AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Dodge//SRT brand will return as title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, marking the 19th consecutive year of FCA US LLC sponsorship of the popular NHRA Sportsman event at the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
The 19th Annual NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge will fire up Aug. 29-30 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis as part of the six days of race action at the 65th annual U.S. Nationals. The event showcases Super Stock/A-HEMI (SS/AH) NHRA Sportsman class competitors battling on the quarter-mile in 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda machines powered by the Mopar 426 HEMI engine.
“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 in the staging lanes next to our modern-day Dodge drag cars.”
The legendary 1968 Mopar package cars — so named because they were purpose built as a distinct package for use solely on the drag strip — serve as precursors to the modern-day package car, the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.
Competitors will vie for the unique 42.6-lb NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy, created as a callout to the 426 HEMI engine. All 16 drivers to reach the elimination rounds will receive cash rewards, with the winner walking away with the ultimate prize of the $15,000 winner’s purse.
“Fans love the Dodge HEMI Challenge as much as our Sportsman racers do,” said Brad Gerber, NHRA Vice President and Chief Development Officer. “The competition gets more intense every year thanks to the effort Dodge puts in to this event. We can’t wait to see who walks away with the trophy this year.”
The inaugural HEMI Challenge was won by Bucky Hess at Indianapolis in 2001. Richard Beshore claimed the top prize the following year, Jerry Jenkins took the victory in 2003 and Pro Stock champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. triumphed in 2004. In 2005, Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Mich., began a run of six career HEMI Challenge wins (2005, ’06, ’08, ’11, ’12 and ’14).
His streak of victories was interrupted by Rick Houser in 2007 and 2013; his father Charlie Westcott Sr. in 2009; and Jim Daniels, who took bragging rights in 2010. Lloyd Wofford claimed victory in 2015 at the 15th anniversary event. Jim Daniels’ son, Jimmy Daniels, made history last year by becoming the first driver to triumph in three consecutive events, claiming the 2018 NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge win to go along with his 2016-2017 victories.
In addition to the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, the Dodge//SRT brand also utilizes its Dodge Top Finisher program, now in its third year, to recognize and reward dedicated and passionate Sportsman racers. The Dodge Top Finisher award includes $500 each for the Stock and Super Stock competitors who advance the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered vehicle. The award is given in both classes at all 24 NHRA National events.
Dodge//SRT will also return as title sponsor of the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, scheduled for July 19-21, at Bandimere Speedway near Denver. The brand will also take over title sponsorship duties at the Dodge NHRA Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, the penultimate event of the NHRA season, scheduled for Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Dodge//SRT and Mopar have also joined forces to reach passionate NHRA fans through a 4,800-square-foot exhibit, one of the largest on NHRA Manufacturers Midway. The combined display will visit 15 events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.