Details on the First Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 in the 8s

A week ago, pictures of a 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 running in the high-8-second range showed up across social media with minimal information. Prior to the track pictures of that Demon 170 shown here running in the 8s spread across social media, there were pictures of a similar car on the dyno with the team from Gearhead Fabrication. That car had some tuning work done, with before and after numbers, so many people wondered two things – were they the same cars and was the 8-second car tuned?

Lee Saunders Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170

Some social media group members who know the owner of this Demon 170 shared this pictures, stating that the owner doesn’t have social media, but one of those group members was good enough to send my contact information to the Lee Saunders, the owner of the car in question. Saunders then provided all of the key details on the first privately owned SRT Demon 170 to run an 8-second quarter mile.

First, Saunders told us this about the dyno runs with his 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170:

“We dynoed it stock, and with a trans tune with additional rpm. They also cleaned up the factory misfires with a plug change.”

I previously spoke with Mario Abascal of Gearhead Fabrications, who explained that there have been some misfire issues with the factory spark plugs, so the spark plug change helps to smooth out any of those issues under hard throttle. As for the increases engine RPM through the transmission tune, that has been shown to lead to bigger power numbers on many modern Dodge vehicles. Those changes led to an increase from 927 to 976 rear wheel horsepower with some help from an HPTuners device and after that, it was time for some track testing.

Lee Saunders Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170

The first track time took place at Orlando Speed World, but Saunders explained that the track prep was less than ideal, so traction was tough. In fully stock form, his Demon 170 ran a 9.39 with a 1.41 60-foot time, but then they loaded the transmission tune that yielded higher power levels on the dyno. Even with the slick track, that got Saunders down to a 9.20 with a 1.35 short time, while the other 7 runs were aborted due to poor grip.

Lee Saunders Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170

Next, the team headed to Bradenton, where they had better grip for the launch.

“As always with Wade’s prep, track had major teeth! First run off trailer with the trans only tune in it was a 9.07 with a 1.27 60’. This was with the shift point raised 200 rpm and torque management system tweaked. We then raised the shift point 100 rpm more and went 8.98 with the same 1.27 60′. Both runs were with the full factory interior and stock wheel/tires.”

Again, these 8-second runs were recorded on December 6th in the early afternoon. The first 8-second run by a privately owned 2023 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170 occurred at 12:01pm, with the second taking place at 1:11. Per the information that Gearhead Fabrications posted on Facebook, we know that the car was running on an 87% ethanol blend (from the pump) for track testing.

Lee Saunders Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170

His next 8-second pass included another common change from stock.

“We swapped the stock front tires for Weld skinnies and boy what a difference in weight! No change to the tune, the car went 8.94 with a 1.23 60′. I initially thought it was a fluke or a glitch in the clocks. We decided to swap the rear wheels for my Welds, even though there was very little weight savings. The car did another 8.94 with an exact match of the 60′. This was still with full interior and with the DA in the 400-500′ range during the 8 second passes!”

As a reminder, when Dodge recorded their official 8.91 record run at South Georgia Motorsports Park, the DA was around negative 300 feet, so Lee Saunders’ 8-second runs were recorded at a significantly higher density altitude than the official Dodge number.

“At no time during this outing did we do any tuning except to the TCM . We only changed the shift points and torque management. We didn’t change the PCM tune. The car pulls extremely hard above the factory shift point, and with the torque management tweak, the shifts are so much better.”

Saunders and the Gearhead team are hoping to get back to the track next week to see if they can improve on their current best of 8.947 at 150.33 miles per hour. Seeing as how this car has a full interior that includes the big sound system, the team plans to remove some of the extra weight in order to get closer to the weight of the Dodge single-seat car that laid down the 8.91 official number. Obviously, based on their runs at full weight, there is no question that this Demon 170 will beat the Dodge number with some weight removed. Some critics of the 1,025-horsepower Challenger will whine because the car was not 100% factory stock, but running 8s with a change of the wheels, tires, plugs and transmission tune is something that no other production car has ever done.

Lee Saunders Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170

I believe that an SRT Demon 170 owner will run the Dodge number without any tuning adjustments, but the bottom line here is that Lee Saunders and the team at Gearhead Fabrications were the first to put a privately owned 2023 Challenger SRT Demon 170 in the 8-second range.

Lee Saunders Dodge Challenger SRT Demon 170

For those wondering, Lee Saunders is not new to racing in a Dodge by any means. He has “a couple turbo Vipers”, including cars built by Heffner and Aaron at Nth, a Viper that he drives in the TransAm series, a 9.0 2018 Demon, a turbocharged 2011 Challenger that runs in the 7s and a few classic Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars – making it clear that he is truly a diehard Mopar racer.

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