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The Dodge/HEMI Challenge Still Excites Fans at US Nationals, James Daniels Wins | Presented by Nitto Tire


Photo Courtesy of NHRA/National Dragster

The Dodge/HEMI Challenge continued to impress fans and racers as 27 Super Stock/Automatic-Hemi class cars converged on the Chevrolet Performance US Nationals the eighteenth straight year to race heads up. The category consists of the Hemi-equipped 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda models in Super Stock trim and the class packs mid-8 second runs with thrilling wheelies and door-to-door action. James Daniels would once again walk away with the class win, his third straight US Nationals title.

Topping the impressive field was Gary Wolkwitz as he stopped the clocks in just 8.524 seconds with a top speed of 154.86 mph, he was trailed by teammate Daniels who ran 8.538 at an even higher speed of 155.20 mph. Both racers drive a 1968 Dodge Dart with HEMI engines by Ray Barton Racing Engines. The summary of eliminations showed Daniels and Wolkwitz on a collision course with each in the final round. Daniels beat Mark Howes, Dan Zrust, and Russ Campbell to earn a spot in the finals. Wolkwitz began his side of the ladder with a bye-run due to the odd number of cars in competition and as a reward for his number one qualified position. He would then face and defeat Wendell Howes, Bucky Hess, and Gus Mantus to meet to Daniels for the final dance of the party.

Hanging in the balance of the Dodge/HEMI Challenge sat $15,000 along with the prestigious custom HEMI trophy and all of the glory that goes with it. Daniels showed his youthful energy by grabbing the holeshot thanks to a .033 light while Wolkwitz trailed behind with a .093 reaction time. The younger driver raced to his third straight US Nationals victory with a stellar 8.662 at 156.15 mph while Wolkwitz shut off his steed at mid-track. According to sources at the NHRA, the Dodge Dart that Daniels drove to victory has five Dodge/HEMI Challenge titles under its belt at the Big Go, it was previously driven to the winner’s circle by David Barton in 2000 and by Daniels’ father (Jim Daniels) in 2010.

Mike Galimi
Mike Galimi is the Director of Content & Marketing at ProMedia Publishing and Events with nearly 20 years of experience in motorsport writing and photography.