NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


Watch it now! First round eliminations from the Dodge NHRA Hemi Challenge

For the first time in four years, the Dodge NHRA Hemi Challenge will have a new winner—watch the first round of eliminations to see why!
04 Sep 2020
David Kennedy
Race coverage

Brian Lohnes:  And so, as we begin with this first run here, Stephen Yantus III, the 1968 Barracuda will be coming up by his lonesome. We mentioned a guy who was leading a parade a little earlier, and the guy leading the parade was in a car that said, "Mr. 4 Speed" down the side. And he is the 77 year old going on 24 year old Herb McCandless, how you doing ma?

Herb McCandless: Hey, I'm doing great. I'm so happy to be here. This is my 15th year with y'all over here in the tower. And it's great. 

Brian Lohnes: So they have a separated, it's like we're having a prison visit here. You're on the other side of the glass. How's everything going? Honestly. How's everything going? 

Herb McCandless:  Who's inside and who's outside the prison?

Brian Lohnes: Everything going well?

Herb McCandless: Yeah, doing great. Doing great. We've got a really fast car sitting up there on the starting line. I talked to the young man while we go. He's great. Great young man really got that car running. 

Brian Lohnes: 34 year old, heavy-haul manager. Stephen Yantus III has the bye run is the number one qualifier here in the first round. He went 8.477 in less-good air. And he has a tailwind. We'll find out what he does now. 

Brian Lohnes: 8.412 at 158 mph

Herb McCandless: Good weather today, he picked up .600, right? 

Brian Lohnes: One of the things we're celebrating this weekend, herb is the 50th anniversary of your Pro Stock victory here. Did you ever think after that win in 2020, you'd be back at the same racetrack? 

Herb McCandless: No, sir. Never had any idea that something like this would come about where it's hard to believe that was 50 years ago. 

Brian Lohnes: Well, yeah, it's hard to believe it. It's hard to believe that you were. I mean, like I said, you seem like you're 25 years old now. It's like, I think you've been around 50 years. Bucky Hess, left side, Doug Fazzolare, right side. This is going to be a great one. Hess with a Jason Line built 426 Hemi. 

Brian Lohnes: Down to the finish-line stripe, and 8.59 at 156 mph beats and 8.71 at 153 mph. 

Herb McCandless: We got to do something really neat this morning. We took the ’70 Duster from here in 1970 down to the winner circle and redid the [1970] pictures in the winner's circle with the Wally. That was really neat. 

Brian Lohnes: That is unbelievable. And I saw the, so where is your car displayed? Cause it's the recreation of the ’70 car is here. Right? 

Herb McCandless: It's at the Mopar trailer over here in the pits, over here behind us in the pits. 

Brian Lohnes: I saw you and some kid driving it up the return road earlier. 

Herb McCandless: Yeah. That's my grandson. 

Brian Lohnes:The next pair is now completed burnouts and rolled to the starting line. It is Jimmy Daniels on the left side. And [Joe Teuton] on the right side, Jimmy Daniels has never lost a round of competition. How amazing is that?

Herb McCandless: 18 rounds in a row? If I remember right? 

Brian Lohnes: That is correct. He is 18 and 0, in Hemi Challenge  action. And it's  [Joe Teuton] on the right side trying to stop him.

Brian Lohnes: We have ourselves a drag race. Teuton stopping the kid! 8.58 beats an 8.60. Finally someone figured it out. 

Herb McCandless: Wow. Well, these guys figured out that I was right. They put four speeds in these cars. 

Brian Lohnes: You have been for years saying that you got to get the sticks back in these things and pretty much everybody's done it. 

Herb McCandless: Yeah. They pushed them all over to four-speeds, the four-speeds are gonna run faster in high-gear.  No question about it. You're going to have some slippage in that converter. Not much, but you're gonna have some.

Brian Lohnes: It's Jim Pancake coming up on the right side. Now Pancake driving that familiar 1968 Dart. One of just a handful of Darts in a sea of Barracudas. Pancake goes in and Steve Comella, the A Hemi car. Comella's car looks tough with that flat black paint job. 

Brian Lohnes: Red-light start for Jim Pancake.

