Charlie Westcott’s an animal. That’s Charlie, Jr., not Charlie, Sr. (although he’s pretty darn good, too!) He’s unstoppable. And he’s good on the lights, too! And, what the heck, his War Fish ‘Cuda is awfully fast, ya know?
So last year (or was it the year before?) we titled our story on the Hemi Challenge, “Ban The Westcotts.” Our tongue in cheek suggestion wasn’t received very well back in the Challenge pits, but those who objected to our word choice missed our point. It wasn’t too long ago that scribes were suggesting “Ban Glidden” because of his domination of Pro Stock, yet no one took those suggestions any more seriously than anyone took our suggestion about the Westcotts. In point of fact, suggestions like that are really a compliment, ‘cause if the car was pig-slow and neither Charlie or his dad could drive any better than a teenager with a learner’s permit, who would be wanting them banned from competition?
That the Westcotts are the toughest duo in Hemi Super Stock racing should no longer be in doubt. In truth, we can’t even recall how many Challenges they’ve won – and they’ve deserved each and every one of those wins. When you do the best car preparation, hone your engine’s cylinder walls smoother than a newborn’s bottom and fiddle with your carburetors to the point where they’d flow rocks and gravel without missing a beat, you deserve to win. And make no mistake about it, they’ve done all of the above an more.
Small wonder that Charlie, Jr. was the Number 1 qualifier among 23 entries. His 8.386 was almost a full second under the class index, but don’t read too much into that. Every qualifier was under. What was a surprise was seeing Jim Daniels second with an 8.458, and what we mean by that is that when they finally got down to just two cars, it was those two. It’s not all that common to have the top two qualifiers racing in the finale, particularly in the Sportsman ranks.
“Sportsman.” The use of the word to describe the astonishing machines that are the Hemi ‘Cudas and Darts competing in the Challenge is a misnomer. There is nothing sportsman-like about these quarter million dollar race cars. Stop gasping. That is not an exaggerated price. These cars are rare, and if you can even find one, they’re incredibly expensive to build. They’re difficult to maintain, and if your engine combination is two horsepower down from the other guys, you’re toast. And, they’ll soak up money faster than your neighbor. You know, the guy who’s running the Ponzi scheme out of his garage.
We don’t know what scared them off, but three qualifiers failed to appear for the first round, and with an uneven number of cars in the field, that resulted in a disappointing four singles, Westcott, Jr. being among them for having been the top qualifier.
The surprise first round loser was Westcott, Sr., who momentarily lost his concentration against Gus Manyos and came up with an abysmal 0.173 Reaction Time. Manyos had a very good 0.015 and coupled it to a winning 8.652 while Westcott was wasting a far superior 8.540. And that’s why they race!
Because the younger Westcott had the better numbers under his hood and knew it he never had to push the Tree, but these guys really can drive. When Daniels downed Jim Pancake in the second round they had R.T’s in the teens, but nobody had better lights than Californian Rick Houser and Steve Comella.
Houser tripped ‘em in 0.009 seconds on a single in the second round, and then bulbed against Westcott in the next go. Comella had his great light come against Jim Daniels, but his stout 0.005 R.T. could not overcome Daniels’s 8.490 elapsed time.
If anyone had any doubts about the superiority of Westcott’s car they were erased in the finale by virtue of his 8.397/159.06. There was only one Hemi on the grounds running in the 8.30s, and it was Westcott’s. Daniels, who was locked in the 8.40s, just didn’t have enough oats to get the job done in the finale, carding at 8.485/15.92. Daniels had a 0.022 light, and might have won had he been in the teens or even in single digits, because Westcott’s 0.091 was not a world-beater. The race was pretty close, and could have been even closer. Daniels is probably kicking himself right now, reading this.
The Hemi Challenge is not only a unique event, it could be argued that all the new factory hot rods from Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge that we’re seeing today have derived from those 44-year old machines. Those Hemi cars were the class of the day in the late 60s, and they’re still the most awesome factory-built and backed race cars to have ever competed in NHRA Drag Racing. And despite those who came before him – men with names like Sox, Vanke, McCandless and Leal – Charlie Westcott, Jr. may be the best Hemi racer who ever lived. He’ll never achieve the legendary status of those we just named, but he can hold his head up proudly, because right now, in the 21st Century, he’s the best of the best.
All articles and photography published in CompetitionPlus.com are protected by United States of America and International copyright laws unless mentioned otherwise. The content on this website is intended for the private use of the reader and may not be published or reposted in any form without the prior written consent of CompetitionPlus.com.
|< Prev||Next >|