Factory Race Car: Kevan Geier’s 2004 Dodge Neon ACR

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Passion — it can be the white hot fire that pushes a person to do what they love at any cost, and the fire that burns deep in just about every racer. Ohio native and inventor Kevan Geier not only has a passion for racing, but also for anything Mopar, so when he had the opportunity to pick up a rare factory-built Mopar race car, he jumped at it.

Kevan’s 2004 Dodge Neon ACR factory-built race car is far from being a garage queen, this spunky little Mopar has seen some serious track time, and Kevan doesn’t plan on changing that anytime soon._MG_0898

To say Kevan has a love for anything Mopar is an understatement, especially when you look at his list of rides, past and current. In his garage at one point there was a V10-powered 2005 Dodge Ram SRT-10, followed by a 2006 Dodge Viper SRT-10. Both of those were sold, and a 2008 Dodge Viper SRT-10 Aero Coupe took their place to match his daily-driven, and tow vehicle, a Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. Neendless to say the ACR Neon fits right in at his house.

Kevan started racing a significant amount back in 2010 with his various Mopar rides, and has developed a serious appetite for racing. “I began doing NARRA events in the SOLO-1 group with my 2006 Viper SRT-10 and I was instantly addicted. After several years, a ton of instruction, classes, and tons of laps at various tracks, I got my competition license,” he said.

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In 2013, Kevan was given an opportunity to take his racing to the next level by local shop Studio 47, and to wheel one of its race cars in the SVRA series. Together, driver and sponsor competed in several different events in 2014 and had successes which included a second place finish in class at the famed Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The racing season got off to a bumpy start for the team this past year. “… 2015 was a rough year as the Porsche was heavily damaged by track debris during practice at Indy, and the Ferrari was totaled two weeks later at Mid-Ohio when another car lost control at the green flag and put it into the K-rail just before the starting line,” says Kevan.

_MG_0906Even though he was not driving either car at the time, his 2015 racing season took a big hit and was in jeopardy of being a total wash. The racer’s desire that burns inside Kevan would not let that happen, so he went on the hunt for a new ride.

“I had set aside a ton of time for racing that year, so I went looking for a race car. Thinking I would stick with the ultra-competitive SVRA series, I started looking for a ’70s Ford Escort MK-I or MK-II, unfortunately those have gone up in price dramatically over the last few years,” he said.

When all seemed lost in his quest for a new ride, Lady Luck smiled on Kevan in a big way. “In one of my online searches, I came across this ACR Neon. It was what I was looking for, and the price was right. I did some checking on it’s background to be sure the car was what the owner claimed. It was the real deal, so I purchased the car in July of 2015. After racing the Viper for a few years with NARRA, and a couple of seasons driving for Studio 47 in SVRA, I decided it was time to invest in a race car.  I wanted something that was a little cheaper to race than the Viper and this car fits that bill perfectly,” he explains._MG_0936

Kevan, being the Mopar enthusiast he is, knew exactly what he had in his possession now — a factory-built race car that could do battle with the big boys of road course racing. What most people don’t realize is just how rare this ACR Neon is, and how successful it was at the track. This Mopar is just one of three constructed by Dodge, in Detroit, specifically for SCCA T2 class racing. The car started as a body-in-white, so there is no VIN, title — it’s a purebred race car from birth. If it did not make the car go faster, or stop better, it was stripped out leaving only the most basic of things to make the car class legal.

Since Kevan’s Mopar had to live within the confines of spec touring car racing, the grey areas of the rules were exploited to give it an edge. This car has tons of parts that were fabricated to be stock-appearing, and were mixed with plenty of one-off parts. However, under the hood things had to be kept on the up-and-up to meet the class requirements.

The 2.4-liter long-block that powers the mighty Mopar remains pretty much stock, and is full of the OEM pieces from the factory. The engine received upgraded Mopar fuel injectors and MAP sensors to help keep the race gas flowing. The PCM received a custom calibration from the engineers at Dodge to maximize the race gas, and run the 21 plus pounds of boost the engine is capable of. Producing the boost is a stock Mitsubishi TD-04 turbo that is matched with an upgraded intercooler, OEM blow-off valve, and waste gate, and all tied to a larger 2.5-inch mandrel-bent stainless steel exhaust. All of these tweaks allow Kevan’s Neon to put down around 265 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque to the ground — and that’s plenty for such a light and nimble car.

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Bigger brakes and sticky tires help Kevan whip his car around the track and stop on a dime.

The suspension of the car has been upgraded where the rules allow and include a set of custom KW Variant 2 coilovers at all corners, and a set of larger sway bars to match. To help the car deal with the rigors of track duty when it comes to stopping, the Mopar engineers made provisions that allowed upgrades to the braking system. Gone are the meek stock brakes, and in their place now is a set of StopTech ST-41 two-piece rotors with Carbotech pads in the front and rear.

There are also cooling ducts added to the fog light holes in the fascia of the car to help keep brake fade down due to heat. Wrapped around the big brake upgrade are SSR 17×7.5-sized wheels that are wearing some extra sticky 235/40R17 slicks.

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Inside the car Kevan is kept safe by a custom-built NASCAR-style roll cage that includes some beefy door bars. A Racetech Kevlar driver’s seat from the Viper Comp Coupe holds him in place on race day, along with a Racetech six-point harness, and a removable Sparco steering wheel for ripping off quick laps at any track.

Inside the Neon it's 100 percent business.

The ACR Neon program was not just some promotional stunt, the guys at Mopar were looking to make some serious noise at the track, and which they accomplished with the three cars built. During the 2004 season in SCCA T2 class racing, the team competed in 11 events, with Kevan’s car winning two times, and making the podium another six. What makes those statistics even more impressive is the fact the Neons were running against cars such as the Cadillac CTS-V, Nissan 350Z, Ford Mustang GT, BMW M3 Coupe, and Porsche Boxster, just to name a few.

Kevan appreciates this car for what it is and has already put it to use. “We got a few test and tune days at Mid-Ohio in 2015 to get ready for the NARRA Finals at PIRC in October of last year. The Neon performed great versus a 302 Boss Mustang, a tube-chassis C4 Corvette, and a modified C6 Corvette. We placed second on Saturday, and second on Sunday (in the snow). With decent weather, I’m sure this car can do a low 1:50s lap at PIRC, and somewhere in the 1:30s at Mid-Ohio,” he said.

_MG_0934For 2016 Kevan plans to run his nightly Mopar on the full NARRA schedule in the TT class, a few SCCA enduros, and some local NASA events. “The car is small and very angry and I love it. The tuning from SRT helps this 4-cylinder hang with the big boys at the track and surprise them with the power,” he said. “The handling is great with only a little bit of torque steer when I lean on it. The big brakes really help the car go deep into the corners and stick.”

A passion for anything Mopar and racing has led Kevan down a path with many twists and turns that he never imagined. The desire to be on a track ultimately brought into his possession a factory-built race car that many would park and admire, but not Kevan; he uses it for its exact purpose. Don’t sleep on Kevan and this pocket rocket at the track, or there’s a good chance he will go screaming by you through the turns with a smile on his face.

 

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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