Pony Wars 2 Episode 2: A Challenger Appears

Competition is the act of two or more parties competing in a contest. Sometimes it can be a rivalry, sometimes not. In the case of Pony Wars, it is a rivalry and one that has been around a long time with the “Big Three.” Dodge, Ford, and Chevrolet are at war battling over automotive market share. One thing is for sure; their consumers are beyond devoted. We don’t know what drives one person to love one of the manufactures and loath another. What we do know is when three of these hardcore enthusiasts enter a competition, you better get ready for some sparks to fly.

Things are heating up in Episode 2 of Pony Wars as the contestants start building their cars preparing for battle. In this episode, we are going to take a look at each team’s strategy and what they think it will take to win the grueling Pony Wars competition.

Team Arrington

Mike Copeland, CEO of Arrington Performance, is heading up the charge with his team as they use the Challenger as their weapon. Arrington has been in business for over 50 years, and they know one thing: Hemis. Today, the crew focuses on Gen 3 Hemis exclusively. Arrington is the go-to for everything from parts, engine builds, to complete car builds.

For Pony Wars, Mike decided to use his personal car for the competition, a 2019 Challenger R/T Scat Pack. The car of choice has some key parts that will help it in the competition. The Scat Pack includes a performance suspension package, 15-inch brakes, 6-piston aluminum calipers, cold air induction, and, of course, the 392 Hemi powerplant.

Before the baseline dyno session with the Challenger, the crew at Arrington installed a few high-performance parts on the Scat pack. These items did not go against the $10,000 budget.

A K&N air intake system (PN 63-1565) was used in place of the vehicle’s restrictive factory air filter and air intake housing. The unit will allow the engine to inhale massive amounts of air and result in more usable power through the engine’s RPM range. The intake system includes a chrome topped K&N high-flow air filter and a heat shield that installs into the factory location. This design allows for a cool, dense air charge for a guaranteed power gain. The bolt-on design also employs a K&N air filter, which can be used for up to 100,000 miles before it needs to be serviced.

For the exhaust on the Challenger, the team turned to Corsa Performance for a set of 304 stainless steel long-tube headers (PN 16109) with 1-7/8 primaries and 3-inch collectors. They also used a complete 304 stainless steel dual exhaust system from Corsa (PN 14987) that features dual chambered mufflers, 2.75-inch pipe, with four 3.5-inch tips that are slant cut. This package offers an incredible sound and will pick up the power on the dyno.

The Challenger will soon be getting a ProCharger, and Arrington wanted to make sure the Hemi had plenty of spark to handle the increased cylinder pressure. A set of E3 Spark Plugs racing coils (PN E3.614) were installed along with a set of E3 DiamondFIRE racing spark plugs (PN E3.112). The ultra-high-output HEMI coils are designed to work with the factory wiring harness/ECU and feature a high-temperature epoxy that provides excellent thermal conductivity. The DiamondFIRE racing spark plug is explicitly designed for late model Ford Coyote and Chrysler Hemi engines tailored to high horsepower boosted (turbo, nitrous or supercharged) applications. This plug features E3’s patented diamond-shaped ground electrode for supreme spark and complete combustion.

Mike and the crew then turned to Lucus Oil for their lubrication needs. For the engine, a 0-W40 blend was selected with the use of a K&N oil filter (PN HP2010). The team also chose Lucus Oil 80W-90 gear oil for the rearend, Lucus Oil DOT 4 brake fluid, Lucus Oil Transmission Fluid, and Lucus Oil power steering fluid.

After all of the modifications had been made, a Diablosport Trinity 2 EX Platinum tuner was utilized to make these performance improvements work in harmony while extracting the most power possible. The Dodge managed to crank out 466 horsepower to the wheels and 431 lb-ft of torque. This number is good enough to put it in the lead over the Mustang and the Camaro in power, but will it be enough to carry the heavy car into the winner’s circle?

The gameplan for Team Challenger is simple. They want to make as much boost as possible with a ProCharger. Arrington will spin a D-1X blower as high as they can to hopefully take the dyno and drag strip portions. Of course anyone that knows Hemis is aware that even the 392 won’t take a lot of boost without upgrading the internals. Mike decided to install a set of forged MAHLE pistons with Total Seal rings and Manley rods. The pistons were custom made to drop-in with no crankshaft balancing required. Meanwhile, a COMP hydraulic roller camshaft and Arrington valvetrain upgrades were the key to maximizing the combination. Last, but not least, though, Arrington planned to put considerable money into making the Challenger handle, using Ridetech coilovers as well as other suspension upgrades. Given its size and weight (4,200 lbs estimated), the Challenger is most certainly an underdog in the autocross and braking despite having the largest OEM brake package.

Since baseline testing was done on Arrington’s Mustang dyno, the numbers read a little lower. Thankfully there is software to convert to equivalent Dynojet numbers, which put the Challenger easily in the lead (as you’d expect from its factory rating). For the competition, we’ll be using the same dyno on the same day to keep it fair.

