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NHRA Dodge HEMI® Challenge Returns This Weekend:

$15,000 Up For Grabs For The Super Stock HEMI Dart & Barracuda Class...

The NHRA Dodge HEMI® Challenge returns this weekend at the iconic NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana. This marks the 19th year, that 20 drivers who will be driving their legendary 1968 Dodge HEMI Dart and 1968 Plymouth Barracuda HEMI Super Stock cars for a cash prize put up by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). 

Gus Mantas of Toronto, Canada, and his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda at the 2015 Dodge HEMI® Challenge. (Mopar).

This year’s competition is stronger than ever. The entries represent twelve different states, as well as three drivers hailing from Canada. Three-time and defending NHRA Dodge HEMI® Challenge champion James Daniels returns, looking to return to the winner circle once again. The 23-year-old Pennsylvania native is looking to catch six-time event winner Charlie Westcott, Jr. Daniels and Westcott are also part of the only father-son combinations in the history of the event. Inaugural HEMI® Challenge winner Bucky Hess II in his Barracuda, 2018 No. 1 qualifier Gary Wolkwitz with Dart will also join the lineup for this weekend’s race.

Gary Wolkwitz and his 1968 Dodge HEMI Dart at the 2017 Dodge HEMI® Challenge. (Mopar).

Those drivers and their Super Stock/A-HEMI (SS/AH) NHRA Sportsman class cars all feature the legendary 426 cubic-inch HEMI engine. The 1968 Mopar package cars are among the most iconic iterations of factory-built race cars.  The 1968 Dodge HEMI Dart (code L023) and its Plymouth HEMI Barracuda counterpart (code B029), were built strictly for drag racing. The cars did not have a warranty and were not street legal. Instead, the purpose-built cars featured a massive race-spec version of the 426 HEMI engine and were stripped down to make the cars as lightweight as possible.

Matt Welker, driving his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda at the 2016 Dodge HEMI® Challenge. (Mopar).

The HEMI package cars featured numerous drag racing specific modifications…

  • Race-Spec 7.0-liter (426CI) HEMI V8
  • Cars came with two transmission choices
    • TorqueFlite 727 3-speed automatic with 4.86 rear gear ratio
    • 4-speed manual transmission (A-833) with 4.88 rear gear ratio
  • Fiberglass Hood
  • Fiberglass Fenders
  • Lightweight Acid Dipped Steel Doors
  • Thin Side Window Glass
  • Two Bucket Seats (from a Dodge Van)
  • Deleted Window Mechanisms (replaced with straps)
  • Full Lift Off Hood
  • Massive Hood Scoop
  • Completely Gutted Interior (no center console, heater, sound deadeners, side view mirrors, radio, carpeting, or armrest)
  • Mopar Battery moved to trunk for better weight distribution 
  • Hurst shifter

The NHRA Dodge HEMI® Challenge competitors will have a designated parking area in the Lucas Oil Raceway pit area. A parade of HEMI® Challenge cars will take place Friday morning, August 30th, prior to the start of eliminations, with the final round to crown the 2019 champion scheduled for Friday evening in prime time, just prior to NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing qualifying. The winner will take home a check of $15,000 from FCA.

Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak driver Leah Pritchett. (Mopar).

The HEMI cars were the precursors to the modern-day package car, the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. The Drag Pak cars will also be on hand during this weekend’s event for the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) competition. Current defending FSS champion Leah Pritchett, and former Pro Stockers Mark Pawuk and Allen Johnson will also be running their Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Drag Pack entries. 

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Robert S. Miller

Robert S. Miller is a diehard Mopar enthusiast who lives and breathes all that is Mopar. The Michigander is not only a Co-Editor for MoparInsiders.com, 5thGenRams.com, and HDRams.com but an automotive photographer. He is an avid fan of offshore powerboat racing, which he travels the country to take part in.

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