HEMI Highlights!

It’s one of the most anticipated and highest profile Sportsman drag racing events of the entire season for drag racing — and Indianapolis’s U.S. Nationals was once again the host for the most recent edition Mopar HEMI Challenge….

After dealing with and then overcoming some initial friction due to varying rules interpretation for the marquee SS/AH class — it was “game on” for this unique racing genre — which features class participants most of whom are rather wealthy making the annual boasting rites for a victory exceed the need for the prize money offered.

The 2013 Mopar HEMI Challenge was run to completion during Friday’s amazing racing schedule during 59th running of drag racing’s overall most prestigious event and saw 19 cars entered for the eliminator.

The best Mopar SS/AH class racers in the world faced off at Indy for the 2013 Mopar HEMI Challenge

The best Mopar SS/AH class racers in the world faced off at Indy for the 2013 Mopar HEMI Challenge

Emerging on top for the (Super Stock/A category-HEMI) class eliminations was Rick Houser who scored his second career victory since the Mopar brand began presenting the HEMI Challenge.

Houser, who is from California, took his RaceTec Pistons 1968 Plymouth Barracuda to the event win over fellow Barracuda driver Stephen Hebert.  For that he bagged the $15,000 winner’s purse, as well as the iconic Mopar HEMI Challenge trophy and a custom Mopar winner’s jacket.

Houser, the No. 2 qualifier, was first to the stripe with an 8.502/158.54 pass, besting No. 3 qualifier Hebert’s 8.682/154.56 run to nab his second Mopar HEMI Challenge Indy win, following his 2007 victory.   He also won at Indy in 1982 and 1984 when the eliminator was previously designated the SS/AA class category.

Rich Houser (near lane) beat Stephen Herbert in the final round: 8.502 secs 158.54 mph to 8.682 secs 154.56 mph.

Rick Houser (near lane) beat Stephen Herbert in the final round: 8.502 secs 158.54 mph to 8.682 secs 154.56 mph.

“It’s pretty satisfying, because we had a complete different program the last time we won,” said  Houser, who knocked off Joe Teuton, Jim Pancake and defending (and five-time) Indy Mopar HEMI Challenge champ Charlie Westcott Jr. on his road to the final.  “We had an automatic (car), and Joe Allread was our engine builder.  We were close friends, and then Joe passed away. We had to go in a different direction, and that’s when we went with Westcott power and put a stick in the car. It took us a few years to get acclimated and get on top of the clutch, so from that standpoint it’s very satisfying.  The win in 2007 was also very special, because it was with Joe. Each one has its own significance as a great achievement.”Although Houser stopped No. 1 qualifier Westcott Jr.’s  Mopar HEMI Challenge win streak, the triumph was also a victory of sorts for Westcott, who supplies the HEMI engines for Houser’s Mopar race car. “It shows that Charlie builds the same power for his customers that he builds for himself, and that if you know how to tune your car, he can be beat,” Houser said.

On the Mopar brand’s sponsorship of the 13th annual Mopar HEMI Challenge at Indy, which features 1968 HEMI Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas from the SS/AH class in competition, Houser added, “I’m very appreciative. It makes us all feel really special. We’re treated like this is very meaningful, and it’s something that you’ll treasure all your life.”


Runner-up Hebert earned $1,500 with his second-place showing and gained valuable info from his final-round run. “We won just getting here, just getting in the final,” said Hebert, who defeated Joe Paillot, Dan Zrust and David Barton to set up a money-round match with Houser. “This is the first year my family was able to come out. The car ran good. We didn’t have the perfect setup for the motor, but now we have a lot of data to work with.  The motor ran flawlessly, and when we get the car to work with the motor, we’ll be back in another final again one day soon.”

Posted with files from Pat Caporali & Bruce Biegler

Photos by:  Bruce Biegler & Steve Embling

View DragRaceCanada’s Mopar HEMI Challenge Photo Gallery Extra:  HERE