Mopar Speed Thursday, September 2, 2004 NHRA Mopar preview: 50th U.S. Nationals this weekend Mopar and Team Mopar are bringing a lot to the table for the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. On-track competition at Indianapolis Raceway Park...
Thursday, September 2, 2004
Mopar preview: 50th U.S. Nationals this weekend
Mopar and Team Mopar are bringing a lot to the table for the 50th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. On-track competition at Indianapolis Raceway Park began yesterday with Sportsman qualifying, and is scheduled to conclude with eliminations on Labor Day.
Tomorrow the celebrated Mopar Super Stock Hemi Challenge will take place, and will pit more than 20 Hemi-powered 1968 Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas against each other to find out who has the baddest Hemi® car in the country. Entrants for this Hemi battle include past winners Richard Beshore, Bucky Hess and Jerry Jenkins. Also, three-time NHRA champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., driver of a General Motors Pro Stock car, will pull double duty at the U.S. Nationals and jump behind the wheel of Michael Ogburn and Harry Holton's record-setting '68 Plymouth Barracuda. For additional preview information on the Mopar Super Stock Hemi Challenge, go to www.moparspeed.com/2004/08_12_04.html
In the Funny Car category, Team Mopar has two former U.S. Nationals behind the wheel in Gary Scelzi and Whit Bazemore. Scelzi, who drives the Hemi Oakley Dodge Stratus for Don Schumacher Racing, won the event (in a Top Fuel car) in 1998. Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, has U.S. Nationals trophies from 1997 and 2001 weighing down his mantle.
"Indy is just so important because it is such a big race and there is so much tradition here," Scelzi said. "It's THE race."
Team Mopar's Pro Stockers are also set to make some waves during the 50th U.S. Nats. Leading the crew is Larry Morgan, currently fifth in points, in his Mopar Dodge Stratus. Morgan won "The Big Go" in 1989, and reached the final round the following three years. His recent consistency and Hemi-powered strength sees Morgan as a pre-race contender. Johnson and Johnson Racing has also been working very hard in recent weeks preparing for the U.S. Nationals. Team drivers Allen Johnson and Mike Corvo Jr., in his first Nationals as part of a factory-backed team, just might surprise a few people at Indy.
"Not only am I thrilled to be a part of a factory-backed team heading into the U.S. Nationals, but I'm very excited to be a part of Mopar's effort," Corvo said. "To be able to run with proper factory support is something that I look forward to, as it gives us a good opportunity to run well. We tested in St. Louis prior to the event, and we've got a good chance to perform at the top of our ability in Indianapolis this weekend."
Corvo and Johnson are taking things one step at a time, as the U.S. Nationals has a rigorous schedule which sees Pro Stock cars make five qualifying attempts over three days.
"In each event, you've got two races: the race to qualify and the actual race," Corvo said. "With two cars to share information from, I think we'll be in a good position to finish well this weekend."
For a complete schedule of U.S. Nationals activities, visit www.nhra.com.
Ray Barton, the premier Hemi engine builder in the country, will jump behind the wheel of this 1968 Dodge Dart tomorrow during the Mopar Super Stock Hemi Challenge. For exclusive Mopar-only coverage of this event and the rest of the 50th U.S. Nationals, visit moparspeed.com next Tuesday.
Another blast from Mopar's past that will race at the U.S. Nationals is the Wonder Wagon (pictured above). Team owner Don Schumacher, the 1970 U.S. Nationals Funny Car champion, debuted the original Wonder Wagon, with the familiar colorful balloons and yellow paint scheme of Wonder Bread, at the 1973 U.S. Nationals. Schumacher Dodge Stratus driver Johnny Gray, who joined Don Schumacher Racing last week, will pilot the car at Indianapolis Raceway Park beginning tomorrow.
"To be able to bring out a nostalgia car that thousands of fans ask me about all the time is just great," said Schumacher. "It was a very unique car back in its day. The aerodynamic design and other innovations we made to the car to help advance the sport of NHRA drag racing really opened up a lot of eyes and changed the way Funny Cars were run from then on.