Technically Speaking

The Challenger Becomes The Champ

LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE…

Danny Thompson and his crew pulled off on Exit 4 of the I-80 Freeway just east of Wendover, Utah, just like they’ve always done in years past. Make a right, pass the gas station, and keep driving until the road ends. As soon as the hauler’s tires leave the hot pavement and touch the sacred salt of Bonneville, it’s like a boxer entering the ring for the championship fight. All the long hours of preparation are over. The truck cab goes from a buzz of conversation to dead silent.

It’s time to rumble.

Challenger 2 sits on it's trailer at Bonneville Speed Week 2018

IN WITH A BLITZ, OUT WITH A BANG

The 2017 Speed Week for the Challenger 2 team was a sequence of highs and lows. On Saturday, August 12th, the car ran a blistering 435.735 mph on a bumpy track. Danny said that the run was a “Mr. Toad ride,” referring to the famous amusement park ride at Disneyland. They checked over the car and everything looked great for the return run the following morning. The run started out great. The car left like a rocket, but soon after, the front engine went sour and Danny quickly shut the fuel off and aborted the run. Back in the pits, closer inspection revealed that the front engine had broken a connecting rod in half, damaging the engine block in the process.  Challenger 2 was done for the remainder of the event.

THE CAR SAYS GO, THE WEATHER SAYS NO

Knowing that 2017 Speed Week was a lost cause, all focus was turned to the SCTA World Finals in October.  Both engines were freshened, and by late September, the car was ready to go. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans, and the event was rained out. Just because the car was ready then didn’t mean it was still ready to go almost 10 months later. It’s back to work for the Challenger 2 crew.

GETTING IT READY

Danny, Valerie, and the crew worked on the car all through the winter and spring. The car is complex and not easy to work on. Twin three speed gear boxes link the two engines together and counterbalance the output. The car is four wheel drive, and each Hemi drives one set of wheels. The engines are mirror images of each other. The front engine is actually mounted backwards in the chassis in order to drive the front wheels. It’s tight inside the confines of the body. It’s like working on two Top Fuel dragsters stuffed inside of an ICBM missile.

THE EXCITEMENT BUILDS

The crew arrives for the 2018 event. The condition of the salt is the best that it has been in years, maybe even the last decade. The surface is thin in spots, but it’s smooth as a pool table.  A big thanks has to go to the track prep crew, who have done a stellar job with the surface. There is a buzz circulating the pits. The weather forecast is good for the entire week. People haven’t been this excited about the conditions in years.The condition of the salt at Bonneville Speed Week 2018

ALL SYSTEMS ARE GO!

On Friday, the crew does a push test of the car. This test is a standard checkout after any time the steering has been disconnected. It’s important that the steering wheel is absolutely straight, and the test shows that all checks are good. They do a few more final preparations and decide that they want to have the car in line early the next day for a 10:30 run.
Challenger 2 waits on it's trailer at Bonneville Speed Week 2018

CHALLENGER 2 RAISES THE BAR

It’s Saturday, and it’s game time. The crew hustles to get the car in line early. The flagman give the Go signal st at 10:27 am. The car leaves hard. At the 2 mile marker, Danny is already at 298mph. By the 3 mile, he’s at 372. He crosses the 4 at 417. His exit speed at the 5 is 453 mph. The shutdown area is rough. The car finally comes to a stop with the help of the chutes and the carbon ceramic brakes. The crew radio comes to life. The car scorches the clocks at a blistering 446.605 mph. Danny has just taken Challenger 2 to the fastest that it’s ever been.

IMPOUND BOUND…

Danny currently owns the AA/FS (Unblown Fuel Streamliner) at 406.769, which he set in 2016. He has just ran nearly 40mph faster than his 2016 speed. The car must go into Impound and he will need to make a return run in the AM, where both runs will average out to beat the existing record.

Challenger 2 sits in Impound after a record run on 8/11/2018 at Bonneville Speed Week 2018

BACKING IT UP

Danny and the crew got Challenger 2 in line early to take advantage of the good air temperature. They were the fourth car out on the course. The car takes off and leave the push truck in it’s wake. The car is running perfectly. By the time he exits at the 5 mile, the car is streaking at over 459 mph. Danny shuts the fuel off, pulls the chute lever, and the car glides slowly to a stop. Danny and the Challenger 2 has just been clocked at 450.909 mph. If you average yesterday’s 446.605 and today’s 450.909, the final number is 448.757.  Danny has put over 40 mph on the previous record that he set in 2016. To say that he has crushed it is an understatement.

All of the long hours and money spent have been worth it. The Challenger is now, once again, the Champ. Hail to the Champ!!

Danny Thompson record

Photos by and courtesy of Brad Bosworth and also Craig Pike of MyRideIsMe.com

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Alex Welsh

Alex Welsh

2 Comments

  1. Colin
    August 12, 2018 at 6:01 pm — Reply

    They don’t do return runs in the opposite direction for speed week. Everything is run the same direction.

    • August 12, 2018 at 6:11 pm — Reply

      Good catch, Colin! I fixed my error, and thanks for bringing it to my attention!

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