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Hauling HEMI Durango SRT attacks the One Lap of America

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 5/8/2018 Hot Rod Network Staff
001-2018-dodge-durango-srt-onelap
001-2018-dodge-durango-srt-onelap© Hot Rod Network Staff 001-2018-dodge-durango-srt-onelap

David Carr doesn't look like a road racer; he doesn't even act like one. The burley, 30 year-old with a bushy beard and stocky build looks like he belongs at the No-Prep Drags, or a Tractor Pull. But we're not at either. David has shown up at the 35th annual One Lap of America event in a two and a half ton Dodge Durango SRT that he will carefully and judicially finesse around eight racetracks while travelling through 12 states and racking up more than 3,800 miles.

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And like David, the Durango doesn't resemble a typical road racer either. The massive SUV is antithesis of the other entries at this year's One Lap, a list that includes an assortment of domestic late-model muscle machines, sports cars, and even exotic supercars- Vipers, Mustangs, Corvettes, BMWs, Porsche 911s, and even a McLaren 570S. These are the usual One Lap suspects, not some five-door, AWD SUV.

The grunt of the Durango's slightly warmed-up and naturally-aspirated 6.4L HEMI might be one of the larger engines among the competitors, but it also has to work harder than most. This 5,000-pound midsize SUV has a massive frontal area pushing so much air, it'll send Mazda Miata's spinning into the weeds from the force of its wake.

Both David and the Durango SRT are a contradictory of sorts in terms of expectations and norms. There's a reason he chose to enter the One Lap in a vehicle more suited to towing a race car, not competing against one on the track. He's an engineer racing a SUV at high speeds on a twisty road course- not something you typically see, but that's exactly what SRT is all about. This spirit is what enticed the young engineer to join FCA's wild group of speed-crazed, horsepower junkies, who's goal is to make everything they touch go faster, handle better, and look cooler.

You see, David works for FCA's SRT group as a Vehicle Dynamic Performance engineer assigned to the Durango SRT and Jeep Grand Cherokee Track Hawk. In gearhead terms, he in charge of making the car handle, ride, steer, brake, and basically feel tight and right, so when a new car buyer is behind the wheel during a test drive, they'll yell, "I'll take it!"

David is also a racer, and in his three short decades of being on the planet, this young lad had achieved a lot in his hobby of flinging cars into corners at high rates of speeds. He started racing Go-Karts at age eight and slowly progressed to Mini-Stocks, Late-Models, and eventually earning his NASCAR license at 16. He eventually landed a part-time gig at the Richard Petty Driving Experience while going to college to study motorsports engineering and physics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

When it came time for David to get a "real" job, he found his calling at SRT. After David settled in, the opportunity to run the One Lap of America came up, and he jumped at the chance. He and his fellow SRT colleagues requisitioned a Durango SRT from the engineering fleet and the team made some simple, bolt-on modifications to the chassis and suspension, including off-the-shelf Mopar lowering springs. Under the hood, the Durango's 6.4L HEMI was left stock with the exception of Kooks long tube headers and a Mopar cat-back exhaust. For safety, a four-point roll bar was bolted-in and a five-point driver harness installed.

Since David is a One Lap newbie, and so am I, we got paired up on this little adventure that lasts eight days and pushes one's limit on concentration and endurance driving. Lucky for us, the guys back at the SRT engineering garage made sure not to swap out the Durango's comfy heated and cooled seats for some thinly-padded racing units. If so, my sciaticnerve would be raging before leaving the first racetrack.

Can a young racing engineer and a grizzled photojournalist survive 4,000 miles, 13 states, and eight racecourses as they set out in a Durango SRT on the One Lap? Check back for more updates and details on this high-octane road to prove that high-performance SUVs can be just as fun as sporty cars.

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