race reports

Mopar HEMI Challenge at Indianapolis

Daniels Gets Second Win


Photos by Chris Haverly

Jimmy Daniels (near lane) met Wendell Howes in the final round.


Jimmy Daniels is two-for-two in the Mopar HEMI® Challenge. The 21-year-old driver from Yardley, PA, made his second start in the prestigious annual event on Friday, Sept. 1, 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.

Wendell Howes


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. 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."

Dan Zrust (near lane) and Steve Kent were the first pair out for the Hemi Challenge. Zrust couple the quickest pass of the weekend (8.533) with a .104 RT to get the win over Zrust’s 9.139 and .122 RT.

In the next round both Kent and Jim Pancake went red with Kent’s -0.011 RT giving him the win over Pancake’s -0.041.

Stephen Yantus (far lane) took the first-round win over a red-lighting Russ Campbell, but lost to Howes in the next. Howes ran 8.636 (0.123 RT) to 8.760 (0.139 RT) for Yantus.

Stephen Hebert managed to get the first-round win, although he lost power right off the starting and came to a stop just before the finish line. His opponent, Matt Welker, was a no-show. Hebert couldn’t get his Cuda fixed in time for the second-round match with Steve Comella. 

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. Hess' “Kandy 'Kuda” received the Best Appearing Award.

Daniels next took down the Barracuda of Gus Mantas, whose 0.005 RT was followed by a huge wheelstand and he clicked off the engine.

Daniels then bested Steve Comella's Barracuda with a holeshot victory 8.424 (0.054 RT) to 8.400 (0.085 RT) 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.




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