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Evil Speed—Tony DeMaio’s “Evil SRT” Challenger Hellcat menaces the competition in the Dodge // Mopar Hemi Shootout

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
Evil Speed—Tony DeMaio’s “Evil SRT” Challenger Hellcat menaces the competition in the Dodge // Mopar Hemi Shootout
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Kevin DiOssi
From his youth spent terrorizing the streets of suburban Chicago to his current career dominating the Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout with the NMCA, Tony DeMaio Jr. has always pushed the limits of his Mopar-powered machines.
Growing up, the DeMaio began racing when he was 16 years old. “Back in the ‘80s, we didn’t have a lot of tracks so we ran on the streets,” laughed the man, 53, of how his youth mirrored that of so many others in the sport of drag racing. “I had a ’74 Camaro with nitrous that was the fastest car in town. When I’d beat the Mustang and Corvette and Camaro guys, they would turn around and try to ditch me, so I had to chase ‘em down to get my money!”
DeMaio spent his adulthood working as a union carpenter, but retired in recent years and is enjoying going drag racing during the downtime with his wife, Michelle, and their kids. In 2008, DeMaio purchased a 2008 Dodge Charger SRT with a 426ci Hemi engine and was immediately hooked on the platform. He ran the car for a bit, but when the Hellcat version came out, he jumped at the chance to upgrade.
Purchased new in 2017, DeMaio’s “Evil SRT” Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat isn’t his — it’s titled under his wife’s name, she just generously lets him race it as if it were his own. The couple, who have been together since 1986 and have been married since 1993, support each other’s endeavors and make drag racing a family sport that they enjoy together.
“Michelle actually owns Team Evil Racing,” said the proud husband who often races with his two sons. Both the young men have followed in their father’s footsteps as they each own 2018 Dodge Charger Scat Pack models that they also race in the NMCA’s Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout and often help with their father’s endeavors as well as cleaning the family’s cars, trucks, and trailer. “Zakk (24) has an Octane Red one that his brother, Hunter (22) raced at NMCA in 2018 and finished second in the 13-second category at Joliet. Hunter’s is Indigo Blue and he won the 13-second category back at Indy in 2018, too.”
DeMaio’s sons weren’t the only ones having fun, though, as the father regularly ran at tracks near his Channahon, Illinois, home and in the surrounding states. Before Route 66 Raceway shuttered its doors due to the pandemic, he was a familiar face during their Mopar and street car events.
“When I first got this car, I wanted to get into the low 10-second zone,” said the driver who didn’t think the stock 707-horsepower rated supercharged 6.2-liter Hemi V8 engine had quite enough juice. “I got there but wanted to go quicker and faster… to the low nines. Now, we want to get into the eights, even though my cage is only rated to 8.50 and I gotta be good or some tracks will bust me.”
When Michelle’s Hellcat was still in its factory form, it ran low 11-second quarter-mile elapsed times. It didn’t stay in OEM trim for long, though, as DeMaio quickly added a set of drag radials, a GForce Engineering one-piece driveshaft with matching GForce Outlaw axles, and cold air intake which put him firmly in the 10.60-second zone. 
He began working with a tuner, put the Dodge on a diet of VP Racing’s finest unleaded MS109 fuel, bolted on some cat-less mid-pipes, and installed a 2.85-inch upper supercharger pulley. “It was a really consistent 10.0 car,” he stated happily. “In good weather, I even got a few 9.9- and 9.8-second hits.”
By 2019, DeMaio had stepped up his upgrades even further. He had his IHI twin-screw blower ported by Jokerz Performance, installed a Flat Out Performance 105mm throttle body, and changed to a Driveshaft Shop driveshaft purchased from Beefcake Racing.
Larger Injector Dynamics 1300 IX fuel injectors were also installed to support the extra 150-horsepower oomph from a new Nitrous Outlet plate system with Nitrous Outlet ProMax progressive controller. With BMR Suspension products onboard the big-bodied Dodge, DeMaio improved to go as quick as 9.6 seconds.
Despite the big improvement in performance over stock, he still wasn’t happy with how the Mopar was moving. “I wasn’t happy. It was laying down,” he reflected. It was at this time that DeMaio contacted Jeremy Satera of Satera Tuning and things turned around thanks to the help of the crew. “He got the car dialed in and down to running 9-flat with the same combination. By then, I was running a 2.65-inch upper with the 10-percent lower and ported blower but we had moved from MS109 to VP’s C85 race fuel.”
DeMaio was incredibly pleased with the Hellcat’s new, phenomenal performance and knew he needed to take a few steps to improve the chassis to match. “We had gotten kicked out of the track a few times for going too quick — I know I was 100 percent in the wrong and it was on me,” admitted the man who couldn’t bring himself to slow down and fly under the tech inspector’s radar but finally learned his lesson to abide by the rules. “I think I’ve gotten more disqualifications over the years than wins!”
In early 2021, even though the thought of cutting up his wife’s cherished Challenger made him cringe, DeMaio hired Mario Abascal of Gearhead Fabrications in Florida to construct a 10-point, 8.50-second-certified roll cage.
