The Mopar Hemi Challenge is set to return for its 17th consecutive season at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Brownsburg, Ind., Aug. 30-Sept. 4. 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 original Mopar package cars — 1968 Hemi-powered Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda machines.
The winner of the specialty event earns a $15,000 prize and a unique Hemi Challenge trophy. 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.
The Mopar Hemi Challenge made its debut at the 2001 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, showcasing the classic muscle cars that contributed to the brand’s legendary reputation and success at the dragstrip. The 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda “package cars” were factory-built for the strip and the precursors to the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak vehicles that compete today in the NHRA Stock and Super Stock classes.
“Thanks to the many Sportsman competitors who continually compete in the Mopar Hemi Challenge, it has become a prestigious event for racers across the country,” said Brad Gerber, NHRA vice president and chief development officer. “Winning the race brings with it a huge sense of pride and bragging rights that keeps racers coming back and draws new competitors in. The popularity of this race continues to grow from year to year, and in its 17th edition, it will surely be the biggest yet.”
The inaugural Mopar Hemi Challenge was won by Bucky Hess in 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 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; Westcott's father, Charlie 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, and young Jimmy Daniels followed in father Jim’s footsteps, claiming the second Mopar Hemi Challenge victory for his family at the 2016 event.
Mopar — born 80 years ago in 1937 as the name of a line of antifreeze products and since transformed into the total service, parts, and customer care brand for FCA vehicle owners around the globe — will also continue its tradition of recognizing Sportsman racers at the brand’s annual Mopar Sportsman Appreciation Night on Aug. 31. Food and drinks; special guest speakers and demonstrations; Mopar raffle giveaways, including major prizes; and much more will be on tap throughout the night to honor those competing with Mopar power at the prestigious U.S. Nationals.
MOPAR HEMI CHALLENGE TIPSTER
|Stephen Hebert||The Racer '68 Barracuda||3-1|
|Fresh off his sweep at the JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals in Bowling Green, the Reher-Morrison-powered Plymouth is always fast when eliminations start.|
|Bucky Hess||Bucky's LTD Auto Body '68 Barracuda||4-1|
|Was No. 1 in qualifying last year with Jason Line power before disaster struck and he hit the retaining wall. Long overdue for some good luck in Indy.|
|Jimmy Daniels||Ray Barton Engines '68 Dart||6-1|
|Impressed last season as a rookie when he went the distance in Indy. No reason to think that he won’t be in the mix again this time around.|
|Steve Kent||Kent Trucking '68 Barracuda||7-1|
|This year, he vows to have the correct gearing and jetting for his Reher-Morrison engine. He was a strong No. 2 qualifier last time out in Bowling Green.|
|Gary Wolkwitz||Earthquake '68 Dart||9-1|
|Current national record holder with a beautiful and fast car. Gave up a chance to compete in Factory Stock Showdown to run this event. That tells you how important it is.|
|Steve Comella||Comella Health '68 Barracuda||11-1|
|He is the new owner of the red ’68 Barracuda that was previously raced by former Hemi Challenge champ Rick Houser. It has Westcott power, so it’s very quick.|
|Steve Yantus||Yantus Racing '68 Barracuda||13-1|
|The latest Hemi racer to convert to Reher-Morrison power, he was third-quickest in Bowling Green. He also had a .001 light in the final and would have won if not for Hebert.|
|Lloyd Wofford||Engines, Inc. '68 Barracuda||15-1|
|Won this race two years ago in impressive fashion. Figures to have a Certainly fresh Caro-built Hemi in the frame rails for another shot at the sport’s marquee Mopar event.|