Mopar HEMI® Challenge – Horses to the Gate!

One of the most anticipated Sportsman drag racing attractions of the entire season for the sport of drag racing is at the ready line for this weekend’s NHRA Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis…..

For the 14th consecutive season – Mopar ‘s HEMI® Challenge held exclusively for SS/AH class cars – will be held during the Thursday and Friday portion of the weekend schedule.

The Mopar brand will highlight once again its commitment to Sportsman racing competition within the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) by holding the ever-popular HEMI® Challenge for a 14th consecutive season at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind., this August. This year’s edition will include a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the GEN II 426 Race HEMI as part of Mopar’s year-long commemoration of the iconic engine.

The HEMI Challenge first made its debut on the quarter-mile track at the 2001 edition of the prestigious U.S. Nationals held at Lucas Oil Raceway and featured 1968 HEMI Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas, the classic muscle cars that contributed to the brand’s legendary reputation and success at the drag strip.2013-Hemis-04-_01

This year’s edition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the iconic second generation HEMI engine that powers these vehicles with a winner’s award of $15,000, a unique 50th anniversary HEMI Challenge trophy and a custom Mopar HEMI 50th anniversary winner’s jacket. Every participant in the Mopar-powered Super Stock/Automatic-HEMI (SS/AH) class participating in the HEMI Challenge will receive:

• HEMI Challenge hatMopar
• HEMI Challenge commemorative poster
• Special HEMI 50th anniversary key chain
• HEMI 50th anniversary logo decals
• Limited edition print of the 50th anniversary HEMI heritage wall display

The top 16 cars advancing to the elimination rounds on Friday, August 29, also will receive a cash prize payout.

“The legendary 426 HEMI engine was introduced 50 years ago through motorsports and went on to power the classic Mopar muscle cars that still are such a big part of our heritage thanks in part to the passion of our sportsman competitors and fans,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “That passion and heritage comes alive every year with the HEMI Challenge and the NHRA Sportsman drag racers who compete in this annual showcase. This year, we’re excited to celebrate this half century of the HEMI with the group of racers that are truly the backbone of the sport with their dedication to the brand and drag racing.”

“Continuing to support the HEMI Challenge and our sportsman racers is important to Mopar. A strong contingency program, Sportsman barbecues, the establishment of the Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge in 2013, and now a 14th edition of the Mopar HEMI Challenge, are just a few examples of how much we value their contributions.”
“For years, this has been one of the most competitive ‘race-within-a-race’ events in the NHRA,” said Tom Compton, president of NHRA. “That’s one reason why our fans love it so much; there’s never a clear-cut favorite.”

Among the all Mopar Sportsman competitors taking part in the U.S. Nationals, one will be chosen as Mopar’s “Top Eliminator” in the long-running customized and performance vehicle program that highlights passionate and dedicated Mopar enthusiasts who display unmatched skill in modifying or preserving a classic or modern-day Mopar vehicle. Last year’s winner was the 2010 “Knox County Driller” Mopar Challenger Drag Pak owned by Brent Jones, of Wheatland, Ind. A total of four 2014 Top Eliminator selections will be made from entries at the Carlisle Chrysler Nationals in Carlisle, Pa., ‘Mopars in the Park’ in Farmington, Minn., and a final one will be chosen from an online contest with fans voting to determine the winner.

In addition to the HEMI Challenge, Mopar offers Sportsman racers support in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello and Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series with a grassroots contingency program that provides financial awards for those running specified parts, as well as a Sportsman barbecue.

Mopar also established the “Tom Hoover Sportsman Challenge” in 2013 and will continue the program through 2014 with a winning driver selected from the Sportsman Stock or Super Stock classes by amassing the most points behind the wheel of a Chrysler Group vehicle in the course of the season at NHRA sanctioned races nationwide. Last year’s winner was talented 24 year old, Austin Williams, of Texas, who drives a stock class 1972 Duster.

Defending 2013 Mopar Hemi Challenger winner - Rick Houser

Defending 2013 Mopar Hemi Challenger winner – Rick Houser

The 2001 inaugural edition of the Mopar HEMI Challenge was won by driver Bucky Hess. Previous winners also include Richard Beshore (2002), Jerry Jenkins (2003) and five-time NHRA Pro Stock champ, Jeg Coughlin Jr. (2004). Charlie Westcott Jr., of Parma, Mich. has five career HEMI Challenge wins, (2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, and 2012) with his father, Charlie Westcott Sr. (2009), Jim Daniels (2010) and current defending winner Rick Houser (2007 and 2013) interrupting those victories.

This year’s HEMI Challenge is scheduled to take place Thursday, August 28 and Friday, August 29, during the 60th annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Ind., held from Aug. 27–Sept. 1.

The event will be witnessed by many Mopar legend racers that includes (scheduled to appear) :Don Garlits, Roland Leong, Ted Spehar, Herb McCandless along with several members of the original Ramchargers racing team including; Tom Coddington, Al Adams and John Werhli.

Posted with files from Pat Caporali and Bruce Biegler
Bruce Biegler Photos