Dodge - Plymouth Neon Racing

Main First-Generation Neon Page | Main Second-Generation Neon Page

The Neon - whether it be a Dodge Neon, a Plymouth Neon, or a Chrysler Neon - is one of the most successful affordable stock racing cars, the hottest entry-level performer of the 1990s and still a serious bang-for-the-buck deal today. Bone stock, a base street model easily outperforms pricier Civics and Corollas, even beating the Focus in Grassroots Motorsports' shootout. Tricked out versions are still sold and supported by Chrysler, even though the Mercedes takeover has made the Neon a lame duck.

Probably the premier source of Neon performance outside of Chrysler has been Gary Howell, who came out of nowhere to operate the prestigious AFX Manufacturing and Howell Automotive. In addition to making and selling high quality go-fast parts, Howell sponsors a number of cars, including the world's fastest SOHC Neon - a drag car owned by Randy "Gizmo" Williamson. He may also be the largest manufacturer of underdrive pulleys, which are smaller and lighter versions of the main accessory drive pulley. The advantage of these is less drag from the alternator and air conditioner, with less inertia due to the weight loss, resulting in the equivalent of a 6 - 10 horsepower gain - not huge but also not too expensive. While the underdrive pulleys do reduce power going to the alternator and air conditioner, most users and builders agree that this should not be a problem unless you spend most of your time stuck in traffic. The Neon's very powerful air conditioning does tend to be a bit much for the motor, and a cutback in its efficiency still leaves it more powerful than a Corolla or Civic system. Likewise, the alternator will get enough spin if you have a good highway/city balance.

One of the more interesting performance Neons to hit the street - though probably not SCCA - was the Neon fitted with a 2.2 R/T (Turbo III) engine - this one produced 224 horses, stock, and pushed the heavy Spirit R/T to 60 mph in under 6 seconds (again, bone stock). We do not know who currently owns this unique Neon, or how many timing belts he's replaced.

World's fastest Neons

Fastest automatic

This 1995 automatic, outfitted mainly by Gary Howell but raced by Randy Williamson, ran a 12.401 second quarter mile at 109 mph. The street legal Neon has its stock sheet metal, with a standard stock 2.0 block fitted with custom JE pistons (and necessary modifications to make them fit and work well). The crank has been lightened, with six pounds of counterweights removed, and an ACR DOHC computer replaced the stock SOHC version to get a higher speed limiter without advancing the timing. The head is stock, but ported by Gary, with oversized valves and a Crane 158-0012 cam (using an adjustable cam gear). Howell's own 55 mm throttle body lets more air in, though the stock plastic intake is retained because of its smoothness (the Neon was the first car to use plastic intakes, and they really do work well).

The turbocharger is interesting, being made by Hahn Racecraft - it is the prototype for their Stage II kit, a modified Mitsubishi 16G turbo with 22 pounds of boost and a front-mount intercooler. Howell hopes to eventually get a car down to 9 seconds, albeit not in the street class.

Details on this vehicle are in the Summer 2002 edition of Mopar Now! magazine, and we hope to keep adding information on racing Neons as time goes on.

Fastest overall Neons

Kevin Flint's 1998 Dodge NeonAnthony Thomas noted: Currently Gary Howell's Neon is the fastest SOHC/Automatic Neon in the country if not the world (at least online). But the fastest Neon belongs to Darrell Cox' Phatridez/Mopar Performance Neon, whose old Neon had a best time of 9.24@157. Their new SRT-4's best time at NHRA's World Finals in 2003 was 9.34, the quickest pass ever by a 2000+ model Neon (in time trials). It later ran 152mph (in a semi-final round lost) for the fastest trap speed by a 2000+ chassis. This car runs an 3 speed automatic, but built in-house by Phatridz.

