Hamlin swaps engine; Johnson leads final practice at Atlanta

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After qualifying fourth on Friday night, Denny Hamlin will have to start from the rear of the field for Sunday’s Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway after his Joe Gibbs Racing team changed his engine following a practice session this afternoon.

Hamlin is driving this weekend with a sprained right thumb after being caught in a late-race accident last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He is the defending race winner at Atlanta.

Fellow Toyota driver Brian Vickers will also have to start from the rear on Sunday. Like Hamlin, his Michael Waltrip Racing team swapped the motor on his car yesterday. Both drivers use Toyota Racing Development powerplants.

Vickers and Hamlin were 20th and 21st in final practice tonight at AMS, which was led by Jimmie Johnson with a lap at 186.447 miles per hour in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne rounded up the Top 5 in the session, while Sunday’s pole sitter, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., logged the 12th-fastest time.

Dodge to celebrate 50th anniversary of Hemi motor at NHRA U.S. Nationals

Photo courtesy Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
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When this year’s NHRA U.S. Nationals plays out from August 29 through September 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, a lot of folks are going to be channeling one of the most famous lines in motorsports:

“Hey, that thing got a Hemi?”

Dodge and parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Thursday – on National Hemi Day, no less – announced that it will celebrate the Hemi’s 50th anniversary of Super Stock cars with the 18th annual Dodge Hemi Challenge during the U.S. Nationals.

Cars that will take part in the Challenge will be 1968 Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda cars – “The most iconic of the Mopar package cars,” touted a Dodge press release – in a head-to-head battle.

The Dart and Barracuda were purpose built for use solely on a drag strip. The 23 entrants in the Challenge will drive their personally owned versions of the ’68 ‘Cuda and Dart.

The winner of the Challenge – which will be held August 30-31 – will take home a $15,000 purse, while cash rewards will be available for all 16 drivers that qualify for final eliminations.

“The Dodge brand is proud to serve as title sponsor of the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, an event that spotlights the legacy and power of the 426 HEMI engine,” said Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America.

Beahm added, “This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Dodge Dart and Plymouth Barracuda Super Stock cars that debuted back in 1968 and are still competing today, which makes our support of this edition of the HEMI Challenge extra special.”

One special incentive for contestants is the 42.6-pound NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge trophy, created in the spirit of the 426 (cubic inch) HEMI engine.

Jimmy Daniels has won the Challenge the last two years and goes for a three-peat in this year’s race within a race. His father, Jim Daniels, won the race in 2010.

The Challenge’s all-time winningest driver is Charlie Westcott Jr. of Parma, Michigan, who captured the Challenge in six different years: 2005, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

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