Dazzling Dodge!Team Owner Don Schumacher and his driver, Gary Scelzi, unveiled what was arguably one of the most impressive looking Funny Cars of all time during NHRA's Mac Tools Gatornationals in March. The team was buoyed by major sponsorship direct from DaimlerChrysler, and with that ran an absolutely stunning new machine-an '03 Dodge Stratus painted Ruby Viper Red and adorned with Dodge's "Grab Life by the Horns" advertising slogan. The machine ran as good as it looked. Not only did Scelzi run it to a Final Four placing during its debut race, the team was also presented with the Mac Tools Gatornationals' highly prestigious Best Appearing Pro Car award. "This thing is very swoopy and far more sinister looking than anything I've ever driven before," affirmed Scelzi, who won NHRA's Top Fuel World crown in 1997, 1998, and 2000. "The first word that comes to mind is sexy. I was really taken aback when I first saw it."
The effort was spearheaded by Brett Fischer, drag racing program manager for DaimlerChrysler. "We saw this as an opportunity to introduce our nearly 3,000 Dodge dealers to the NHRA and show them what kind of power a championship-caliber driver has driving for a championship-caliber team with a championship-caliber body," said Fischer. "Our relationship with NHRA has been primarily through the Mopar Parts division to this point, and we saw this as a great opportunity to expose Dodge dealers and the Dodge brand to NHRA racing. Our new partnership this year with Schumacher Racing has brought an entirely different outlook, not only with our NHRA fans but also internally with our employees and our engineers. Gary couldn't be a better representative of what Dodge is about. Grabbing life by the horns and driving a 325-mph-plus Funny Car down the track is kind of the essence of what Dodge is all about. It's a perfect match in our eyes."
"This type of promotion can only strengthen our relationship with DaimlerChrysler and the Dodge brand's relationship with NHRA," added Schumacher. "It's a joint effort between our team and DaimlerChrysler to help promote Dodge's presence in NHRA."
The team revealed that the "Grab Life by the Horns" Dodge would be raced at only select NHRA events this season, not the least of which is the marquee Mopar Mile-High Nationals in mid-July.
Texas' Top SportsmanRick Jones wasn't the only Mopar racer to prevail during IHRA's '03 season-opening event. In the fiercely-fought Top Sportsman category, New Mexico's Craig Hughes prevailed driving his unique and reliable 572ci '79 Dodge Charger. Hughes' win was the first national event title of his career and came from the 8th qualified position. He sealed the event victory in the final round when he carved out a perfect .500 reaction time to make his 7.613 seconds at 183.40 mph to win over Britt Cummings.
Dodge DecisionMountain motor Pro Stock racer and race car builder Rick Jones charged to a historic national event win in early March when he prevailed during the IHRA's season-opening Amalie Oil Texas Nationals at San Antonio. The victory, Jones' first career win as a driver, came with his 815ci Hemi-powered Dodge Neon. The win was significant because it was the first for the Dodge brand within IHRA's Pro Stock division since Bobby Yeowell's circuit win in 1979.
Teamed with his racing partner, Mark Stockseth, Jones qualified the Illinois-based Quarter-Max Components Dodge Neon in the Fourth position (6.609 seconds at 210.28 mph) before topping the field. In the final round, he defeated defending IHRA Pro Stock World Champion Brian Gahm using a better starting-line reaction time and running a winning 6.635 seconds at 209.14 mph. Jones' Neon was the only DaimlerChrysler product entered in Pro Stock competition at the event.
"The win was special for a number of reasons," said Jones. "We were originally involved with the Mopar factory team on the NHRA side, and I did a lot of development for them. We wanted to race something different, so we then decided to race a Dodge over here." The year 2002 was a time of learning, admits Jones, thankfully not without progress. "This event win was just a result of all the hard work leading up to it," he said.
Jones reported that while the event win at San Antonio was rewarding for Mopar fans, he expects much more to come. He had announced prior to the season the formation of a two-car IHRA Pro Stock team in conjunction with Canada's Larry and Wayne O'Brien. Both Jones and Larry will make their debuts driving twin Hemi-powered Dodge Stratus machines this spring.
"New cars aside, we are particularly excited about our new engine program, which will meld some new Hemi cylinder heads being developed by Larry O'Brien with Jon Kaase's motors," said Jones. "I think there is an endless amount of potential for that. The current Hemi heads we are using are really designed for 500 cid Pro Stock racing. With the new cylinder heads, I believe we will be very hard to deal with.