It's so tough. And you know this trying to manage those emotions. You're on the starting line. This is the biggest one of these style of races each year. You've got all these Hemi cars lined up, the red light thing. Isn't too much a surprise when somebody gets a little over anxious.

Herb McCandless: It just makes you sick to your stomach sitting in the car waiting.

Brian Lohnes: Thinking back to the 1970 race, you obviously raced Arlen Vanke in the final round. Was that the toughest round was that the one you had to really lock in for or coming through? Was there somebody else that was even harder to beat? 

Herb McCandless: I remember that one more than the others, the third and the fourth round that year I ran 10.022 at 130-some-odd mile an hour. Identical e.t. and mph in the third and fourth round,  identical. And then the last round, it cooled off a little bit and we picked up with the .98. 

Brian Lohnes: That's awesome. At the finish line interview with Keith Jackson and everything. 

Now we look at Al Smith out of Oxbridge, Massachusetts and Russ Campbell. It is the Missouri Mule on the right side. And it's the Porter Tree Super Stock A Hemi car.

Russ Campbell's car pushed itself out of the groove and Al Smyth [inaudible] 

But he gets past 8.592 at 156.48 mph Al Smyth, 8.72, eight at 153 mph. And these things are a handful. They're a handful when you drove them, and they're a handful now. 

Herb McCandless: Oh yeah, they absolutely are. Those are stock steering boxes and front ends under those cars, you know, gowing that fast and leaving that hard. And we put the rack-and-pinion steering in those cars in 1972. It was like we got into a different world. It really was.

Brian Lohnes: The next pair coming up now the Wolkwitz machine, which won the first round in Super Stock eliminator and Eric Bell on the right side. Bell, a former major league baseball pitcher.  

Herb McCandless: Wow. That's neat.

Brian Lohnes: Isn't that cool? He almost threw a no-hitter as well. He got all the way. I think seventh or eight inning, almost finished up a no-hitter back in the day. 

Herb McCandless: That's awesome, those guys. People don't realize what those guys go through, what their body goes through. 

Brian Lohnes: Right now. He's going to try to put the hurting on the left hand side of the racetrack of Gary Wolkwitz. So Bell, Wolkwitz very quick to stage here. Bell's going to move his program ahead as well. 

Brian Lohnes: The Dodge Hemi Challenge brining out these great cars in great competition. Bell had the better reaction time.

Wolkwitz has more, 8.62 at 155. He outran a 10.34. 

Herb McCandless: Horsepower is what it's all about. There's no doubt. That's the name of the game.

Brian Lohnes: What was your between-round maintenance in ’70? You're what? Checking plugs make an ignition curve. Rather timing changes. I mean, what was your in between-round maintenance? 

Herb McCandless: Well, we didn't do a lot of, we tried to go to the track, ready to race. If you had to work on your car at the track, you did something wrong at home. If you broke, you know, we fixed it. But really, as far as making changes between rounds, that wasn't a smart thing to do. If your car is running good, leave it alone.

Brian Lohnes: Leave it alone. Steve Kent, Tony De Pillo. Not gonna leave each other alone.

.009 reaction time on the right side. Kent shifting gears on the left-hand side. It's going to be Steve Kent, 8.728, 155 miles an hour.

Herb, Steve's been stick-shift guy since stick-shift guys existed out here. 

Herb McCandless: Old as me? 

Brian Lohnes: Not quite, but he's getting there. He's trying to catch you. 

Herb McCandless: Well, I started running the Chrylser four-speed when Chrylser first put the four-speeds in the car. I'd never seen one when I got my ’65 car, I'd never seen a Chrylser four-speed before I got that ’65. 

Brian Lohnes: And then you fell in love. And that was, that was your signature man. That thing was your signature for a decade. 

Herb McCandless: When you crank that thing up, everything else around was in silence—or you thought it was, because you couldn't hear anything else. 

Brian Lohnes: And here comes Rich Locker making a solo pass. And a good thing it was a solo pass because you heard the thing run into the rev-limiter going down to the top end of the racetrack. So a 10.82 or a 10.02 at 96 miles an hour will end that first round, and  Herb they're going to do some track prep so I feel like chatting hear. We've seen some big stuff. Obviously Jimmy Daniel's reign of a, of a winning streak has come to an end at 18 rounds and some great side-by-side competition as well.

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