In the span of only about two weeks, Abascal had the DeMaio family’s Dodge up to snuff with its new, safe, and legal cage as well as a requisite driveshaft loop, RJS Racing parachute, and five-point safety harness. DeMaio outfitted himself with all of the latest gear from RaceQuip to be extra secure in his Kirkey seat, and many of the other crucial Mopar components came from DeMaio’s local Dodge dealer, as his trusted friend there, Bill S., always takes good care of him.
“I didn’t want to butcher the car, but I didn’t want to keep causing trouble, either,” he affirmed. Abascal eased those fears and delivered a fantastic finished product that satisfied DeMaio beyond expectations. “He sent me pictures throughout the process with all the glass out and the interior stripped and it hurt to see the car like that, but the result was perfect — no scratches or anything — and I still even have my factory sun visors, sunglass holder, center console functions, and everything.”
With blessings from the powers that be to run without restraint, DeMaio had a great 2021 racing season with the NMCA. He captured the Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout overall win with a 9.55-second average at the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street-Legal Drag Racing presented by HPJ Performance at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis in mid-May, then went on to do the same with yet another 9.55-second average at US 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan at the Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA Power Festival in late July.
DeMaio also ran in the Arrington Performance HEMI Quick 8 presented by Red Line Oil in Michigan where he made it to the finals only to be taken out by Alan Scruggs who won on a hole shot with a 9.41-second run to DeMaio’s quicker 9.19-second blast.
Having twice bested the group of late-model Gen III HEMI-powered Challengers, Chargers, Demons, Hellcats, and more, DeMaio continued to the NMCA All-American Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio’s Summit Motorsports Park in August.
He improved a tenth of a second to clock an average time of 9.45, and DeMaio was once more deemed the outright winner. Further showcasing his prowess, DeMaio doubled up when he avenged his previous HEMI Quick 8 runner-up finish with a win instead when he defeated Robert Hess with a 9.52-second trip to Hess’s 10.22-second effort in the final round.
After looking over his data logs, Satera saw an issue with a slipping transmission so Jon Sipple of Sipple's Speed & Performance in Mooresville, North Carolina set DeMaio up with an 8HP90 Max Effort Transmission and matching SunCoast Snake Charmer torque converter with a 3,000-rpm stall speed which did the trick to produce even more potent results. “Jon and Jessica built the best transmissions for Mopars and are just the best people to deal with. They’re awesome,” added DeMaio.
Finally, DeMaio wrapped up his already stellar 2021 NMCA drag racing season at the 20th Annual NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance in September at the famed Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana. There, true to form, DeMaio drove to the overall win with a 9.16 average in his final Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout event of the year. The event concluded with a repeat performance of the Michigan HEMI Quick 8 results as Scruggs won against DeMaio one more time.
Having secured four Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout event wins in a row, one Arrington Performance HEMI Quick 8 presented by Red Line Oil win, and two HEMI Quick 8 runner-up finishes had DeMaio on cloud nine going into the off-season. He hoped for more of the same in 2022, but the year ultimately had its share of ups and downs.
DeMaio started with a show of strength in Bradenton, Florida at the 2022 NMCA season opener in March. Consistency was the name of the game, and his familiar 9.55-second average once again got the job done as he captured the Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout overall win at the NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines.
“We got knocked out in the first round of the HHP Racing HEMI Quick 8 by my own mistake… it ran out of fuel even though the gauge said it was topped up,” lamented the driver of how things shook out on the final day of the event weekend.
Next, in April at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina for the Scoggin Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport, it was HHP’s own Joshua Schwartz in the lead outright while DeMaio demurred as the winner for the 9-second subcategory. He wasn’t upset about the upset, though, as HHP has been DeMaio’s “number-one parts supplier” over the years to keep his Gen 3 HEMI engines running strong.
“We had some nitrous issues with clogged solenoids and blown fuses,” he explained of his unexpected semi-finals exit in the HHP Racing HEMI Quick 8 shootout. “I thought I had it fixed but didn’t, so we had 17 degrees of timing pulled without the nitrous being added… and that’s when the bad luck started.”
DeMaio had also noticed that his aftermarket suspension components were bending under force and throwing his alignment out of whack, so he made a quick decision to upgrade to AAD Performance pieces instead. “It’s all AAD on the back end now – upper and lower control arms, toe arms, everything – and the car is dead hooking all the time,” shared DeMaio, who also received advice on camber and toe settings from AAD.
Back in St. Louis for the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street-Legal Drag Racing presented by Fuelab, DeMaio’s Dodge destroyed its engine during a test hit on Saturday morning. The damage was catastrophic – four holes in the block took out the entire bottom end.
Undeterred, DeMaio ordered up a Demon Performance 426-cube stroker engine from TKM Performance by way of Sipple that was fitted with a Callies 8-counterweight crankshaft, Wiseco BoostLine billet connecting rods, Thitek heads, and lots of other bells and whistles. 
Sipple took the point on installing the enhanced powerplant. He bolted up the ceramic-coated Stainless Works long-tube headers to the engine and the polished Borla stainless steel exhaust, finishing the wiring, and made quick work of the entire process. “He got me a motor faster than anyone else,” added DeMaio gratefully. “Everyone was saying 12-16-plus weeks, but he got me back up and running in time for Michigan.”
