‘Hey, that thing gotta Hemi?’ — Story chronicles 50-year anniversary of legendary motor

Leave a comment

The Hemi motor has had one of the greatest and most profound influences on professional racing over the years, particularly in NASCAR and NHRA drag racing.

Who can forget Richard Petty’s infamous Hemi-powered 1964 Plymouth that not only wound up taking him to victory lane in that year’s Daytona 500, it also powered the top three finishers in that year’s edition of the Great American Race?

Petty led 184 of the 200 laps at a then record-breaking speed of over 154 mph thanks to his Hemi.

The Hemi was so powerful that NASCAR chose to ban it in 1965, only to allow reinstatement of it in 1966 after modifications.

And then there’s the Hemi on the NHRA circuit, where it’s still a staple after decades of use particularly in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock.

Can you believe that the legendary Hemi motor will turn 50 years old in April?

Yes, it will, with Dodge’s official anniversary celebration of its potent power plant to be held April 11-13 at the Mopars at the Strip event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

If you want to get a good history on the Hemi, its development and success, check out ClassicCars.com’s story on the motor and legendary engineer and drag racer Tom Hoover, who helped design and develop perhaps the most notable engine ever made for both race cars and street cars.

“That was a thrilling time, one of the best times of my life, I’ll tell you,” Hoover, now 84, told ClassicCars.com from his home in Denton, Texas.

Check out the whole story about the Hemi and its 50th anniversary at ClassicCars.com and also view the promotional video below from 2007 that also celebrates the Hemi.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
Leave a comment

If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski