After making the fifth-best quarter-mile pass in Wednesday’s opening qualifying session for the 19th annual NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, three-time consecutive and reigning champion Jimmy Daniels couldn’t wait to make his second and final qualifying run Thursday afternoon. The 23-year-old driver delivered the best run of the day powering his Super Stock 1968 Dodge Dart to earn his first career No. 1 qualifier position at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
“I didn’t really think getting that No. 1 position was really possible with the warmer weather today,” said the Yardley, Penn. native, who will vie for his record-setting fourth straight triumph Friday. “We really worked on it coming into today. For us to come back tomorrow and win another Dodge HEMI Challenge, it’s going to take a lot of consistency, a lot of fine tuning by Ray and Dave Barton and I have to do a good job on the tree.”
Now in its 19th year, the HEMI Challenge contested during the NHRA U.S. Nationals continues to showcase Mopar-powered 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars. Drivers compete for the iconic 42.6-pound NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy and $15,000 winner’s purse awarded after Friday’s elimination rounds.
Daniels held the fifth position following Wednesday’s first qualifying session and admitted some minor adjustments were needed today in order to claim the top spot. Daniels was spot on in the left lane Thursday afternoon after clocking a run of 8.473 to edge Wednesday’s provisional pole holder Steve Comella, who’s run of 8.480 seconds in his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda held up for the No. 2 spot. Comella’s 156.68 mph from Wednesday’s qualifying run topped the field.
Gary Wolkwitz, last year’s runner-up and No. 2 qualifier, raced his Super Stock 1968 Dodge Dart to the No. 3 position ahead of Canadian runner Wendell Howes while inaugural 2001 HEMI Challenge winner Bucky Hess completed the top-five in his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda.
Qualifying spots sixth through 10 are Doug Fazzolare, Jim Pancake, Rich Locker, Stephen Hebert and Gus Mantas.
The field of HEMI Challenge cars will participate in a parade on Friday, August 30, prior to the first-round eliminations, with the championship final round slated for Friday evening, just before NHRA Nitro qualifying.
The NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge showcases Super Stock/A-HEMI (SS/AH) NHRA Sportsman class competitors battling on the quarter-mile in 1968 Mopar package cars, powered by the legendary 426 HEMI engine. The Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stockers are one of the earliest and most iconic iterations of the purpose-built vehicles created at the factory. The cars feature distinct race packages and are for use solely on the drag strip. The Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracudas are precursors to the modern-day package car — the Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak.