. Never once did a warning light come on, never once did I lose traction and never once did this car leave me feeling anything but safe and secure. Because of that, the car you see in these photos will always be on the top of my all-time favorites list. It’s a brute of a vehicle and if Dodge would let me buy it, I would.

 

Day 6:  Hallett Motor Racing Circuit, Jennings, OK
Pros:  Familiar track
Cons:  No cons – great day!
Transit:  227 miles

 

OneLap_Dodge_Day6c

 

It’s 1.8 miles long, has 10 turns and over 80-feet of elevation change. This is Hallett Motor Racing Circuit and it’s one of the best-kept secrets in the United States. Having just come off of one of the craziest drives in history, Hallett was the speed-filled oasis we all needed. With the big Shaker hood snarling at the straight and the rear end wanting to come around at ever corner, this was a track where the Challenger shined. The crowd loved it, we loved it, and when all was said and done, spectators were commenting on the spectacular manner in which the Challenger was driven.

 

Cool – mission accomplished.

 

Day 7:  NCM Motorsports Park, Bowling Green, KY
Pros:  BIG TRACK!
Cons:  Unfamiliarity
Transit:  668 miles

 

This was a new track, and I mean NEW. Constructed across from the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, showing up here in a Dodge was somewhat of a slap in the face to those running around in four-wheeled bowties. Did we care? No. Did we have fun? Hell YES!

 

At 3.15 miles long, NCM was the longest track on this years’ route. That meant a full-on assault against the Challengers cooling system, the tires and more importantly, the brakes. We’d be pushing the car harder than we had the entire week and to be honest, I was a bit worried. I set up the Performance Pages on the 8.4-inch monitor so I could view the oil, transmission and coolant temps, then entered the grid mindful that this “street car” still had to get us back to our original starting point in Indiana.

 

We ran the first session and although the oil and transmission temps did climb, never once did they go into the red. Pretty remarkable considering my foot was pegged to the floor for the better part of 9.5-miles. Every shift was to redline and every application of the Scat Pack’s Brembo® brakes was a pedal-to-the-floor ordeal. There were no warped rotors, no overheating and aside from some pretty abundant tire squeal, the car instilled confidence as it dealt with the stresses of the track flawlessly.

 

Day 8: Dry Skid Pad, South Bend, IN
Pros:  Final Day
Cons:  Final Day
Transit:  366 miles

 

OneLap_Dodge_Day8a

 

The final day of One Lap is always bitter sweet. On the one hand you’re absolutely exhausted from driving over 3, 500 miles in one week, conquering 11 tracks and battling Mother Nature along the way. On the other, you’re sad to see the people whom you’ve come to know as family getting ready to leave. There comes a time however when both man and machine need to rest, and with one more event to go, we were eager to put on a show for the fans and have another One Lap in the books.

 

The final event was a dry skid pad at the Tire Rack® facility in South Bend, IN. If you’re in contention for a class win, then you take it seriously. If not, then it’s all about tire smoke and showmanship. We obviously chose the latter.

 

With all the electronic nannies disabled and my right foot firmly planted, it was time to let the 392 HEMI® V8 sing one last time. This Challenger 392 HEMI Scat Pack Shaker is a muscle car. It’s meant to do burnouts and donuts and then transport you at triple-digit speeds anywhere you wish to go. It’s the type of car for those who are confident and could care less about what others think. It’s as American as America gets and for that reason alone, it wins any contest hands down.

 

We entered the course in a full-on drift with the back tires howling and smoking and the exhaust bellowing to the hot-rod Gods above. Tire smoke filled the air, we laughed like 4-year-old children, and the outlying crowd of spectators erupted in cheers and laughter. This is what the Challenger 392 HEMI® Scat Pack Shaker was made for, and quite honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

I love this car.

 


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