This year’s Dodge Hemi Challenge victor will be awarded $15,000 and a new-look, custom-made trophy created by Tom Patsis of Cold Hard Art, a local Brownsburg, Indiana-based artist, former NHRA welder-fabricator and winner of the 2021 Netflix competition series “Metal Shop Masters.”
Nearly 20 entrants are expected to vie for the new trophy and bragging rights this year. Among them will be defending winner Steve Comella who had a dominant performance in his Hemi Barracuda driving from No.1 qualifier to the winner’s circle as a follow up to his runner-up finish in 2020. Four-time Hemi Challenge winner Jim Daniels Jr. (2016-2019) will also be back to compete aboard his ’68 Dart after finishing runner-up to Comella in last year’s final round.
A number of the legendary staples competing in the long-standing event include Bucky Hess, the winner of the first Hemi Challenge in 2001, as well as veteran Jim Pancake and Joe Teuton.
Paul Rossi, renowned Mopar drag racer, engine builder, development engineer, team owner and innovator, has been named grand marshal as acknowledgment of his contributions in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s to the development of high-performance products in the Dodge family . Rossi dominate the Super Stock class with his 440 Six Pack ’70 Challenger. Rossi is excited to be called up to lead the parade of iconic Hemi muscle cars along Indianapolis’ fabled return road for this year’s event.
“I’m so honored to be called upon as grand marshal,” said Rossi, who also campaigned one of the original Hurst-built ’68 Hemi (B029) Barracuda Super Stock cars. “I completely understand the appeal of the Dodge Hemi Challenge. There’s nostalgia there and fans like to see them going fast. It’s just fantastic to have a category that calls these classic muscle cars back out of the garage. I really love that.
“I had an original Hemi Barracuda and took it to the Super Stock (SS/AA) 1975 NHRA World Finals (Ontario, California) and while I finished runner-up, I was the last standing Mopar and fastest Hemi in the country. My first US Nationals was in 1963 aboard a brand new Plymouth Ramcharger A/FX. It was the first Mopar to enter the class, and coming here to Indy was just the biggest thrill. As a competitor or a fan, it still has that appeal.”
The racing legend, who in addition to his many successes in NHRA also won multiple IMSA championships and Pike’s Peak endurance races, will join Direct Connection spokesperson Chuck Spieser for a question-and-answer session with performance enthusiasts on Saturday, Sept. 3, at 3:30 pm at the Dodge//SRT and Mopar exhibit in the NHRA’s Manufacturers’ Midway.
The Dodge Hemi Challenge will be streamed live on NHRA.TV with subscription-based video-on-demand coverage of qualifying on Thursday, Sept. 1, and elimination rounds on Friday, Sept. 2, with highlights of the parade and final eliminations expected to be part of the FS1 qualifying show on Sunday, Sept. 4, from 1 to 3 pm ET.