Len Ayala should get a mention as well. The Hahn Racraft Neon has run the best of 9.44 and 147 mph with a 2.4L DOHC engine and 3 spd automatic trans. Len's Neon was the first Neon into the 11s and 10s also without the help of wheelie bars. Len's Neon did 10.55@134 while still a street car that was driven on the weekends; it was constructed on a limited budget and has pretty much remained the same since the 2001 season save for some minor updates/upgrades.

Kevin Flint achieved a 11.46 second quarter mile at Rockingham Dragway on September 16, 2003, with his daily-driver (yes, he commutes in it) 1998 Neon. Equipped with a five-speed, SOHC engine, and turbo, it also has power locks, windows, and sunroof, but no passenger seat or back seat. He has won all four races at Rockingham that he has entered, including Imports at the Rock. Friend Darryl Cox is helping him equip the Neon with an automatic. Fast Fabrications is a sponsor.

May 2004 update: Kevin is in the drag section for the fastest SOHC street car. He did get the automatic in his car and went to Rockingham a few times since then. He has won both Imports at the Rock (April 2004) and Battle of the Imports (May 2004), the latter with a 10.71 @ 124 mph on the 1/4 mile track.

Neon: fastest naturally aspirated domestic car?

The fastest N/A or All Motor Neon belongs to fellow Team Phatridz member Scott "Mo Daddy" Mohler who took the 2002 NDRA Pro Stock championship in only his second years of racing full-time. He finished second in the defunct NIRA All Motor class championship last year and another second in the IDRC All Motor Class last year. He also has a two year winning streak at Rivercity Raceway in San Antonio, TX (IDRC 01 and 02).

He is currently the fastest N/A Domestic car in the country. Powered by a stroked 2.4L DOHC engine and 2001 spec Neon R/T 5 speed transmission. A new 2003 chassis is under construction as we speak.

Summary of Neon championships

The Neon ACR has been one of the most successful grassroots racer ever, with over 20 National titles in Solo and Road Racing to its credit. We just started in Rally this year (2002), and to date, the Dodge SRT-4 has won two events on the SCCA circuit and is leading the Manufacturing Championship.

SCCA Pro Rally SRT-4 - Group 5 Class

  • Sno-Drift 3rd
  • Cherokee Trails 1st
  • Oregon Trail 2nd
  • Rim of the World 1st

Neon motorsports models reflect rich racing history.

Shortly after its introduction in 1994, grassroots racers discovered the Neon's potential on the track, thanks to its sporty, quick and fun-to-drive attributes, and the idea of a special racing edition Neon was born. The introduction of the Neon ACR (American Club Racer) in 1994 was aimed at Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) drivers. Neon ACR models won three consecutive national titles in SCCA Class C Showroom Stock events from 1995 to 1997.

Dodge responded to this success further with the production of a special-edition Neon R/T (Road and Track) model in 1998 and 1999 that featured much of the same championship equipment.

1994 . . Steve Brolliar (ES) Steve Brolliar (ES), Jean Kinser (ESL) .
1995 Erich Heuschele (SSC) . . . Lynne Rothney-Kozlak (DSL)
1996 Paul Bonacorsi (SSC) . . Brian Priebe (DS), Lynne Rothney-Kozlak (DSL), Wendi Allen (ESL) Lynne Rothney-Kozlak (DSL)
1997 Neal Sapp (SSC) K. Kaumeheiwa (P) Mark Daddio (DS), Steve Brolliar (ES) Mark Chiles (DS), Laura Molleker (DSL), Jean Kinser (ESL) Jean Kinser (ESL)
1998 . Trevor Donison (P) Mark Daddio (DS), Steve Brolliar (ES) Mark Daddio (DS), Laura Molleker (DSL) Steve Brolliar (ES)
1999 . . Mark Daddio (P5), Steve Wynne (ST), Tim Dennison (DS), Jerrette Zoner (L1) Mark Daddio (DS), Laura Molleker (DSL) Mark Daddio (DS)
2000 . . Danny Shields (DS),
Steve Wynne (STS)
Danny Shields (DS),
Lynn Collins (DSL)
2001 . . Mark Daddio (DSP) Mark Daddio (DSP),
Ann Heller (DSL)

Racing Plymouth and Dodge Neon production highlights (courtesy Chrysler):

1995 MY: Introduced in January 1994 as a 1995 model:

1993+ production: Neon four-door sedan with 2.0-liter, SOHC, 16-valve, SMPI engine (132 horsepower, 129 lb.-ft. torque).

