One of the highlights of the Demon reveal was that the car is so fast in the quarter mile that it violates the NHRA rules. Dodge played that up, and it’s understandable. Having a production car that comes off the showroom floor capable of 9-second quarter-mile times is unheard of, and yet when Dodge used the word “banned” it seems to have caused consternation with some people.
What transpired in November 2016 is that the Demon was run at Gainesville Raceway with NHRA champion Leah Pritchett at the helm. She turned in a 9.650-second quarter mile time at 140 mph, making it the fastest production musclecar in America.
In the process of verifying the run, NHRA Vice President-Technical Operations Glen Gray issued a letter that stated, “The car exceeded our limits of 9.99-seconds and 135 mph. Therefore, it must be brought into compliance with the rules and regulations found in Section 4 of the NHRA Rulebook.” Dodge used that letter in it’s favor, and why not? Any other manufacturer would have done the same thing.
In response, Dodge and SRT CEO – and undeniable gearhead – Tim Kuniskis stated, “After the NHRA certified that time, they banned it from competition. Being banned from the NHRA with this car, at first, sounds like a negative, but reality is it’s really huge street credibility for this car.”
But that doesn’t mean everyone will need to install a cage in their car for grudge night at a local, non-NHRA track, and it’s possible that they can actually make a run at some NHRA tracks without a cage – at least until they turn in a 9-second time slip.
We called the NHRA and asked exactly what that letter means. We couldn’t reach Glen Gray, but we were told that most NHRA tracks will tell you that you need a roll cage if you show up with a 2018 Dodge SRT Demon. It doesn’t matter whether you, personally, can pull a 9-second run, it matters that the car is capable of it. This, of course, also depends heavily on whether that specific track is following the NHRA regulations closely.
Let’s face it: this car was tuned specifically for this run and the engineers worked hard to get everything right, with every system functioning at its peak. It might be hard to duplicate. But the NHRA says not to get your hopes up, if you want to run your Demon at the track, install a cage first. Anyone showing up to race in that car could very well be turned away if they haven’t installed a cage.
It’s no different than John Doe pulling up to the line in John Force’s car without an NHRA license, without a helmet, and without protective gear: it doesn’t matter what you run – the car is capable of speeds that require all of that criteria to be met. You will, therefor, be banned from competing until you meet the criteria.
When your friend builds a car to take to the local dragstrip, it’s almost a rite of passage to come back from a run and be told you’re too fast. There’s a certain element of badassery to it, right? It’s a bragging right – they took their car to the next level, so to speak, it’s a sense of accomplishment. Your friend might come back with a time slip, saying, “I got banned for not wearing a helmet.”
For most people who drag race, they get it: the ban doesn’t mean they can never run the car again, it just means that it’s currently not compliant with existing regulations based on the speed/time achieved. So they either get a helmet to run again, or they don’t run. It’s pretty straightforward.
Banned: Officially or legally prohibited. It isn’t permanent, it’s just a temporary issue saying you cannot run again until you or the vehicle meet certain criteria. So while some are saying, “The Demon isn’t banned,” they’re both right and wrong. It was technically banned from competing in its current state at NHRA tracks and events. Install a cage, and the ban is lifted.
It seems simple, right? So why make a big fuss over something that was really just intended to be bragging rights for Dodge? Do we really need to be that nitpicky about something that is really so simple to explain? Maybe for some it’s really not about the word that was used; perhaps it’s simply because of the accomplishment.
Why Is The Demon Not Built To NHRA Regulations?
So why did Dodge go through all the trouble to build a car that was so fast that it can’t legally compete? The answer is much simpler than you think. It’s not that they chose not to make it 100 percent drag strip legal, it’s that they can’t make it 9-second legal and still sell it to the general public as a production vehicle. It has to do with being compliant for public roadways, and passing safety regulations.
By now, everyone knows that the car must have a roll cage if it is faster than 9.99 seconds. But try to get a roll cage through passenger car regulations and you’re going up against a brick wall, because a roll cage is not legal on a production vehicle. Not only that, but it’s likely more dangerous for the street with a roll cage, especially without a helmet.
If you’ve ever climbed into a car with a cage, your head is very close to a solid steel bar. One time is all it takes to crack your skull against the bar and you’ll realize why the manufacturer can’t install a cage in a production vehicle. Also for production vehicles, there are supplemental inflatable restraints (air bags) that need to be unobstructed, and a roll cage would not permit those inflatable restraint systems to function properly.
Build Your Demon The Way You Want It
So it’s really a catch 22: you can make a production car safer than anything on the road, but it won’t pass NHRA inspections. You can make it pass NHRA inpections, and it won’t pass production vehicle regulations. It’s kind of like the old adage: you can’t get a job unless you have experience, and you can’t get experience unless you have a job.
The Demon, which will likely sell for just under $90,000, will have enough options to make it more of a drag car with the optional $3,000 crate kit containing the PCM and a harness bar, but that harness bar isn’t enough to go under 10 seconds. It will help keep you in place, but it’s not going to take the place of a roll cage.
With options, like the carbon fiber hood, the crate, the $1 seats, sticker/paint group, and the sound package, the cost of the Demon could just eclipse $100,000, and that’s before any dealer mark ups.
But if you go to the track and pull off a 9-second run, you have a choice: don’t run again, or install a cage and you can run to your heart’s content. After all, that’s what Dodge built the car for – to go faster than any other production car. If you can’t pull off a 9-second run, you likely won’t have to install a cage to make another run. Again, it depends on the track itself.
But as you get better at using the built-in TransBrake, Line Lock, and Launch Control, you’ll lift the wheels for about 3 feet, hit 60 mph in under 3 seconds, and pull off a 9-second run. Then you can come back with a time slip and tell your friends, “I’m banned until I install a cage.” Ain’t it cool?