Jimmy Daniels kept his unbeaten streak alive by picking up his fourth straight Dodge HEMI Challenge victory at the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
INDY – One of the coolest events at the week long U.S. Nationals is the HEMI Challenge. In what was once called the SS/AA class finals, the HEMI Challenge has brought increased attention, prestige, and money to the HEMI cars that have dominated the class since the sixties.
After taking the reigns of the Ray Barton Racing Engines ’68 Dart from his father a few years ago, Jimmy Daniels has yet to lose a round in his four Hemi Challenge events.
With the three-peat in 2018, Jimmy came into the 2019 event as the odds on favorite to capture his fourth straight title. And he didn’t disappoint as he took the wire-to-wire victory on Friday evening after qualifying #1 and running over the field for another huge $15,000 payday.
Daniels sat atop the 19-car field in qualifying with an 8.473 elapsed time. Steve Comella posted an 8.480 for the second spot while Gary Wolkwitz was third with an 8.532. Joseph Paillot rounded out the field in 19th with a 9.687 elapsed time.
HEMI Challenge Results
Jimmy opened eliminations on Friday with a bye in the first round where he posted low E.T. of the round with a 8.494 shot. Daniels fell behind off the line against round two opponent Doug Fazzolare. Fazzolare grabbed a .07 lead at the tree but Daniels’ Ray Barton horsepower chased him down with an 8.512 to Fazzolare’s 8.627.
In round three, Daniels was vulnerable when he posted his slowest time of the event, an 8.656. He was able to advance after Wendell Howes encountered problems and slowed to a 14.509.
Also in round three, Jim Pancake took a bye to the semifinal round while Rich Locker used a .012 holeshot to turn back contender Bucky Hess by just .0242-seconds.
The semifinals saw Locker take a bye run to the final round while Daniels battled Pancake for a spot in the final. In the closest race of the day, Daniels narrowly survived by .0027-seconds. Pancake grabbed a .067 advantage off the tree and posted a stout 8.562, his best run of the event.
It took low E.T. of the event from Daniels to slip past Pancake and that’s exactly what he produced. An 8.493 was just enough to move Daniels into his fourth consecutive HEMI Challenge final and keep his win-streak alive.
In the final, Daniels left first and never looked back. Even though he spun the tires slightly, Daniels was able to outpace Locker 8.576 to an 8.629 to remain undefeated.
The win adds Jimmy Daniels name to the INDY folklore as one of the best ever at the famed facility. Congratulations to Jimmy, his family, and crew on another dominating performance.