Team Vengeance

Team Vengeance is headed up by Ron Mowen, owner of Vengeance Racing. Vengeance is well known in the GM world for some killer builds as well as many records with F-bodies and Corvettes alike. Ron is a serious guy that doesn’t take competition lightly.

The strategy for Team Vengeance, according to Ron, was to “win.” The team felt that they had the upper hand with the LT platform and could easily take the dyno challenge and the drag racing segment of the competition. As such, a large portion of the budget was spent on upgrading the engine and DI fuel system.

With its sights set on winning the dyno and drag strip, Vengeance immediately ripped the engine out of the 2019 Camaro and started inserting all types of go-fast goodies in the LT. Custom forged pistons from MAHLE were designed with the help of Ron to drop into the LT engine and not need to be rebalanced. The forged pistons will give the engine the dependability it needs to hold together under large boost numbers after the ProCharger is installed. Vengeance also decided to put a bigger camshaft in the Camaro.

The cam will not only will it increase the lift and duration for added power, but COMP Cams has also added a 32-percent larger lobe for additional fueling with the direct injection (mechanical) fuel pump. The fuel pump was also switched out for a factory LT4 pump and injectors (from Summit Racing) for additional fueling capacity, which is all plug and play in the 2019 Camaro.

A call to Late Model Engines (LME) was made for a set of CNC cylinder heads. These cylinder heads are factory units that have larger intake and exhaust ports, reshaped combustion chambers, titanium retainers, and single piece stainless steel exhaust valves. The cylinder heads also receive dual valve-springs, which will work with the new COMP Cam. All of these items add up to better flow and dependability, which is essential when the LT is being force-fed with massive amounts of air.

While the hard parts of the suspension were upgraded with pieces from BMR to prevent wheel hop and get the car to hook at the drag strip, Vengeance did not invest very heavily in handling or drivetrain modifications. Will the gamble pay off?

Team FordNXT

Team FordNXT is led by two-time NMCA Champion and X275 racer James Lawrence. Lawrence has been involved with some of the fastest Mustangs over the years and started the NMRA drag racing series. He is in fact, a Ford guy, with one of the fastest X275 Mustangs in the world.

Lawrence, like Copeland and Mowen, brought his own car to be modified for the competition. The new 2019 Mustang has some exciting features that are in stark contrast from the Camaro and Challenger. While it is a direct-injected engine, the ‘Stang also has a secondary fueling system from the factory in the way of multi-port injection. Team FordNXT can rely on the port injectors to supply additional fuel without expensive upgrades to the DI pump and injectors. A larger set of Fuel Injector Clinic (FIC) injectors and a bigger in-tank pump setup (to supply both sets of fuel rails) allows for near limitless fueling capabilities compared to a straight DI system.

Another notable feature of the Mustang is the rod and piston combination. These factory components are already forged from the factory and rumor has it that they are good up to the 1,000 horsepower mark. This single detail alone allows the team to leave the engine in the car saving their budget and time in the competition.

Team FordNXT’s strategy is entirely different than the other two teams. With the money the crew saved, they were able to go to Steeda and get a complete suspension overhaul for the car with two sets of springs and adjustability at every corner. Now they will have the ability to custom tune the suspension for both the autocross as well as the drag strip. They also decided to upgrade the driveline with G-Force Engineering axles and driveshaft for dependability.

As an X275 racer and tuner, James knows a thing or two about power management. Accordingly, he worked with DiabloSport as well as several custom tuners to develop a tuning strategy to manage traction. The stock 5.0L would be fitted with a smaller ProCharger P-1x blower believing that sacrificing power for traction could ultimately earn them the victory on the drag strip and autocross.

If the Mustang can make the power needed and can tune the suspension successfully for both the autocross and the drag strip, they will be hard to beat.

Three teams, three different cars, one winner. Who will be the next Pony Wars champion? Your guess is as good as ours. Tune in for Episode 3 as we take a deeper dive into the builds.

The 2019 season of Pony Wars is made possible by some of the leading companies in our industry, including Summit RacingCOMP CamsTCIK&N Filters, Toyo Tires, MAHLE MotorsportsDyna-BattWeld RacingCorsa PerformanceFragolaHolleyDiabloSport, NOSE3 Spark PlugsTotal SealMickey ThompsonMoser EngineeringBMR SuspensionMiller ElectricAerospace ComponentsVictor ReinzMorosoUS GearHawk PerformanceLucas OilPRW IndustriesWeld RacingVP RacingNOSProCharger, and ARP. Stay tuned, it’s going to be a wild ride!

About the author

Brian Havins

A gearhead for life, Brian is obsessed with all things fast. Banging gears, turning wrenches, and praying while spraying are just a few of his favorite things.
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