Racing a Dodge Charger SRT8 in the Silver State Challenge, 2009

Charger SRT8 outside of Ely, Nevada

The Silver State Challenge is a 90-mile road rally held on Highway 318 in Nevada.  Safety equipment is required; to run faster than 110 mph the car must be fitted with a five or six point racing harness, which will keep you firmly in your seat with the car inverted at 150 mph.

We were preparing to run at 120 mph and I ordered the harnesses.  My order came, but it wasn’t the right stuff.  I sent it all back and a week later another box come bearing only the components that would replace the wrong stuff.  I called the distributor about my problem.  It was the week of Labor Day so I waited a little longer to find that no labor was done.

Every day I anxiously awaited the big brown UPS truck but it didn’t come.  Another call told me that the equipment would be here the day after we must be in Las Vegas.  It was already on a truck somewhere between here and Michigan.  I was so happy to be running the 110 mph class again!

Acura NSX

The trip to Las Vegas is uneventful this year; last year we had flash floods with tons of rocks and mud on the highway.  We pull into Sam’s Town the hosting hotel just before dark.  It is well over 100 degrees when we pull into the garage where tech inspection will be held tomorrow.  We park our overgrown Dodge Charger SRT8 next to a little horsey car.  I am relatively sure that is a Ferrari and a positive indication that we are in the right place.

The next morning I find registration on the second floor of the hotel.  I get my packet of stickers, event shirts and everything else that I am entitled to.  Then down to the garage to start applying stickers but my packet has no schematic showing placement.  I copy from other cars until Dinah returns with the placement chart.  It is already hot and the sun is barely up.  The K&N windshield sticker is difficult to apply.

applying the race stickers

With all stickers on I get in line for tech inspection where I begin to BS with a couple of guys that belong to Old Fart Racing, one from Tucson and the other from British Columbia.  No problems in tech this year, my tires had all of the needed nomenclature.  My handy dandy rubber branding kit is in the trunk if the tires needed some other mark.  Time to go to the press conference luncheon.  Same stuff different year people from all over the world, next year there will be a large team from Norway.

After lunch we join the caravan to Ely. Just before the caravan departed I got a picture of a Ferrari and an outhouse on the same truck, what was the message? 

Ferrari and outhouse

We leave the caravan at Ash Springs after we get a new set of course notes.  We settle in at the Nevada Hotel built in 1929, a wonderful place.  People must have been smaller back then because these rooms are small.  There are many things to admire such as an old Indian motorcycle and a huge buffalo covering one wall of the restaurant, made entirely from buffalo nickels.

Soon it is time to go to the welcome reception that features a hosted bar.  At last I can drink somebody else’s Scotch.  I hook up with my fellow rookies from last year plus a course worker who came over from England and Patrick a new rookie.  The dude from England was quite an interesting; he had worked for McClaren and other automotive entities. 

Audi R8

Roland Moy wrote: “The Pantera that burned to the ground at the finish line was running the 160 mph class, and started just ahead of me in my ’73 ’Cuda. I had passed him before we got to the narrows, finishing with a 160 mph average (1999 Spring race) and watched him come in aflame. Quite a sight.”

David Cudd is back again but this time without his hot rod Lincoln.  He is swamping for his three boys, they are driving a black Magnum built by Hennessey that is making 536 HP, a blown Jeep SRT8, and an M5 BMW (you need to talk to that boy).  I officially met Mad Dog; he has burned up 3 Panteras in this event.  On the SSCC web site there is a video of him crossing the finish line at 170 mph on fire.  I ask about his insurance?  He replied, “my agent called and said I have some good news and some bad news, the good news you got a two page spread in Car & Driver, the bad news the underwriter saw it and called me, saying isn’t that our client?”

I said, “Well, at least your insurance rate didn’t go up.”

at Ely, Nevada

Time to group for the parade through Ely.  Ely is playing their home coming football game, every pickup truck within 100 miles is here and that caused the parade to be more sparsely attended than last year.  I did get to take two kids this year a boy of about 11 and a girl of about 8.  The boy was happy to be riding in a hot pursuit police car.  That is one reason that highway patrol et al buy them is for sustained high-speed capability.

Big FourThe parade ends with a more formal meeting and another hosted bar.  Some of the local dignitaries speak to us.  I had already bumped into the mayor on the street in the afternoon.  He told me how hard he worked at trying to keep the rumble strips out of the center of Highway 318. Last year he told us to go to the Big Four Ranch and get our cars entered into the “Hookers Choice” contest.  I know where I have to go when this is over.

At the Big Four I fill out the paperwork and a lovely lady comes out to absorb the salient points regarding my car.  She likes it and moves her car so that I can park in more favorable light where she takes several pictures.  The two brothels participating in this event are about a block apart.  As the night goes on the street between the two establishments gets more and more crowded with people and vehicles.  This is one big party. A guy who said his name was Bill begins to tell us about the services available and the prices for those services.  I don’t recall anyone asking a question that would have launched him into this descriptive verbalization.  Now the street can only be navigated on foot.  Several girls leave the Big Four and walk toward the Stardust.

The winners are announced; an Olds 442 got first place.  Jackie is making the announcements and she says that this car is the only car that every girl voted for.  She calls again saying that you must be present to win.  Very soon a guy comes flying from the general direction of the rear of the Stardust.  I wonder if this contest could be “fixed” in any way?

