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2009 Dodge Viper - Viper In Charge

Keith Anderson's Real Street Eliminator-Winning Viper Coupe

By , Photography by , Wes AlIison

Imagine for a moment you've been invited to a shootout. Guns will be present and you have your choice of weapons. Now before you get all politically correct on us, there's no risk to life or limb, since this is going to be a paintball free-for-all. At the most, you might suffer a bruise or two, so the pansies are invited to stay home and play with their Barbies. Now comes the important part: You can pick a muzzle-loading antique and get your clock cleaned, or you can show up with a high-velocity weapon with an incredible rate of fire that can trim the whiskers off a cat at 200 yards. All you have to do to win the event is shoot straight and knock off all the bad guys before they get you. If you have to think about the answer to this, just stay home and change your name to Ken.

Now let's jump to Real Street Eliminator at the Car Craft Summer Nationals. You're Keith Anderson and you discover the Car Craft guys have dared you to show up at their shootout. All the moons and stars are perfectly aligned because you live barely 30 minutes south of Minneapolis, and you have lots of road race seat time in a Pro Touring big-block El Camino. But best of all, there's a road course-tested '08 Viper coupe sitting in your driveway just looking for a reason to turn a tire in anger. What would you do?

If you answer, "Light the Viper!" you win the prize, as did Keith. Blame him if you will for wheeling the Viper into the fray like a Mopar-badged Lone Ranger sliding into a town full of black hat Corvettes-but applaud him for taking them all on with a large-caliber weapon that didn't have to rely on a power booster crutch. Screw those superchargers-we've got a V-10.

There's something inherently evil about a Viper. It's got to be the tires. From the factory, it rolls on 275 and 345/30R18 rolling pins, and there's room for even larger rubber. In a misunderstanding that was all our fault, Keith rolled in on street Michelin Pilot Sport tires that are no slouches but nothing like the monstrously grippy Hoosiers he left sitting at home. To his credit, when it came time to settle the score, he outfought the other RSE quick-draw artists with a combination of consistent driving technique and heavy-handed horsepower. The stock SAE rating for an '08 Viper is 600 flywheel ponies, but clearly Keith's tuning clicked because the retasked electrons combined with the upgraded exhaust to lay down a solid 578 hp to the rear wheels. The next closest Late Model competitor was Richard Adams' Corvette with 514 hp.

On the autocross, Keith started out slowly but kept hacking away at the timers. The competition tag-teamed him with a different car, John Boos' C4 Corvette shod with DOT-legal sticky race rubber. John pulled off an impressive 10.879-second run on our abbreviated course, but Keith hung in there with a Second Place finish at 11.133. It came down to the Launch Box, where Keith again had to carefully apply power to torque-manage that big V-10's twist, but it worked in his favor, cutting a Late Model class-winning 4.86-second elapsed time while nemesis John finished a distant Sixth. It was a shame we didn't have a road course in our back pocket, because that's where the Viper would have really thumped. We had a chance to peek underneath the Viper while shooting the photos for our feature and were surprised to see a mini-bellypan along with a rear cutout designed to not only direct cool air to the differential but also direct air up into the rear diffuser area. Keith says the car is incredibly stable at high speeds, which may be in part due to the aftermarket shocks and springs he's added in search of elevated lateral g's.

Keith hasn't always owned a Viper. His first true car crafting effort was with a '70 El Camino that he began building when he was 18. Over a period of years, he transformed it into a Pro Touring car that spent several episodes duking it out on road courses in the upper Midwest, knocking down 148-plus-mph top speeds and more than 1 g in the turns. So it's not too surprising that a Viper would inflict its influence on Keith. It wasn't long after the El Camino found a new home that a '99 Viper appeared in his driveway. The rest of the story will have to wait for future adventures at places like Road America. But don't take our word for it. Try it for yourself-or ask Keith to show you his in-car video. That's real high-caliber fun.

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