Twenty-three-year-old Jimmy Daniels is heading into The Big Go with quite a high bar set. His name has become synonymous with winner after the Pennsylvania-based racer won the last three NHRA Dodge Hemi Challenge events.
He’s heading into Indy this year in a similar position as last year, without a lot of runs under the belt of his Super Stock 1968 Dodge Dart this year. His last race was in October 2018, although he has been able to do a little bit of testing the past few weeks.
“The Hemi Challenge in Indy is usually the first race of the year for us with this car. I’m hoping to have it at the Reading Nationals and the Dutch Classic later this year, and we’re trying to have it Gainesville next year,” said Daniels.
But just because his Dart hasn’t been on the track doesn’t mean that he hasn’t. He has two Camaros that he races at most every race on the D1 circuit, so he has plenty of experience behind the wheel.
With most fan attention pivoting towards more modern classes like Factory Stock Showdown, Daniels says that it’s cool to be able to run in an older class at his age. “I know that it’s generally an older fanbase for this class and it isn’t what every fan is into. Everyone likes the new COPO Camaros and Drag Paks. But, it’s a really great class with a lot of good guys, and I wish we were able to have more races like this.” And one day, we may be able to see Daniels compete in one of these newer classes in addition to the Hemi Challenge. “I’d love to drive a Factory Stock Showdown car, or maybe a Pro Mod. Really, anything that’s fast, and I love heads-up racing. I think it’d be really cool to race in the Hemi Challenge with my older Dodge Dart, and then have a new Dodge competing in Factory Stock.
Winning the last three years isn’t giving Daniels any kind of “free pass” as he heads into the U.S. Nationals. If anything, he says it gives him even more pressure because he always wants to win. He said he and his team have went over the car with a fine tooth comb and they’re ready to compete, but “anything can happen at that race. We’re going to try our best.”
In addition to Daniels’ three previous wins, his father, Jim, has also won the race (in 2010), as has his engine builder, David Barton (in 2000), who Daniels described as family.
The 19th Annual NHRA Dodge Hemi Challenge will be August 23-30 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis as part of the nearly week-long 65th annual U.S. Nationals. This event showcases Super Stock/A-Hemi NHRA Sportsman class competitors powered by the Mopar 426 Hemi engine. Winners will take home a very unique 42.6-lb NHRA Dodge Hemi Challenge trophy, mimicking the 426 Hemi engine. All 16 drivers who reach elimination rounds will receive cash rewards, and the winner will take home an extra $15,000.