Wendall Versus Westcott!
Mopar’s fan favourite and prestigious HEMI Challenge for SS/AH class cars went down during NHRA Indy last weekend and that 14th annual affair produced a familiar winner plus an exciting Can-Am final round…..
After a one-year hiatus, Charlie Westcott Jr. returned to a place that has become his second home — the Mopar HEMI Challenge winner’s circle at the NHRA U.S. Nationals. Westcott Jr. raced his 1968 “War Fish” Plymouth Barracuda to the final-round win at the 14th Annual Mopar HEMI Challenge on Friday. The Michigan based driver defeated New Brunswick’s Wendell Howes to claim his third victory in four years and sixth in the last 10 at Indy.
Westcott Jr. took out Fred Henson, Stephen Comella, Joe Teuton and Steve Kent before meeting Howes, who trailered Russ Campbell, Larry Perkins, Bucky Hess and Charlie Westcott Sr. on his way to the final. Howes was lightning-quick off the starting tree with a .005 reaction time, but Westcott Jr. had enough power in his Mopar 426 HEMI to reel in his opponent. His 8.557-elapsed time at 157.28 mph edged out Howes’ 8.669/154.05 for a narrow triumph.
“This win in a way was bigger than the others because we didn’t come in with the performance advantage we typically have,” said Westcott Jr., whose father Charlie Westcott Sr. also won the Mopar HEMI Challenge event at Indy in 2009. “I had been fighting some kind of gremlin all weekend in my car. I never could get it right, but the final round was a little better. We got the job done, and that’s all that matters. We’ve won this thing six times, and seven if you count my dad. It’s always a good event for us.”
The Mopar HEMI Challenge, which debuted at the 2001 U.S. Nationals, features 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, engaged in a quarter-mile battle. For this year’s edition, competitors battled for a $15,000 first place award, the special 50th anniversary 426 HEMI Challenge trophy weighing in at 42.6 pounds, and newly added prize, a custom Mopar winner’s jacket. This year the Mopar HEMI Challenge featured an added cash prize payout to the full 16-car field competing in the elimination rounds.
“It’s great that Mopar supports this class,” said Westcott Jr. “People really appreciate Mopar putting up the money and also coming out here to support the event. This is one of the biggest fields (26 cars) we have had in years.”
Posted with files from Pat Caporali & Bruce Biegler
Photos by: Bruce Biegler