The rumble rolling off the Rocky Mountains near Denver, Colorado, last weekend could mean only one thing – the HEMI was back in town.
Central Colorado became the center of the Mopar universe as the National Hot Rod Association made its annual visit to Bandimere Speedway – known as Thunder Mountain — for the Mopar Mile High Nationals.
It was an action-packed weekend. In addition to all the racing action, fans were treated to a birthday party, a block party, autograph sessions and a grudge match on the strip between a pair of Dodge Challengers. And in the end, Mopar’s Omega M stood in the Pro Stock Winner’s Circle.
The birthday party was to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 426 Race HEMI engine. In 1964 the Race HEMI got its start in NASCAR racing. But the Bandimere weekend marked 50 years since the engine was approved for drag racing – and the basic design is still in use by NHRA teams today.
Making the party extra special was the presence of Tom Hoover, the retired Chrysler engineer who is known as “the father of the HEMI.”
Hoover was honored as the Grand Marshal for race weekend. On Saturday he cut a birthday cake for the HEMI’s 50th anniversary and on Sunday Hoover become only the second person to receive the Mopar President’s Award.
The HEMI engine’s roar was first heard Thursday. Mopar Funny Car star Matt Hagan fired up his Dodge Charger R/T dragster at the picturesque Red Rocks Park for local media in an early morning wakeup call for the Denver area.
Then, downtown Golden, Colorado, filled with Mopar fans Thursday evening for the annual Mopar Mile High Block Party. Local radio personality Willie B. entertained the crowd and introduced members of the Mopar team, including President and CEO Pietro Gorlier and Marketing Chief Tricia Hecker. Fans also checked out several classic cars on display, collected autographs from Mopar drivers and rocked out with a local band.
While the 10,000+ horsepower of the Mopar drag cars made plenty of noise on the track, the Hellcat also made its presence.
Race fans were treated to a showdown between the new 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and its 707-hp supercharged HEMI V-8, driven by Gas Monkey Garage leader Richard Rawlings, and a HEMI-powered 1971 Dodge Challenger driven by Rawlings’ car-collecting friend and “Fast and Loud” TV show co-star, Dennis Collins.
Who won the drag race? We’ll give you one guess.
When the racing reached the finals, Mopar fans had plenty to cheer for. The battle for the Pro Stock trophy came down to a duel between teammates Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., both driving Dodge Darts. When the race had been run, Johnson collected his fourth win of the season.
The best news? Mopar will motivate Denver for years to come, extending its 26-year sponsorship of the event for three years.
We’d love to see you there next year. Who’s going to join us?