Beware of the Fish
Well, the first two events of the 2008 Mopar Hemi Challenge are in the books. There is no surprise that the War Fish of Charlie Westcott Jr. is still in command.
At the Vegas Mopars at the Strip event, Jill and Phil Painter, the event promoters, did a great job! Everything was in the right order and they brought in a dozen or so original 1968 Chrysler factory drivers and some of the old cars. The guest list was a who’s who in 1968 Hemi Dart and Cuda drivers: Shirley Shayhan, Bill Stiles, Herb McCandless, Larry Griffith, Arlen Vanke and even my own mother, Mary Ann Jackson. There were others there for the 40th anniversary for the 1968 Factory Hemi Cars. Chrysler’s own Tom Hoover was the Grand Marshall of the event. It was a great weekend for sure.
For the racing part of the show, only 11 showed up for the biggest payout for the year. The Painters make this the only Hemi shootout on the circuit that pays back in the early rounds. The rest of them are winner take all events. John Rains with his “Heli Hemi” Dart was number one qualifier and did go to the semis. It was Westcott Jr taking the win in the finals over Jim Pancake’s Carriage Town Dealerships Dodge Dart. (Details on Moparmax.com MATS full coverage page)
The win did not come easy for Charlie as in testing he recorded an 8.80. On Friday in first round of qualifying he broke his good transmission. In the second qualifying round he was a little light on weight so the run was disqualified. It got worse when they got back into the pits. The converter tried to weld itself to the back of the crank. The Westcotts had to work late hours getting the Fish ready for one last qualifying run Saturday morning and the eliminations. When I talked to Charlie Sr. he said they made some big changes Friday night. Whatever they did, or did not do, it worked come Saturday for the overall win. The Mopars at the Strip event is a great event and everybody that is Mopar driven in their minds needs to be at this event at least once.
The second Mopar Hemi Challenge of 2008 was at Pat and Linda Joffrion’s No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, LA. Like Vegas, only 11 cars showed up for the $5,000 winner-take-all purse. Four racers from Vegas made the long trip to Belle Rose (the Westcotts, Pancake and Rains). The number one qualifier for the Hemi Challenge at Belle Rose was Santa Paula, California’s own, John Rains, for the second event in a row with an 8.659, Parma, Michigan, native Charlie Westcott Jr. was second at 8.709. Delaware, Ohio’s Jim Pancake was third with 8.711 and J. Allen Sherman from down the road Donaldsonville, LA, was the fourth qualifier 8.769. Bill Brooks from Kissimmee, FL, in his Cuda rounded out the top five with an 8.803.
Round one found the top five qualifiers advancing to round two along with Tim Hebert in the Teuton Family Cuda. The Teutons’ other car, driven by Joe Teuton Jr., broke against Hebert. Round two demonstrated when against the wall Charlie Westcott Jr. can drive his way to a win as he put a holeshot on Brooks. He took the win 8.73 to a losing 8.71. All top three qualifiers moved on to the semi finals as Rains took out Sherman and Pancake won over Hebert. As in the interview given in the Mopar Max Mopar memos, Westcott was working hard once again at this race. When the last two rounds came around, the Fish was back, ripping off an 8.514 on his bye run in the semi’s. John Rains fired out an 8.54 to take out Pancake’s Dart.
The finals were set up with the engine builder against his customer (Jackson Engine Tech). Some wondered if the customer could beat the engine builder. When it was all over, it was Charlie winning this event for the fifth straight year as John red lighted it away. What was really amazing were the times logged by both drivers, 8.515-154.95 for Westcott and Rains, 8.530-153.81. Westcott reset the new SS/AH 8.51 to boot.
The next Mopar Hemi Challenge will not be until the US Nationals at Indy in September. There will be a special non-sanction SS/AH event at Fontana at the So-Cal Shootout, May 24-25. I’ll be there for that event (I’m the event director) so stop by and say hello.