Tom Selik with a Corvette took second place.  I got third place and a bag full of prizes with pictures being taken.  It is late or early depending on which way you want to look at it.  I go back to the hotel where I unsuccessfully try to sneak into bed with my wife.  “Where in the Hell have you been” is a sure sigh of failure.

Today is the car show so I try to get most of the bugs off the car.  Yesterday I officially joined the Old Fart Racing team so I parked with them.  After everyone is parked and as you look down the line from either end you see a behemoth near the center.  Being in a line of new Corvettes allows you to realize exactly how big your car is.

old fart racing

Tonight is the serious drivers’ meeting.  The chairs are in straight rows and there is no bar.  Pre-grid information is given and the sheriff will lead the cars to the pre-grid area at 6:00 AM, don’t oversleep.  I had a wake up call for 4:45 but didn’t need it.  The pace to pre-grid is very brisk.  Immediately in front of me is a whale tail Carrera, a car of my dreams.  He gets a couple of chances to run it up to 120 or so while I salivate in the exhaust notes

preaching

Pre-grid assembly is with the fastest class in front except for unlimited, they run last.  You are encouraged to talk with the driver in front of and behind you to see if they intend to run slow or if they expect to pass you.  The guys with the Ferrari and the outhouse were a lot of fun.  The navigator was very apprehensive so I take one more opportunity to jack him up.  I say “you know these clouds are not good, because the coyotes will stay out of their dens longer.”  Then I launch into what happened when a Joe Gibbs NASCAR car hit a coyote at just over 200 mph.

Then we are released in groups of four.  We drive very slowly through Lund, the last chance to get a ticket before the race.  Now we are parked in final grid and time comes to a standstill.  However, let there be no doubt the kidneys are still functioning. 

You can hear cars leaving the starting line and ever so slowly the cars that were farther up the hill are gone.  Now by counting cars you know how much time you have before your start time to be parked in final grid, time slowly rolls up to near starting time.  On the way to the starting line you get a belt and interior check for any loose objects that you might have missed like an anvil or pair of scissors.  Then forward to tire check hoping that a stray piece of metal has not found one of your tires.  On to the start line and staged in the left lane.  A Subaru is staged one minute ahead of me and his comment was, “If I end up in a Dodge hood scoop I am probably not doing well.”

race  finish

The green flag drops and we are off.  Through the speed trap at 119.0 mph.  A 1960 Ford Fairlane blew a rear tire near the 50-mile mark. On to the finish. I did catch the Subaru but kept him out of the hood scoop.  I have reason to believe that this Subaru is missing some of Ken Blocker’s modifications.  We were horrible, finishing 20th in class [in 2008, Ray finished sixth out of 26].

silver state challenge

We are in the room for the awards ceremony.  More free booze.  Bob Dean got a speeding ticket in Nevada on the way to the event.  He received a special award for taking the hit while protecting the other two drivers in the group.  A speeding ticket in Nevada within 90 days of the event gets you disqualified.  Also he called my wife aside and gave her a $25 off coupon for use at the Big Four Ranch, saying, “Ray dropped this out of his wallet.”  Thanks, Bob, I had one in my bag of prizes and certainly did not lose it.  Bob was also exceeding tech speed in the speed trap and he still is listed as a finisher.  What would it take to get Bob disqualified, running over Steve Waldman? 

I get one more shot at the navigator of the Ferrari, I tell him that the driver just purchased an event photo but he had them crop the passenger side of the car 

The awards ceremony was a blast with many tall tales fabricated around true events.  A woman driving a 928 Porsche powered by a small block Chevy hit the speed trap at 200 mph.  She was already on the way back to Ohio but her deed got the largest round of applause of the evening.  Very near the end a drawing was done to determine the car for the event shirt for 2010.  Dodge Charger was drawn and I quickly made sure it would be my Charger there was a ’70s Charger in the event as well. 

1971 Dodge Charger at the Silver State Challenge road race

We are going to Washington State to visit Dinah’s daughter.  I wanted to take US 50 the loneliest road in the US.  So it is right back to Ely where I stop and tell Jackie about my car being featured on the 2010 shirt.  She says, “send me some photos and I will make a shirt with your car.”  How about that, a real man’s car featured on a ladies shirt.  No worry about tickets today, I got a lot of miles at 100+.

I passed a Corvette with Silver State decals on it.  Later I am stopped in a town gathering information about the movie Vanishing Point and the Corvette pulls in for gas.  He is driving the car back to Reno for the owner.  A few miles out of town I pass the Corvette again.

Viper

We were thinking about going to Virginia City but the wife decided she would be happy if she could put her feet in the Truckee River.  I take an exit but you can’t get to the river, there are a couple of Mexicans working there and we ask them.  They indicate that about 3 miles back you can get to the river.  We go back, cross the river but find no place to get to the water, however ahead of us the road meanders toward the river.  We drive on and are coming to a gated community but there is a large open area going toward the river.  This gated community is the Mustang Ranch; I managed to stumble upon the best known brothel in the United States.  A few years back the US Government took over the day-to-day operations of the Mustang Ranch for non-payment of taxes.  They ultimately failed.

The next morning out of Reno we stop for gas at a place named Hallelujah Junction.  Dinah goes inside to find two people that have little possibility of being Christians and says, “Yeah, you two look like you should be hanging out at Hallelujah Junction.”

Today I get a lot more miles at 100+ and a speeding ticket.

car on the road
See the first segment: Silver State Challenge, 2008

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