Daniels Wins Mopar HEMI® Challenge, Hagan and Pritchett are Provisional No. 1 Qualifiers at NHRA U.S. Nationals
Jimmy Daniels wins Mopar HEMI® Challenge at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for second consecutive year
Wendell Howes finishes as runner-up
Matt Hagan is provisional No. 1 qualifier for NHRA U.S. Nationals in Mopar HEMI-powered Funny Car, Mopar driver Leah Pritchett is current No. 1 in Top Fuel
September 1, 2017 , Brownsburg, Ind. -
Jimmy Daniels is two-for-two in the Mopar HEMI® Challenge. The 21-year-old driver from Yardley, Pennsylvania, made his second start in the prestigious annual event on Friday during the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, and drove his 1968 Dodge Dart to the winner’s circle for the second consecutive year.
With the win, Daniels further added to the family legacy in the event started by his father, Jim, who claimed victory in 2010.
“Sportsman racing has been a part of Mopar’s DNA for decades, and we’re so happy to see the success these passionate Mopar-powered racers are achieving as we celebrate our 80th anniversary,” said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA. “Congratulations to Jimmy Daniels on wining the Mopar HEMI Challenge in his ’68 Dart.”
The $15,000-to-win Sportsman event showcases 1968 Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas—the original Mopar package cars—competing in the SS/AH category. This year’s 17th annual event drew competitors from around North America.
Daniels matched up with Wendell Howes’ ’68 Barracuda in the final round. After a staging battle, Daniels bested Howes with a pass of 8.404 seconds at 155.96 mph. The lap was his quickest of the weekend. Howes meanwhile turned in a 9.923 at 103.21. Daniels got off the line with a.013-second reaction time while Howes left after .099.
“There were some tough cars out here and we weren’t the fastest by a lot,” Daniels said. “I had to be on my game. You couldn’t take anybody lightly here; it was a tough field this year.”
Daniels qualified No. 2 and defeated Bucky Hess’ Barracuda in round one after Hess, the winner of the first-ever Mopar HEMI Challenge in 2001, turned on the red light. Daniels next took down the Barracuda of Gus Mantas, and then bested Steve Comella’s Barracuda with an electrifying holeshot victory to reach the final round.
Daniels was driving the same car his father used to win in 2010, which features HEMI power from Ray Barton Race Engines. The young driver is enrolled at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and leaves for school next Wednesday.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Daniels said of winning the Mopar HEMI Challenge for the second consecutive year. “I can’t describe it.”
Although Wendell Howes didn’t claim the top prize at the end of the day, he was still was pleased with a runner-up finish in the premier Sportsman race for the Mopar brand.
“The event was great, I think everybody had a good time,” said Howes, who hails from Rothesbay, New Brunswick. “He (Daniels) went down, I didn’t. As far as the staging goes, it was just a matter of who wanted to blink first.”
Along with his $15,000 payday, Daniels also received a unique trophy weighing 42.6 pounds. The top sixteen finishers in the event received a cash payout, while all competitors were provided with special decals, hats and limited-edition posters.
Bucky Hess’ Kandy ‘Kuda received the Best Appearing Award.
Hagan and Pritchett Each Sit No. 1 after First Round of U.S. Nationals Qualifying
The first of five qualifying sessions for the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series portion of the U.S. Nationals kicked off on Friday evening as well, with Mopar HEMI power from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) taking the provisional top spots in both the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories in unseasonably cool conditions.
Matt Hagan drove to the No. 1 spot in Funny Car in his Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T with a 3.799-second blast at 338.77 mph. Both the elapsed time (E.T.) and speed were new track records at Lucas Oil Raceway. Leah Pritchett meanwhile put her Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster No. 1 with a pass of 3.667 at 329.50. Her E.T. was also good enough for a Top Fuel track record.
Mopar/Dodge Notes & Quotes
Matt Hagan, Mopar 80th/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
“It’s fun to just be able to do something like that. We missed the .70s just barely to Robert (Hight). We were first in the .90s, first in the .80s, and second in the .70s. But that’s just how it goes, I’m just glad to be there and be able to do something like that. These cars are just awesome to drive.”
Leah Pritchett, Papa John’s Pizza/Mopar Pennzoil Top Fuel Dragster
“That was not a cruise down the highway. I’ve been on the track for two days and knew it tends to pull to the left in both lanes. When you get past the grandstands there was a side wind that started to push me and I fought to keep it square to the lane. I was out of breath at the end but when you have a race car as good as this one you do whatever it takes to get to the finish line.”