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The ultimate expression of Stock and Super Stock sportsman drag racing is once again fresh, new factory hot rods. Almost half of the NHRA national races this year have been won by late model race cars less than seven years old. That’s saying something huge—Dodge Challenger Drag Paks, Chevrolet COPO Camaros and Ford Super Cobra Jets are fighting it out the way the factory machines did back in the day. To us, this is great news because the average fan today does not drive a nearly 40 year old car from the 1960’s; they drive modern Mopars, Fords and Chevys. Yes, the old cars are very cool, but let’s face it, if you drive to an NHRA national event in a pony car, there’s about a 98% chance it’s a late model car less than 10 years old rather than a 38 year old classic.
We had a unique opportunity to really get to know the new 2015 Dodge Challenger Drag Paks at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, Colorado the weekend of July 24-26, 2015 at the NHRA Mopar Mile High Nationals. Our good friends from Southland Dodge in Houma, Louisiana, Jeff Tueton, Kevin Helms and John Morris were on hand to run one of the two versions of the new Drag Pak in an exhibition race on Sunday right after the first round of Top Fuel ran. We embedded with the team and Mopar representatives including Drag Pak engineers for the whole weekend and really got to learn about these new cars.
There’s a reason Mopar picked Southland Dodge to run the supercharged 354 cubic inch Drag Pak version against the 426 cubic inch naturally aspirated version in the exhibition on Sunday (the 426 car was driven by none other than Sporty Bandimere, General Manager of Bandimere and son of founder John Bandimere). Kevin Helms, who manages the impressive five car Drag Pak Southland Dodge Team and drives the cars is a three-time world NHRA Stock Eliminator champion, and as we write this is less than one round out of first place in the current world championship points chase. He knows a little bit about Sportsman drag racing as it were.Southland Dodge founder and owner, Jeff Tueton, has been racing Mopars since the 1960’s, back when “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” really was how the car dealership business worked. Jeff once told us that when they opened their dealership, he only knew how to sell performance cars because he was a racer and raced on the weekends and sold cars at the races for pickup on Monday. He said for the first year that Southland Dodge was open, if someone came in and asked about a station wagon, he was lost—he had no idea how to sell a station wagon. But being an extremely smart man and gifted businessperson, he eventually figured out how to sell all kinds of vehicles.