"We were excited about putting the Mopar brand back in the winners circle again and also putting the Hemi engine back on the map in IHRA's Pro Stock class," Jones added.
The team expects the new configuration Hemi engine to be entered into competition at the IHRA's Mopar Canadian Nationals at Grand Bend, Ontario, in late May.
Combo ChampHardcore Western Canadian drag racer Glen Person, from Regina, Saskatchewan, tuned up nicely for his '03 racing season when he won the Super Stock/Stock eliminator Combo race at "The Strip" at Las Vegas Speedway in late March. Person drove his G/SA '72 Duster to victory at the all-Mopar event, which was presented by Utah's Phil Painter, a Mopar dealership owner who has a history in the area. Person ran right on his dial no fewer than three times during the competition.
"We saw the Painter's event as a nice tune-up opportunity for the national event the following weekend," said Person, who has been racing his car since 1995. "We are running a new motor this year, and we needed some time with it."
Person's machine features a 340ci engine that was blueprinted by Don Little and machined by Ken Murray. Person went on to win the G/SA class runoff during the NHRA event the following weekend.
Quick WhitNitro Funny Car class star Whit Bazemore had his best finish yet driving a Dodge during NHRA's SummitRacing.com Nationals held in Las Vegas in April. Bazemore set the low e.t. for the event at 4.788 seconds, driving the spectacular new Matco Tools '03 Dodge Stratus, owned by Schumacher. Bazemore appeared primed for certain victory before suffering a stinging red-light foul start in the final round that cost the pre-race favorite potential victory. Bazemore had wheeled his Stratus to the second-fastest FC speed of the event at 324.44 mph during qualifying action.
"Originally, this was a Super Gas car with an iron-block 440," reveals Murphy. "We put a Hemi into it about four years ago, and it's been evolving ever since. We are limited to how fast we can run it, however-the chassis is tagged for 7.50s."
Murphy scored his biggest career win during the past '02 racing season when he prevailed in the popular Top Comp division during NHRA's Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event held at Race City Speedway in Calgary, Alberta, last August.
Events'03 Chrysler Classic Schedule Of EventsJune 21-22-Hamilton, OH:Third Tri-State Chrysler Classic at Tri-State Dragway. Car show, swap meet, nostalgia drag racing, A/FX match racers featuring Ronnie Sox, the Original Max Wedge Shootout, and Slant Six showdowns. Open to all Chrysler-related vehicles.
June 28-29-Kansas City, MO:Fifth Kansas City Chrysler Classic at Kansas City International Raceway. Car show, swap meet, Big Dog drag racing, A/FX match racers, nostalgia Super Stock, and much more. Open to all Chrysler-related vehicles.
August 2-3-Milan, MI:Second Milan Chrysler Classic at Milan Dragway. Car show, swap meet, Big Dog drag racing, the Original Max Wedge Shootout, four-speed, Quick 8, nostalgia Super Stockers, and Slant Six showdowns. Open to all Chrysler-related vehicles.
August 16-Columbus, OH:Inaugural Chrysler Neo-Classic Sport Compact and Truck Fest at National Trail Raceway. Car show, manufacturers' midway, autocross, drag racing, superstar DJs, BMX exhibitions, and much more. Open to all FWD Chrysler and Mitsubishi vehicles, Prowlers, Vipers, and Dakotas.
September 12-14-Norwalk, OH:Sixth Norwalk Chrysler Classic at Norwalk Raceway Park. Car show, swap meet, A-100 reunion, Viper Nationals, Big Dog drag racing, Quick 16, Heads-up Street Cars, Neon Challenge, and A/FX match racers featuring Ronnie Sox. The world's largest Chrysler-product drag race.
Contact information for all events:Classic Events, P.O. Box 14327, Columbus, OH 43214; 614/268-1181; www.chryslerclassic.com.
June 20-Sparta, Ontario, Canada: Western Ontario Mopar Owners 14th Annual Mopar Day at London Motorsports Park. Gates open at 8 a.m. Time trials start at 10 a.m. Info: 519/775-2263; WOMO Car Club, RR. 3, Iona Station, Ontario, N0L1P0.