February 1994 production: Neon sedan ACR (American Club Racer) introduced (continued through 1999 MY).

July 1994 production: Neon two-door coupe with 2.0-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, SMPI I-4 engine (150 horsepower, 132 lb.-ft. torque); Neon coupe ACR (American Club Racer) introduced (continued through 1999 MY).

1998 MY: Neon R/T (Road and Track) introduced (continued through 1999 MY).

2000 MY: Second-generation Neon model introduced in January 1999 as 2000 model. Completely redesigned suspension and steering systems, all-new interior and exterior and brake system upgrade.

July 1999 production: modified five-speed manual transaxle, new second- and fourth-gear ratios added.

2001 MY: Motorsports Edition models re-introduced in September 2000 as 2001 models.

March 2001 introduction:

  • R/T model with high-output 2.0-liter Magnum® four-cylinder engine.
  • ACR model with high-output 2.0-liter Magnum® four-cylinder engine, adjustable suspension damping and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS.

2002 MY: Dodge-only branding begins (in other words, Plymouth - the first brand other than Chrysler to be used by the Chrysler Corporation - eliminated). New base model price class introduced. Four speed automatic (badly chosen gear ratios).

2003 MY: Cosmetic and gear ratio changes. The new gear ratios are far better for street driving. SRT-4 appears.

2004 news

Team Mopar kicked off the 2004 SCCA ProRally season with flying colors and showers of snow, sweeping victories in all 2WD categories in the 32nd running of the Sno*Drift near Atlanta, Mich., Friday and Saturday.

Doug Shepherd and co-driver Pete Gladysz piloted their Dodge SRT-4 to first place in Overall 2WD competition and a similar victory in Group 5 competition, courtesy of their 2h, 7m, 34s navigation of the 113-mile, 19 stage circuit. Their time was an impressive seventh overall behind all-wheel-drive entries, which have a fundamental acceleration advantage on surfaces covered in snow and ice.

"On these roads, a 2WD car has wheel spin all the way up to 100 mph in some places," Shepherd said. "The SRT-4 has outstanding handling, so we could out-handle the all-wheel-drive cars where we couldn't out-accelerate them, and that kept us in the top-10 [overall]."

Chris Whiteman and co-driver Mike Paulin were the easy victors of Group 2, thanks to their total elapsed-time of 2h, 22m, 16s they earned driving their Dodge Neon SXT. It was the pair's second consecutive class victory and second straight Sno*Drift Group 2 win.

Don Jankowski, who won last year's Sno*Drift with the help of Gladysz' navigation and Mopar power, brought his SRT-4 home second in the Group 5 standings, this time with the help of co-driver Ken Nowak

2012 and beyond

“trat50” wrote, “Neons have won the past 2 IMCA Supernationals (2012 and 2013). The IMCA Sport Compact class is dominated by the Dodge Neon and the Chevy Cavalier.”

The International Motor Contest Association (IMCA), organized in 1915, claims to be the oldest active automobile racing sanctioning body in the United States. Kathy Root purchased the organization in 1996; it is aimed at grass-roots racing. They describe the Sport Compact class as:

A barebones class, truly entry level, the IMCA Sport Compacts are not race cars, they are cars that race. They can be purchased off the street or at a salvage yard. Then you gut them, put in the safety equipment, and go racing. This division is for younger drivers, not those that want to get out of late models or modifieds. It’s perfect for kids in high school, as there is a minimum age of 14. No one in this division can be licensed to compete in any other IMCA division.

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

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