The 19th Annual NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge Returning to the U.S. Nationals
For the 19th consecutive year of FCA US LLC sponsorship of the HRA Sportsman event at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, Dodge//SRT brand is returning as a title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challange. The NHRA Dodge Hemi Challenge will take place over Labor Day weekend at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis at the 65th annual U.S. Nationals. The race allows cars to battle head-to-head for cash rewards.
What exactly is the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge? The event examines “Super Stock/A-HEMI (SS/AH) NHRA Sportsman class contestants feuding on the quarter-mile in 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda machines powered by the Mopar 426 HEMI engine.” according to blog.mopar.com. The event became popular at the U.S. Nationals for its racing endeavors in 2001, and it has encouraged the manufacturer to return for more every year, growing a focal point of FCA US LLC’s promotion.
“The NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge is a fan-favorite tradition at the U.S. Nationals, and we’re proud to continue as title sponsor during one of the most prestigious events on the NHRA circuit,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Car Brands, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, and Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) – FCA North America. “It speaks volumes about the legacy of our brand at the drag strip and the passion of our fans to see HEMI-engine-powered vehicles from more than 50 years ago side by side on the staging lanes next to our modern-day Dodge drag cars.” according to blog.mopar.com.
The 1968 Mopar “package” vehicles were named solely because of the way it was purposely-built as a distinct “package” on the drag strip. The Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak serves as a predecessor to the modern-day package car. Competitors want the unique 42.6-lb NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy for the win, created as a callout to the 426 HEMI engine.
NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge Winners:
The 16 drivers competing and those that reach the elimination rounds will receive cash rewards, and the winner gets the ultimate prize of the $15,000 winner’s purse. The first winner, back in 2001, was Bucky Hess. Last year, Jimmy Daniels made history by becoming the first driver to win in three consecutive events; from 2016-2018.
Brad Gerber, Chief Development Officer, and NHRA Vice President stated on Mopar’s blog that fans love the event as much as the contestants do. “The competition gets more intense every year thanks to the effort Dodge puts into the event.” Seeing the winner, in the end, seems to be the most exciting part for everyone around.
There have been a lot of top winners throughout the years. Richard Beshore claimed the top prize in 2002, Jerry Jenkins in 2003 and Jeg Coughlin JR was Pro Stock champion in 2004. From Parma, Michigan, Charlie Westcott Jr. began a six career HEMI Challenge wins (2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014).
His victory streaks were interrupted by Rick House in 2007 and 2013; by his father Charlie Westcott Sr. in 2009; and Jim Daniels in 2010. At the 15th anniversary event, Lloyd Wofford claimed victory. Fast-forward eight years and Jim Daniels’ son, Jimmy Daniels, became the first driver to triumph in three consecutive contests, claiming the 2018 NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge win that went along with his 2016-2017 wins.
Dodge//SRT in NHRA
The Dodge//SRT brand also uses its Dodge Top Finisher program, to acknowledge and repay passionate and committed Sportsman racers. To those competitors who have advanced the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered vehicle, they receive an award that includes $500 each. The honor is given in both classes at all 24 NHRA Nationals events.
Dodge//SRT will return as title sponsor of the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, which is scheduled for this summer, July 19-21, at the Bandimere Speedway near Denver. Dodge will also take over the duties that come with the title sponsorship for the penultimate event of the NHRA season, which is scheduled for October 31-November 3, 2019, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Dodge has a lot of events that they are participating in this year.
Mopar and Dodge//SRT have come together to reach even more passionate NHRA fans. The exhibit is 4,800-square-foot, which is one of the largest on NHRA Manufacturers Midway. The display will visit 15 events during the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.
Photo Credit: nhra.com