June 21-Midwest City, OK:Ninth Annual COMA All-American Mopar Meet at Powerhouse Performance. Twenty judged show classes, vendors, dash plaques, concessions, and door prizes. Info: Doug Cataline, 405/391-3212; www.okcmopars.org.
June 21-Wichita, KS:Eighteenth Annual Wichita Area Mopars All Mopar Meet at New Market Square, W. 21st St. N. and Maize Rd. Info: Russ Valdois, 316/945-5585; Tim Bonnell, 316/721-2244; wichitamopar.com
June 21-Rancho Cordova, CA:Capital City Mopars Annual Judged Car Show and Swap Meet. Raffle prizes, dash plaques, and trophies. Info: 916/925-0336; www.capitalcitymopars.com.
June 21-22-Lockport, NY:Niagara '03 car show and swap meet. Rt. 78, Lockport. Sponsored by Western New York Mopars. Saturday Mopar show plus other classes. Sunday all-makes show. Info: Gary, 716/439-5194; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
June 27-29-Great Bend, KS:Bigblockdart.com is hosting a show-and-shine and racing at S.R.C.A. Dragstrip. Info: Doug Shockey, 304/428-5628; bigblockdart.com.
June 27-29-Carson City, NV:Nineteenth Annual Run What Cha Brung car show at Fuji Park. All makes and years, boats, motorcycles, truck, etc. Car show with 75 classes. Swap meet and vendors. Info: 775/882-0829; www.karsonkruzers.com.
July 10-Carlisle, PA:Kick-Off to Carlisle presented by Cumberland Valley Motors (2 miles north of Carlisle Fairgrounds) and Mopar Rebellion. Free registration and admission beginning at 6 p.m. Games, music, raffle, dash plaques, food, and no judging.
July 11-12 and 13-Carlisle, PA:Carlisle All-Chrysler Nationals at Carlisle Fairgrounds. Drag racing, concept cars, show cars, vendors, and special guests. Info: 717/243-7855; www.carsatcarlisle.com. York and Mohnton, PA: York U.S. 30 Musclecar Madness at the York Expo Center, York Fairgrounds in York, PA on July 11-12. On Monday, July 13, the show will descend on historic Maple Grove Raceway for the Geezers at the Grove nostalgia race. Info: Darwin Doll, 717/755-5849, mcmyorkO2@suscom.net; Lex Dudas at Maple Grove Raceway, 610/856-9272, firstname.lastname@example.org. (Note: National Dodge Charger Meet also takes place at Carlisle. Info: Wes Pieper, 830/981-5383.)
July 13-Cheyenne, WY:Third Annual Christmas in July Show and Shine presented by Wyoming Might Mopars. Info: email@example.com.
July 19-Rapid City, SD:American Memorial's Downtown Car Show at company parking lot (440 Mt. Rushmore Rd.) $10 entry fee for each vehicle registered before July 19; $12 on July 19. Awards presented to the following classes: Classic, Sport, Antique, Muscle, Modified/Custom, Foreign, Street Rod, Truck, Best of Show, People's Choice, Work in Progress. Judging by fellow participants begins at 10 a.m. Awards presentation at 1:30 p.m. Free admission, prizes for the kids, and live music. Info: 605/719-0CAR (0227).
July 20-Belvidere, IL:Thirteenth Annual Mopars at Belvidere Assembly Plant hosted by NIR Walter P. Chrysler Club. Car show, swap meet, car corral. Info: Guy, 630/554-2119, firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 26-Hickory Corners, MI:Fifteenth Annual Mopars at the Red Barns at Gilmore Car Museum. Car show, swap meet, and car corral. Mopar-powered only. More than 30 classes and 70 awards. Info: 269/664-5595 (WMMC hotline); Ron, 269/668-2527; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
July 26-27-Vernon, British Columbia, Canada: Mopars at the Ranch. Big family event with free camping. Huge pre-registration incentive package. Info: Vic Porcher, 250/549-1529, email@example.com;www.okanaganmopars.com.
July 26-27-West Salem, OH:Twelfth Annual Mid-Ohio Mopar All-Mopar Car Show, Swap Meet, and Drag Race at Dragway 42. Judged car show, Mopar Meadows, swap meet (10x30-foot spaces), exhibition wheel standers of Bob Riggle's Hurst Hemi Under Glass and Marty Mohr's HemiXpress. Trophy, Pro, Super Pro, Box and Max Wedge/Hemi Racing classes. Great food. Exhibitors midway. Info: Bob Hall, 330/686-1336; firstname.lastname@example.org; midohiomopars.org.
