For the last eight years, Jimmy Daniels and Steve Comella have practically owned the Dodge Hemi Challenge as they have combined to win seven of the last eight specialty events held each year at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indy. Daniels won four straight titles from 2016-19, while Comella earned back-to-back titles in 2021-22.
Now, Comella is a three-time champion after beating Daniels in the final round of this year’s event. Comella drove his ’68 Barracuda to an 8.331, the quickest run of eliminations, to best Daniels’ very competitive 8.395.
"It's actually kind of frustrating when the car is fast and only way to screw it up is if you screw it up," said Comella. "We work all year to win this prize for one day. It's been 364 days since the last win at this race but now let's see how many times we can do it. We're going to enjoy it tonight and tomorrow we'll start prepping for next year."
From the first qualifying run Wednesday, it seemed as though Daniels and Comella and Daniels would be on a collision course as they were consistently the two fastest drivers in the field. Comella opened with an 8.35 and later improved to an 8.31 to claim the top spot while Daniels was not far behind at 8.39-seconds in his Hemi Dart, a car previously campaigned by his father, Jim Sr.
Comella extended his win streak in the event to 14-straight rounds over the past three years with wins against James Hensler and Gary Wolkwitz, combined with a bye run in the quarterfinals. Comella was extremely consistent in his manually shifted Plymouth with runs of 8.391, 8.343, and an 8.361 leading up to the final.
Comella is one of the few Hemi racers in the field who has also appeared in an NHRA national event final round. He was a runner-up at the 2019 Richmond race and again at the 2021 Charlotte Four Wide event.
Daniels had an answer for everyone in the field except for Comella with wins against Ben Kimberly, Rick Johnson, and former Hemi Challenge champ LLoyd Wofford.
For the win, Comella received $15,000 plus a special edition Dodge Hemi Challenge trophy. The Dodge Hemi Challenge can trace its root back to the debut of the Dodge and Plymouth Hemi Super Stock "package cars" from 1968. The special event with the generous payout has been a staple of the U.S. Nationals since 2001.