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After a one-year hiatus, Charlie Westcott Jr. returned to a place that has become his second home — the Mopar HEMI Challenge winner’s circle at the NHRA U.S. Nationals. Westcott Jr. raced his 1968 “War Fish” Plymouth Barracuda to the final-round win at the 14th Annual Mopar HEMI Challenge on Friday, Aug. 29, defeating Wendell Howes to claim his third victory in four years and sixth in the last 10 at Indy.
Westcott Jr. took out Fred Henson, Stephen Comella, Joe Teuton and Steve Kent before meeting Howes, who trailered Russ Campbell, Larry Perkins, Bucky Hess and Charlie Westcott Sr. on his way to the final.
Howes was lightning-quick off the starting tree with a .005 reaction time, but Westcott Jr. had enough power in his Mopar 426 HEMI to reel in his opponent. His 8.557 elapsed time at 157.28 mph edged out Howes’ 8.669/154.05 for a narrow triumph. It earned Jr. the SS/HA class trophy as well as the Hemi Challenge win.
“This win in a way was bigger than the others because we didn’t come in with the performance advantage we typically have,” said Westcott Jr., whose father Charlie Westcott Sr. also won the Mopar HEMI Challenge event at Indy in 2009. “I had been fighting some kind of gremlin all weekend in my car. I never could get it right, but the final round was a little better. We got the job done, and that’s all that matters. We’ve won this thing six times, and seven if you count my dad. It’s always a good event for us.”