Still utilizing the IHI supercharger — which had been refreshed by Jokerz — DeMaio opted to sit out the Michigan race as he wasn’t able to get on the dyno with Satera, his tuner, in time. Instead, he strapped back into his “Evil SRT” Demon’s Kirkey race seat and returned to competition for the Ohio event.
Although Schwartz took the top honors for the Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout, DeMaio was hot on his heels and put together a three-run average of 9.109 seconds to capture the 9-second win. A red light start in the HPP Racing HEMI Quick 8 race, though, put DeMaio back on the trailer earlier than he had wanted.
Finally, in Indy for the Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout, DeMaio bested the bunch in the 9-second group for the last time of the year when he averaged 9.045 seconds. Unfortunately, the quicker timeslips came at a price. “We blew a piston on the last run. It was still running, just blowing smoke and showing low compression on the number seven cylinder,” explained DeMaio, who sent the nitrous-injected powerplant out for repairs.
Regardless of the hiccups, DeMaio enjoyed a tremendous two years of impressive finishes as a consistent frontrunner. His numerous wins were also accompanied by an official personal best elapsed time of 8.7 seconds with a low 1.3-second 60-foot time (and an unofficial best of 8.3 seconds) with trap speeds of 156-plus mph.
Through all the abuse DeMaio has thrown at his SRT, the stock Mopar 3.09 rear end has served him surprisingly well. “I’ve got a brace on it and have lost a few over the years, but they’re fairly inexpensive to replace so I consider the rear end a disposable item to be expected to replace,” joked the driver. If it hadn’t been for the catastrophic engine failure earlier in the season, though, he would have converted to a solid axle rear over the winter with a four-link. “Now, that’s on hold.”
The new engine necessitated some other changes, and DeMaio also has plans to upgrade to a 3.0-liter Whipple with larger injectors instead. He’ll also add spacer plates from Nitrous Outlet between the supercharger and has a goal of running closer to the 8.5-second elapsed times that his cage allows.
“I’m not a sore loser, but I don’t like not being on top and I want to be more competitive with Josh [Schwartz] and Ed [Springstead],” DeMaio said. “Part of me blowing the motors was me trying to catch them and adding more nitrous than I should have on a stock motor just for a few hundred dollars and some bragging rights!”
Despite the slight change of plans, DeMaio fully intends to return to the NMCA family of competition for 2023 as he loves the people who race alongside him in the Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout. “It’s a great group and I’m thankful to everyone at NMCA and ProMedia for hosting these events. Some left after Jeff ‘the Mayor of Mopar’ Smith passed away, and we miss him tremendously, but he wouldn’t want us not racing because of him,” noted the driven driver who also races occasionally at other events locally as well as with the Modern Street HEMI Shootout series. “Thanks also to Michael Roppo, driver of the Castrol Oil nostalgic Trans Am, for helping teach me the tricks of drag racing and always pushing me to go faster.”
When he’s not racing with the NMCA, DeMaio keeps busy with his other hobbies which include model trains, hunting, and displaying the stunning 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat at tons of car shows where he regularly places in the top and is often a fan-favorite.
From “show car” to “all-out go car,” the DeMaio family’s 1,400-plus-horsepower “Evil SRT” Mopar has proven time and time again that it is an undeniable winner anywhere it shows up.
The Details
Owner: Michelle DeMaio
Driver: Tony DeMaio
Hometown: Channahon, Illinois
Class: Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout
Crew: Zakk DeMaio, Hunter DeMaio
Car Year/Make/Model: 2017 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
Engine: 426 Hemi
Engine builder: TKM, Demon Performance
Displacement: 426 cubic inches
Block: BGE
Bore: 4.095 inches
Stroke: 4.050 inches
Crank: Callies 8 weight
Rods: Wiseco Hemi BoostLine connecting rods
Pistons: Demon TKM custom
Heads: Thitek
Valvetrain: Mopar
Cam type: Cam Motion
Carburetor or EFI system: Flat Out Performance 105mm TB
Power-adder: IHI Supercharger ported to 105mm by Jokerz
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels C85
Headers and exhaust: Stainless Works long-tube headers
Transmission: Max Effort HP90 
Transmission Builder: Sipple Speed & Performance
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: SunCoast Performance Snake Charmer 3,000 stall
Rearend: Mopar 3.09
Body and/or chassis builder: 
Suspension (Front): Demon springs
Suspension (Rear): Demon springs, AAD toe links & upper/lower trailing arms
Brakes (Front): Brembo with PowerStop Z26 pads
Brakes (Rear): Brembo with PowerStop Z26 pads
Wheels (front): Weld Racing Alumastar
Wheels (Rear):  Weld Racing S-71 beadlocked
Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson Frontrunners
Tires (Rear): Mickey Thompson ET Radial 315/55-R17
Aftermarket body modifications: None
Safety equipment: Gearhead 10-point 8.50-certified cage
Vehicle weight: 4,610 pounds with driver
Quickest ET: 8.70 seconds
Best 60-foot: 1.301 seconds
Fastest mph: 157

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