Westcotts remain favorites in annual Mopar Hemi Challenge event
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Mopar Hemi Challenge will again have NHRA Sportsman enthusiasts revved up as Mopar-powered SS/AH (Super Stock/Automatic Hemi) class competitors prepare for a showdown during the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals Friday, Aug. 30.

The Mopar Hemi Challenge, which debuted at the 2001 U.S. Nationals, features nearly two-dozen '68-model Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda factory race cars. These are classic muscle cars that contributed to the brand’s legendary reputation and success at the dragstrip. At this year’s edition, competitors will vie for a $15,000 first-place award, the iconic Hemi Challenge trophy, and a newly added prize, a custom Mopar winner’s jacket. Also, a new feature to the Mopar Hemi Challenge is an added cash-prize payout to the full 16-car field competing in the eliminations rounds to be held during Super Stock class eliminations.

“We’re very proud of how popular our Mopar vehicles have remained since their introduction over 40 years ago, especially because of the passion we see from Sportsman competitors and fans,” said Pietro Gorlier, president and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts, and customer-care brand. “We can’t emphasize enough how much the NHRA Sportsman drag racers that compete in the Mopar Hemi Challenge are truly the backbone of the sport. In recognizing our roots and their dedication to the brand and drag racing, we’re always looking at ways to improve competition and support our Sportsman racers. We’re doing that with a very strong contingency program, the Mopar Hemi Challenge, the addition of the Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge, and our Sportsman barbecues.”

“The Mopar Hemi Challenge has become an integral part of the world’s most prestigious drag race, and the winners of this specialty event add to the lore of the race,” said NHRA President Tom Compton. “To continue this partnership for 13 years shows the dedication and commitment Mopar has to the NHRA and to NHRA Sportsman racing, which is a key component in the sport of NHRA Drag Racing.”

The inaugural Mopar Hemi Challenge was won by Bucky Hess in Indianapolis in 2001. Richard Beshore claimed the top prize the following year, Jerry Jenkins took the victory in 2003, and four-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. won the Mopar Hemi Challenge in 2004. In 2005, Charlie Westcott Jr., of Parma, Mich., earned his first of five Mopar Hemi Challenge wins (2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012) at Lucas Oil Raceway. His streak of victories was interrupted by Rick Houser in 2007, his father in 2009, and Jim Daniels in 2010.

Part of the support offered to Mopar-powered grassroots racers competing in the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello and Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series is a contingency program with financial awards for those running with specified parts as well as Sportsman barbecues at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver, and U.S. Nationals.

In anticipation of next year’s 50th anniversary of the 426 Race Hemi engine, Mopar also established the Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge at the start of 2013, with a winner selected from the Sportsman Stock or Super Stock classes by amassing the most points at the wheel of a Chrysler Group vehicle in the course of a season during NHRA sanctioned races nationwide.

The victor will be awarded a $4,260 purse as a nod to the 426 Hemi and presented with a commemorative Mopar trophy as well as a custom Mopar winner’s jacket. All national event winners will continue to be eligible for the Mopar National Event Winner decal to proudly display on their Chrysler vehicle.

Past SS/AH U.S. Nationals class champions
Year Winner Hometown Car
2012 Charlie Westcott Jr. Parma, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
2011 Charlie Westcott Jr. Parma, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
2010 Jim Daniels Bristol, Pa. ’68 Dart
2009 Charlie Westcott Sr. Parma, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
2008 Charlie Westcott Jr. Parma, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
2007 Rick Houser Pasadena, Calif. ’68 Barracuda
2006 Charlie Westcott Jr. Parma, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
2005 Charlie Westcott Jr. Parma, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
2004 Jeg Coughlin Jr. Delaware, Ohio ’68 Barracuda
2003 Jerry Jenkins Modesto, Calif. ’68 Barracuda
2002 Mike Smith Sandyville, W.Va. ’68 Barracuda
2001 Bucky Hess Bunkerhill, W.Va. ’68 Barracuda
2000 David Barton Robesonia, Pa. ’68 Dart
1999 Sid Bonnecarrere Gray, La. ’68 Dart
1998 Don MacCallum Vankleek Hill, Ont. ’68 Barracuda
1997 Sid Bonnecarrere Gray, La. ’68 Dart
1996 Rick Johnson Litchfield, Minn. ’68 Barracuda
1995 Eddie Smith Sandyville, W.Va. ’68 Barracuda
1994 John Friel Cedar Grove, N.J. ’68 Dart
1993 John Friel Cedar Grove, N.J. ’68 Dart
1992 John Friel Cedar Grove, N.J. ’68 Dart
1991 Dean Mink Reading, Ohio ’68 Barracuda
1990 Richard Beshore Mason, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
1989 Don MacCallum Vankleek Hill, Ont. ’68 Barracuda
1988 Rick Johnson Hutchinson, Minn. ’68 Barracuda
1987 Bob Reed Bradenton, Fla. ’68 Barracuda
1986 S.E. Buchanan Hot Springs, Ark. ’68 Barracuda
1985 Dean Mink Reading, Ohio ’68 Barracuda
1984 Rick Houser Pasadena, Calif. ’68 Barracuda
1983 Clayton B. Wright Morrisville, Pa. ’68 Barracuda
1982 Rick Houser Pasadena, Calif. ’68 Barracuda
1981 Dave Dupuis Baton Rouge, La. ’68 Barracuda
1980 Al Carpinet Jr. Wyoming, Pa. ’68 Barracuda
1979 Richard Griffin Gainesville, Ga. ’68 Barracuda
1978 Max Hurley Grundy, Va. ’68 Dart
1977 Jim Kinnett Lilburn, Ga. ’68 Barracuda
1976 Jim Kinnett Lilburn, Ga. ’68 Barracuda
1975 Bruce Hawk Warren, Mich. ’68 Dart
1974 John Tedder Warren, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
1973 John Tedder Warren, Mich. ’68 Barracuda
1972 Judy Lilly Littleton, Colo. ’68 Barracuda
1971 Ron Mancini Mount Clemens, Mich. ’68 Dart
1970 Jim Wick Fond du Lac, Wis. ’68 Barracuda (stick shift)
1970 Ron Mancini Mount Clemens, Mich. ’68 Dart
1969 Ronnie Sox Burlington, N.C. ’68 Barracuda*
1969 John Hagen St. Paul, Minn. ’68 Barracuda*
1968 Wiley Cossey Pomona ’68 Barracuda
*Super Stock class eliminations were not held in 1969. The two quickest entries in each class automatically advanced into final eliminations.

Mopar Hemi Challenge Tipster

Charlie Westcott Jr. (War Fish Barracuda)    Even
With five wins in the last eight years, he isn’t just the favorite, but an overwhelming one
Charlie Westcott Sr. (War Fish Barracuda)   3-1
Will have one of the quickest cars in the class and will go as far as his driving takes him

Stephen Comella (Island Hemi Dart)   5-1
Has made a lot of solid runs lately, which should make him a contender

David Barton (Wolkwitz & Barton Dart)   6-1
Looking for a rare double in the Hemi Challenge and Factory Stock Showdown

Jim Daniels (Daniels Racing Dart)   7-1
Won this event in 2010, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a contender again this year

Joe Teuton (Southland Dodge Barracuda)   9-1
If you’re looking for someone to steal a round or two on a holeshot, this is probably your guy

Steven Hebert (Hebert Racing Barracuda)   12-1
Running a Reher-Morrison engine combo, which means he’ll likely be among the top qualifiers

Gary Wolkwitz (Earthquake Dart)   14-1
Should have the best Hemi power that Barton Racing has to offer, which bodes well for his chances