The Mopar HEMI Challenge is set to return for its 16th consecutive season at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Brownsburg, Ind., Sept. 1-2. Mopar-powered Super Stock/Automatic-HEMI (SS/AH) Sportsman class competitors will go head-to-head on the quarter-mile at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1968 HEMI-powered Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda machines, the original Mopar package cars.
With the coveted victory comes a $15,000 winner’s prize, a unique HEMI Challenge trophy weighing 42.6 lbs. and a custom Mopar HEMI Challenge winner’s jacket. The Mopar HEMI Challenge also provides a cash prize payout to the top 16 finishers competing in elimination rounds. All entrants will receive special Mopar HEMI Challenge decals, hats and posters, as well as a numbered print by artist John Jodauga.
The Mopar HEMI Challenge made its debut in 2001 at the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, featuring the classic muscle cars that contributed to the brand’s legendary reputation and success at the drag strip. The 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda “package cars,” factory-built for the strip, were precursors to the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicles that compete today in the NHRA Stock and Super Stock classes.
“We’re very proud of how popular our Mopar vehicles have remained since their introduction over 40 years ago, and the passion we continue to see from Sportsman competitors and fans,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA – Global. “We can’t emphasize enough how much 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 for our Sportsman racers.”
“In the 16 years of the Mopar HEMI Challenge, Sportsman racers from across the country have put this event on the calendar as a can’t miss race,” said Brad Gerber, NHRA vice president and chief development officer. “The passion for this event is second to none, and the pride that comes from winning the event is something that makes the racers return yearly.”
The inaugural Mopar HEMI Challenge was won by Bucky Hess at Indianapolis in 2001. Richard Beshore claimed the top prize the following year, and Jerry Jenkins took the victory in 2003, while five-time NHRA Pro Stock champion and current Team Mopar driver Jeg Coughlin Jr. won the Mopar HEMI Challenge in 2004. In 2005, Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Mich., earned the first of six career Mopar HEMI Challenge wins (2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014) at Lucas Oil Raceway.
His streak of victories was interrupted by Rick Houser in 2007 and 2013; his father, Charlie Westcott Sr., in 2009; and Jim Daniels, who took bragging rights in 2010. Lloyd Wofford earned a place in Mopar HEMI Challenge history in 2015 by claiming victory in the 15th anniversary of the event.
In addition to the Mopar HEMI Challenge, Mopar will also continue another tradition by recognizing its dedicated legions of grassroots racers at the brand’s annual Mopar Sportsman Appreciation Night on Sept. 1. Refreshments and Mopar raffle giveaways, including a few major prizes, will be on tap throughout the night to honor those competing with Mopar power at the prestigious U.S. Nationals. Racers can also participate in tech seminars and Q & A sessions with Mopar and Dodge engineers.
The Mopar brand’s commitment to professional motorsports competition was established in the 1950s when a partnership ignited with drag racing pioneer Don Garlits, resulting in the breaking of numerous speed and performance barriers in HEMI-powered vehicles over the next several decades. In 2016, Mopar will look to once again vie for a NHRA World Championship title in both Pro Stock and Funny Car categories. While Mopar remains involved in various professional motorsports series, it continues to honor its roots by being a proud supporter of Sportsman racing within the NHRA with its sponsorship of the HEMI Challenge and Mopar’s Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge.