Dodge HEMI® Challenge Returns to NHRA U.S. Nationals!

4 years ago Racing

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the iconic 1968 Super Stock HEMI® Dart and Barracuda that have ruled the drag strips for decades, Dodge is proud to sponsor the HEMI Challenge at this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The Dodge HEMI Challenge will take place during the NHRA U.S. Nationals on Friday, August 31, and award the driver of a HEMI Dart or Barracuda running in the SS/AH a prize and cash for winning the SS/AH Class Eliminations. Originally sponsored by Mopar® since 2001, the Dodge HEMI Challenge program at the iconic NHRA U.S. Nationals will continue to be a fan and participant favorite at this historic race.

It was fifty years ago that Chrysler unleashed one of the baddest cars ever to turn the tires in anger on a drag strip – the 1968 Super Stock HEMI Darts and Barracudas. These cars were built with one sole purpose – dominate NHRA and AHRA Super Stock competition. And that’s exactly what they did when drivers like Ronnie Sox, Dick Landy and others got behind the wheel of these 500-plus-horsepower lightweight machines.

Led by the late Dick Maxwell and Tom Hoover (Godfather of the 426 HEMI), the Chrysler engineers on the program, many of them at the time members of the infamous Ramchargers racing team, created these potent, hand-built, lightweight machines. With a full-on 426 HEMI under their fiberglass hood, many looked in disbelief when the program was proposed due to the unique build process required to take the cars “off line” and construct in a separate location. Luckily, Chrysler at the time had contracted Hurst and they were chosen to assemble the HEMI Darts and Barracudas. With 70 or so units built for qualifying the cars for Super Stock, the die was cast on making drag racing history.

When these cars unloaded in the pits for the 1968 NHRA U.S. Nationals, they struck fear into the Camaros and Mustangs waiting in the staging lanes. When it came down to the finals, Arlen Vanke power shifted his 1968 HEMI Barracuda and chased down Wally Booth’s 396 Camaro to win the Super Stock Eliminator title at the biggest drag race of the year.

The HEMI Dart and Barracuda would also dominate the NHRA U.S. Nationals as Ronnie Sox won in 1969 and Ron Mancini in 1970. The reputation was sealed for these cars and that would change drag racing history forever.

As the decades marched on, the cars got reclassified from SS/B-SS/BA, to SS/A-SS/AA. A few years back, they combined the automatic and four-speed HEMI Dart and Barracuda into one class – SS/AH. Soon, a new generation of drivers jumped onto this competitive class that was evolving as speed and horsepower increased and ETs dropped. It was these racers and engine builders that kept the reputation of these HEMI-powered Darts alive for fans to see.

Jimmy Daniels wasn’t even born when his HEMI Dart was built but that didn’t stop this 21-year-old driver from Yardley, Pennsylvania, from winning back-to-back Mopar HEMI Challenge events at Indy in 2016 and 2017.

Every driver wants to win the NHRA U.S. Nationals, and for those in the SS/AH class, that is strictly for the 1968 Super Stock HEMI Dart and Barracuda, the Dodge HEMI Challenge will definitely be the highlight of their racing career. They’ll make sure their cars are dialed-in for competition and looking good like Bucky Hess’s Barracuda that won the Best Appearing award at the 2017 event.

The racing is always heated at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, especially during the HEMI Challenge. These machines might be a half-century old, but they get with the program and delight the fans when the drivers stab the accelerator and the front end points to the sky.

Look for full coverage of the 2018 Dodge HEMI Challenge right here on We’ll be in the pits, staging lanes and starting line capturing all this HEMI goodness!



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