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Will the NHRA ban hurt Demon owners?

Analysis. Since the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon debut, some outlets (and some people) have been freaking out about the “NHRA ban.” But will the people who will buy the Demon really going to be hindered by the NHRA ban?

The new Challenger SRT Demon was created by Dodge to be the ultimate street-legal drag racing machine. It is full of components which will make it a beast on the quarter mile; and when coupled with the 840 horsepower supercharged Hemi, this beast is capable of getting down the drag strip in just 9.65 seconds – making it the quickest factory, street-legal quarter mile car in the world, ever.

The new Challenger Demon is so quick in the quarter mile that the NHRA has banned it from competition, because any car that runs quicker than 9.99 is required to have a roll cage, and, as produced by the factory, the Demon doesn’t have one.

There is a difference, though, between “banned from competition” and “not allowed at any drag strip, ever.”  People may question how Dodge could build a drag car that is banned by the world’s largest drag racing sanctioning body, but I don’t think that it will be a problem at all for most buyers — and here’s why.

The new Dodge Demon can run a 9.65 quarter mile; since it does not come with a roll cage, the NHRA has banned it from sanctioned competition. This means that if you plan to buy a new Challenger SRT Demon to run sanctioned NHRA sportsman events while running in the 9-second range, you will need to add a roll cage before you will be allowed to enter the event, but that is the extent of the “NHRA ban.”

Other than NHRA events, the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon isn’t banned from anything; and owners will be allowed to take their new Mopar muscle car to any track in America to make time runs. When those owners run in the 9-second range without a cage, they might be asked to not return to that track until they have added a roll cage, but that only applies to NHRA sanctioned tracks which closely adhere to the rules. There are a great many tracks in the USA which are not NHRA tracks, so the NHRA rules have no impact on what goes on at those tracks; and I have spoken with scores of Hellcat owners who ran in the 9s for more than a year without adding a roll cage.

In short, Demon owners will only be run out of NHRA tracks when they run in the 9s and only if the track officials follow the cage rule (which many do not).

In speaking with a few different people who were involved with the development of the newest supercharged Challenger, I also learned that 9-second ETs aren’t an easy feat for the average driver. Members of the development team (including Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis) explained that they believe that the average Demon buyer will start off running in the low 10s; over time, they will work their way into the 9s. The best racers might get into the mid-9s in a hurry, and those folks are going to need a cage right away, but many Demon owners are going to spend time learning the car and during that time, they likely won’t run quick enough to need a cage – so they won’t run quick enough to be thrown out of NHRA tracks.

So for the “NHRA ban” and the lack of a factory roll cage to have a real impact on the buyer of a 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, he or she will have to run record times without much seat time and he or she will have to run those numbers at an NHRA sanctioned track where track officials closely follow the NHRA cage rules for stock vehicles.

While this might still seem ridiculous to some people (who don’t have a world of track experience), there is one more good way to think about this whole “no roll cage” issue.

Say that someone wants a street-legal muscle car that can run in the 9-second range. Whether it is a Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, a Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 or a Ford Mustang GT, the process will begin with acquiring the car; the next step is adding the performance components needed to get the car into the 9-second range. Once they have their car running in the 9s, they will need to add a roll cage to make it legal for NHRA sanctioned tracks and events.

With the 2018 Demon, Dodge has done all of the work to get the car soundly into the 9s, so all the buyer will have to do is install a roll cage. Dodge has removed the steps to get the car into the 9s, making it quicker than any other car on sale today, but like any built project car, Demon owners will need to add the roll cage of their choice in order to be NHRA legal.

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