NHRA drag racers help celebrate Hemi day
Don Schumacher’s team of NHRA drivers want you to know it’s Hemi Day.
Mopar and Dodge compiled a video of Don Schumacher Racing drivers Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Caps, Leah Pruett, Matt Hagan, and “Fast Jack” Beckman to celebrate April 26 (4/26). Dodge has enthusiastically referred to as “Hemi Day.” Mr. Schumacher himself shows up at the end of the quick video to remind us that the whole Schumacher team is eagerly awaiting their return to racing.
Schumacher Racing’s drivers naturally love Hemis, it’s the engine that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars to the fastest speeds of any vehicle in the quarter-mile and has earned Schumacher its share of Wally trophies.
We got to look inside at Top Fuel Hemi as part of our Redline Rebuild series.
Watch that video and you’ll see just what makes a Hemi V-8 special. Its hemispherical combustion chambers allow for its valves to be arranged in two lines, rather than the typical wedge cylinder head that places all the valves in a single line. That arrangement allows for larger valves and better cylinder head flow. An engine is nothing more than an air pump after all.
That race engine shares the basic layout of a production 426 Hemi, but features a billet aluminum block, billet heads with ginormous ports, and a monster supercharger. Of course, it also burns nitromethane. In truth, there’s not a lot in common with the ’60s street Hemi that powered some of the coolest and quickest Mopars of the muscle car era, but the DNA is still there.
Mopar’s Hemi heritage goes back to 1951 when the first Chrysler Hemi was installed in New Yorker, Saratoga, and Imperial models. The 331-cubic-inch V-8 packed a 180-hp wallop. That was quite a statement when lots of the American competition had OHV sixes and flathead-eights.
Dodge, DeSoto, and Chrysler all had their own version of the Gen I Hemi with different bore spacings. However, it was Chrysler’s, the largest of the three, that really associated the Hemi V-8 with drag racing. Chrysler’s 392 Hemi was the powerplant in drag racing until the big-block 426 took over the reins. It became such an icon that it is the de facto displacement that comes to mind when the word “hemi” is uttered. Mopar has embraced the 426 and its legacy by releasing a 1000-horsepower, 426-cu-in Gen III crate engine called the Hellephant.
If you’ve got a favorite Hemi, let us know. It’s 4/26, but we want to hear about all Hemis. It’s not like there’s a 3/54 or 3/92 on the calendar.