It’s all in the numbers: Mopar will hold its 14th consecutive HEMI Challenge to commemorate the 50th anniversary of its Gen II 426 race HEMI engine at this year’s NHRA 60th running of the U.S. Nationals held in Indianapolis, August 28-29.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.
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 a hat, commemorative poster, key chain, HEMI 50th anniversary logo decals, and a limited edition print of the 50th anniversary HEMI heritage wall display.
“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.
“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.”
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.