July 27-Englishtown, NJ:Twenty-third Annual Old Time Drags & Rod Run and Second Annual Funny Car Reunion at Old Bridge Twp. Raceway Park. Street rods and customs, and early muscle cars to 1972. Nostalgia Funny Car drag racing and show classes. Gates open at 8 a.m. Info: 732/446-7800; www.racewaypark.com;funnycarreunion.com.
August 2-Williamsport, PA:Fourth Annual All-Mopar and AMC show and swap meet by Van Campen Dodge and Mopar Muscle of Central Pennsylvania. Best of Show trophies, food, music, and door prizes. Info: 570/546-2649; email@example.com.
August 8-12-Columbus, OH:Twenty-third edition of the Mopar Nationals held at National Trail Raceway. The theme this year is a tribute to the Dodge Dart. Info: Mopar Nationals information hotline, 313/278-2240; www.moparnats.org.
August 9-Red Deer, Alberta, Canada:Central Alberta Mopar Club 9th Annual August Heat Show & Barbeque. Info: Bob, 403/342-1326.
August 15-17-Oak Harbor, WA:Fifteenth Annual National Dodge Charger Meet sponsored by Dodge Charger Registry. No entry fee. Info: Jim Morgan, 206/306-0581.
August 17-Clifton Park, NY:Eleventh Annual Mopars at Clifton Park Dodge World, 1780 Rte. 9. Show and swap meet. Info: Gene Wilsey, 518/274-5840; www.capitalareamopars.com.
August 23-24-Dubuque, IA:Mopars on the Mississippi car show and swap meet at Dubuque Greyhound Park & Casino. Cruise-in Saturday night at 4 p.m. Car show entries and swap meet spaces are $10. Best survivor judged by Galen Govier. 32 judged classes. Info: Darla, 563/582-3809; firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 23-24-Lancaster, CA:Second Annual Summer Road Course Festival honoring Mopar at Willow Springs Raceway. Performance driving on a 9-turn, 2.5-mile course. Race gas, RV parking, tire shop, driving instructors, car show, and Gumball Rallye. All makes and trucks welcome. Helmet and OEM seatbelt required. Info: Tim Herren, 310/322-5592;email@example.com; http://www.alltimeracing.homestead.com/2003SummerRoadCourseFestival.html.
August 24-Omaha, NE:Twenty-second All-Mopar Auto Show at the new Omaha Convention Center. Judged classes, dash plaques, drawings, goody bags, and two free tickets to Septemberfest. Info: Dan Capalite, 402/593-6080; firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 24-Salem, OH:Tenth Annual All-Mopar cruise-in and show at Patterson Chrysler-Jeep, 1-5 p.m. Door prizes and goody bags. Info: Allen Walker, 330/223-2902.
September 5-7-Rapid City, SD:Fifteenth Annual National Dodge Charger Meet, sponsored by the Dodge Charger Registry. No entry fee. Info: Jerry Moore, 605/484-0343.
September 6-7-Fontana, CA:The California Classic Car Show and Swap Meet presented by Meguiar's at the California Speedway NASCAR track. A Make-A-Wish fundraiser. Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Open to all street rods, classic, antique, and custom cars and trucks. Registration fee includes driving your car on the NASCAR Track. Live entertainment, open header cruise, swap meet, car corral. Ford and Chevy engine raffles, '03 red Corvette coupe raffle. Sign up to drive a NASCAR for 10 laps at speeds of up to 150 mph. Info: 866/450-7469; www.thecaliforniaclassic.com.
September 13-Shakopee, MN:Fourth Annual Minnesota Valley Car Show and Swap Meet at Raceway Park. All makes and models. Info: Dave Sweet, 952/445-3835, email@example.com.
September 18-21-Lima, OH:The 24th Annual Rebel Run Rod & Custom Nationals at the Allen County Fairgrounds. Info: 888/55-REBEL; www.allencountyfair.org.
September 20-21-El Dorado, KS:Sixth Annual All Dodge Charger Weekend by El Dorado Charger. No entry fee. Chargers, '66-'87, in any condition are welcome. Info: Rocky Slagle, 316/788-3290; www.chargerfever.com.