More than 50 years after the iconic 1968 Hemi-powered Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracuda factory race cars first appeared on the drag strip, loyal racers and fans will once again be able to see the iconic cars race head-to-head in the ever-popular Dodge Hemi Challenge at the 66th annual Denso NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. The popular event, dedicated to showcasing SS/AH racers, was first launched in 2001 at “The Big Go” in Indy with support from FCA brands Mopar and Dodge.
The expected field of nearly 20 entries will be chasing defending event winner and four-time Hemi Challenge champion Jimmy Daniels. The 24-year old second-generation racer has not lost a round since first taking the wheel of his father Jim’s Dodge Dart in 2016. The younger Daniels comes into this year’s event riding an incredible 18-0 round win record.
The 2001 inaugural edition of the then Mopar HEMI Challenge was won by driver Bucky Hess. Other previous winners include Richard Beshore (2002), Jerry Jenkins (2003), and five-time NHRA Pro Stock champ, Jeg Coughlin Jr. (2004), Charlie Westcott Sr. (2009), Jim Daniels Sr. (2010), and Rick Houser (2007 and 2013). Charlie Westcott Jr. is the winningest HEMI Challenge driver with six titles (2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2014) to his credit.
Qualifying for the Dodge Hemi Challenge is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 3, with all four rounds of eliminations held on Friday, Sept. 4. The final shootout will take place Friday evening with the participants vying for the custom-built 42.6 lbs. trophy crafted with a 426 Hemi cylinder head, and a $15,000 prize to the winner. The runner-up will take home $1,500, and cash payouts for semifinal and quarterfinal finishers. All competitors will also receive the coveted Dodge HEMI Challenge participant decal and event hats.
Hall of Fame Mopar Super Stock and Pro Stock racer Herb "Mr. 4 Speed” McCandless will again be the guest of honor for the event. Prior to the first round of eliminations, McCandless will lead the parade of participating Darts and Barracudas down Indy’s fabled return road aboard his own original 1968 Hemi Dart Super Stock car in celebration of the classic muscle cars that contributed to Mopar and Dodge brands’ legendary reputation and success at the drag strip. The 77-year-old fan favorite was the recipient of the Mopar President’s Award in 2017, honoring him for his racing excellence, his service as a Mopar ambassador, and his unwavering commitment to FCA brand and Chrysler, Dodge, and Plymouth vehicles.
McCandless secured his place in drag racing history by driving his Sox & Martin Plymouth Duster to a win in the first U.S. Nationals Pro Stock race held in 1970. As part of this year’s 50th anniversary celebration of the NHRA Pro Stock category, an exact replica of McCandless’ 1970 Pro Stock Duster will be on display at the Mopar Road Show in the manufacturer’s midway throughout the race weekend.
Fans who can’t make it to the 2020 Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway to watch the Dodge Hemi Challenge in person can catch all the action online via NHRA.TV and its subscription-based, video-on-demand coverage of live racing action throughout the weekend. The final elimination round of the Hemi Challenge will air on FS1 during the qualifying broadcast on Saturday, September 5 at 2:00 p.m. EDT, with a repeat broadcast on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. on FS1. Fans can also look for Hemi Challenge highlights during the NHRA coverage on the FOX national broadcast network on Sunday, September 6 from 1 - 4 p.m. EDT.