Many of you have seen Leah Pritchett’s Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, decked out with Demon themed graphics. However, many people think that particular car was from the latest batch of 2015 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak models. However, the car she runs is actually the very first 2009 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak ever built.
Nicknamed “El Bandito” the car started life as a 2009 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak equipped with the 6.1-liter HEMI package. In fact, there were three engine choices for the 2009 Drag Pak edition. 6.1-liter or 5.7-liter HEMI or 5.9-liter Magnum® Wedge—as well as manual or automatic transmission choices.
The first two Challenger Drag Pak cars were built for development and testing for its Challenger Drag Pak program. Based on the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8, the prototypes were finished in Stock Eliminator configuration. They ran successfully in June 2008 as a proof-of-concept and for NHRA certification. Mopar dropped approximately 1,000 lbs. off the production 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 by eliminating major production components and systems. To accentuate the weight savings, they also featured added composite, polycarbonate and lightweight components designed for drag racing.
The engine was repositioned to improve driveline angle and weight distribution. The 116-inch wheelbase was shortened by a ½ inch. They also featured a front cradle with bolt-in cross member and solid engine mounts.
“El Bandito” had it’s 6.1-liter HEMI exchanged for the 512 cubic-inch Viper V-10.
In 2011, Mopar introduced the 2011 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak with a new powerplant. The iconic 8.4-liter Viper V-10. Those cars were based on the 2011 Dodge Challenger and finished in a Stock Eliminator and Super Stock configuration, the 2011 Mopar Challenger V-10 Drag Pak is the first and only 500-plus cubic-inch V-10 drag-race package car. The car features competition wheels and tires, a Mopar solid rear axle with performance gear ratio, a 2-speed drag race transmission with integrated roll control, a complete competition fuel system with fuel cell, and a full interior with gauge package.
With the last series of 2015 Dodge Challenger Drag Pak cars, “El Bandito” has been switched over to an aluminum-block 354 cubic-inch supercharged HEMI V8. The car also received the front and rear fascia from the 2015 Dodge Challenger.
Two weeks ago, during the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana, Pritchett took “El Bandito” to set records for elapsed time and speed in the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown class with an 8.002/172.56 run to claim her second career pole in the class. The car almost became the first legal Factory Stock class car to break into the 7-second pass mark.
During the weekend Pritchett kept the hammer down in eliminations, posting the quickest passes of all competitors in each of the first three rounds — an opening 8.111/170.04 to defeat Aaron Stanfield, a run of 8.077/170.73 to take out Kevin Skinner and an 8.119/169.74 mark in the semifinals to chase down Stephen Bell. In the all-Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak final, Pritchett powered past Mark Pawuk on an 8.108/170.26 pass to claim her first Factory Stock win in her first final-round appearance in the class.
With two races left in the S.A.M. Tech (School of Automotive Machinists & Technology) NHRA Factory Stock Showdown series, Pritchett sits in fourth place in the standings only 33 points behind the points leader.