Charlie Westcott Jr. Races to Sixth Career Mopar HEMI Challenge U.S Nationals Victory
Kevin Helms Claims FS/B Factory Stock Showdown Win in Mopar Drag Pak
· Westcott Jr. captures third win in four years at 14th Annual Mopar HEMI Challenge
· With his victory, Westcott Jr. banks the $15,000 first place award, a special 50th anniversary 426 HEMI Challenge trophy weighing 42.6 pounds and a custom Mopar winner’s jacket
· Wendell Howes finishes runner-up in his 1968 Plymouth Barracuda
· Helms drives to FS/B class victory in Factory Stock Showdown at U.S. Nationals
Brownsburg, Indiana (Aug 29, 2014) – After a one-year hiatus, Charlie Westcott Jr. returned to a place that has become his second home — the Mopar HEMI Challenge winner’s circle at the NHRA U.S. Nationals. Westcott Jr. raced his 1968 “War Fish” Plymouth Barracuda to the final-round win at the 14th Annual Mopar HEMI Challenge on Friday, defeating Wendell Howes to claim his third victory in four years and sixth in the last 10 at Indy.
Westcott Jr. took out Fred Henson, Stephen Comella, Joe Teuton and Steve Kent before meeting Howes, who trailered Russ Campbell, Larry Perkins, Bucky Hess and Charlie Westcott Sr. on his way to the final. Howes was lightning-quick off the starting tree with a .005 reaction time, but Westcott Jr. had enough power in his Mopar 426 HEMI to reel in his opponent. His 8.557-elapsed time at 157.28 mph edged out Howes’ 8.669/154.05 for a narrow triumph.
“This win in a way was bigger than the others because we didn’t come in with the performance advantage we typically have,” said Westcott Jr., whose father Charlie Westcott Sr. also won the Mopar HEMI Challenge event at Indy in 2009. “I had been fighting some kind of gremlin all weekend in my car. I never could get it right, but the final round was a little better. We got the job done, and that’s all that matters. We’ve won this thing six times, and seven if you count my dad. It’s always a good event for us.”
The Mopar HEMI Challenge, which debuted at the 2001 U.S. Nationals, features 1968 HEMI Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas, the classic muscle cars that contributed to the brand’s legendary reputation and success at the drag strip, engaged in a quarter-mile battle. For this year’s edition, competitors battled for a $15,000 first place award, the special 50th anniversary 426 HEMI Challenge trophy weighing in at 42.6 pounds, and newly added prize, a custom Mopar winner’s jacket. This year the Mopar HEMI Challenge featured an added cash prize payout to the full 16-car field competing in the elimination rounds.
“It’s great that Mopar supports this class,” said Westcott Jr. “People really appreciate Mopar putting up the money and also coming out here to support the event. This is one of the biggest fields (26 cars) we have had in years.”
The 42.6-pound Mopar HEMI Challenge trophy served as added incentive for the Parma, Michigan, native. “I like that trophy a lot,” said Westcott Jr. “I told my wife, ‘We need to get that.’ And we did.”
Three-time NHRA World Champ Kevin Helms also added to the Mopar victory total, driving his 2010 Mopar Challenger Drag Pak powered by a 426 Gen III Mopar Race HEMI to victory in the FS/B class in the prestigious Factory Stock Showdown. Matched up against a 2014 Camaro with NHRA Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly behind the wheel, turning double duty in the Sportsman ranks, Helms used a .013 reaction time and 9.031/147.39 run to defeat Connolly, who posted a .041 reaction time and 9.068/148.05 pass.
In the final matchup between FS/B and FS/A class winners, Helms was stellar with a .008 reaction time but was unable to best opponent Chris Holbrook.
“This ranks right up there with the best of the best, and we did it in front of the big crowd,” said Helms, who pilots the Drag Pak for car owner Jeff Teuton, of his Factory Stock Showdown class win. “It’s heads up racing. You work all year dyno’ing motors, testing stuff, just for this moment. Dave Connolly is one of the best racers in the world. We knew he would be tough. To actually win it is really neat.”
“We came here and nobody gave us a chance to win,” said Teuton, who also owns Southland Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Houma, Louisiana. “We out drove ‘em, we made plenty of power and went round after round.”