Charlie Westcott Jr., near lane, claimed his sixth victory in the NHRA Mopar Hemi Challenge when he defeated Wendell Howes in the final.
When one thinks of Indy’s most prolific winners, the names Bob Glidden, Tony Schumacher, and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits immediately come to mind, but Super Stock racer Charlie Westcott Jr. also merits some consideration after winning his sixth title in the NHRA Mopar Hemi Challenge event. In many ways, Westcott’s sixth title was one of his most rewarding since his War Fish Barracuda was not the quickest car in the field for most of the event. Westcott did, however, use horsepower to win the final round when he overcame a huge holeshot by Canadian Wendell Howes to clinch the win, 8.55 to 8.66, in a race that was much closer than the numbers would indicate.
“I was in trouble early on, but I think I caught him in 4th gear,” said Westcott. “If my car is ahead when I hit 4th gear, they’re done. I actually thought I was driving pretty good today, but I missed it in the final. I use a blinder, and when it gets dark, it’s hard to see the Tree. I definitely got lucky.”
More often than not, Westcott’s camouflaged Plymouth is the quickest car in Hemi Challenge events, but this time, he qualified No. 6 in the 26-car field with an 8.56, well behind the pace set by low qualifier and defending event winner Rick Houser, who drove his Westcott-powered Barracuda to an 8.50.
In eliminations, Westcott slipped the noose several times, including a close 8.59 to 8.59 encounter with Pro Stock racer Steve Kent and ran down Steven Comella after giving up a significant starting-line advantage. Westcott also got a big break when his 8.67 defeated Joe Teuton’s 8.58 after Teuton red-lighted.
“We haven’t worked on this car as much as we normally would, and it showed this weekend,” said Westcott. “It sat in the trailer for about two months, and we just tested once. I also had a bog that I couldn’t find all weekend. We changed fuel pumps before the final round, and that seemed to help, but it still wasn’t what we were looking for.”
In reaching his first Hemi Challenge final, Howes prevented an all-Westcott final when he defeated Charlie Sr. in the semifinals. Howes also defeated Russ Campbell, Bucky Hess, and Larry Perkins to make it to the final.
“It was a bummer that my dad got beat, but he made a mistake and didn’t see the lights when he was staging,” said Westcott. “It should have been both of us in the final.”
After the win, Westcott stopped short of saying that he was retiring from Hemi Challenge competition, but he did acknowledge that he has other goals yet to achieve.
“I’ve won this six times, and to be honest, I’m kind of over it,” he said. “I want to do other things. I still want to race Pro Stock, and I’m going to. I’m going to build a Pro Stock engine, and if it’s competitive, I’ll find a car and go race it. I will still take care of all our Hemi customers, but I could see myself out there doing other things. I’m sure we’ll probably keep this car around, though.”