The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame will Induct New Members
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The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame will Induct New Members

The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame will induct 11 new members. The induction ceremony, hosted by the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and sponsored by Mopar Performance Parts, will be held on March 15 at the Paramount Plaza Resort in Gainesville, FL. This is the 16th year that Mopar has sponsored the ceremony.

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The International Drag Racing Hall of Fame will induct 11 new members. The induction ceremony, hosted by the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing and sponsored by Mopar Performance Parts, will be held on March 15 at the Paramount Plaza Resort in Gainesville, FL. This is the 16th year that Mopar has sponsored the ceremony.

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This year’s honorees are:

  • Kenny Bernstein – winner of six NHRA championships in top fuel and funny car.
  • Frank Bradley – only top fuel driver to win one NHRA race in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s.
  • Donnie Hampton – champion drag racer and supercharger manufacturer.
  • Ted Jones – drag strip owner and promoter, and automotive television producer.
  • Jim McLennan – owner of Champion Speed Shop; car builder, driver, drag strip owner.
  • Dale Pulde – the funny car driver in IHRA history with the most wins; Steve Evans called him, "The finest driver to ever sit behind the wheel of a funny car."
  • Don Schumacher – Team Mopar member; won five NHRA and nine IHRA event titles including the 1973 AHRA World Championship; as an owner, has three NHRA top fuel championships and 2005 Funny Car title.
  • Dave Uyehara – championship dragster builder.
  • Dave Zeuschel – legendary dragster engine builder; building racing airplane engines.
  • Darrell Zimmerman – longtime NHRA Division V director.
  • Bill Bader – will receive the Founders Award; drag racing promoter and owner of Norwalk (Ohio) Raceway Park and the IHRA.

The 50th Anniversary of the 392 HEMI Engine will be Recognized
No other engine has the heritage, tradition and recognition of DaimlerChrysler’s HEMI. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the HEMI brand’s legendary 392 engine.

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"The 392 HEMI engine revolutionized not only drag racing, but the entire automotive industry," said Chris Cortez, senior vice president – Global Service & Parts, Chrysler Group.

For many, the HEMI legacy began in the 1960s. However, the HEMI dates back to the late 1930s, when Chrysler Corporation engineers experimented with different types of engine designs in an effort to improve performance. Chrysler’s first HEMI, a V-16 for fighter aircraft, came in 1939.

In 1951, Chrysler stunned the automotive world with its entry in the post-war horsepower race: the V-8 engine. It produced 180 hp, impressive output in those days. The V-8 engine was quickly dubbed the HEMI. The cylinder head configuration with a nearly centrally located spark plug in a hemispherically shaped combustion chamber gave the classic HEMI engine its name. This unique architecture has an inherent airflow that translates into big power.

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The first cars to carry the new engine were the New Yorker and Saratoga lines. Between 1951 and 1953, HEMI engines were offered on the Chrysler and Imperial, DeSoto and Dodge. Although the engines carried different names – "Firepower," "Fire-dome" and "Red Ram" – and were manufactured in separate facilities, they shared a similar design approach with each engine having its own size range.

What Chrysler said back then: "The secret of the FirePower engine lies in the hemispherical combustion chamber, developed and perfected by Chrysler engineers. The FirePower engine not only produces more power than any other passenger car engine in the world, but it develops more power for its piston displacement than any competitive engine, which is conclusive proof of its efficiency."

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A Chrysler brochure at the time explained that engines have to breathe just as animals do, inhaling a combustible air-fuel mixture and exhaling the exhaust gases after combustion. The easier the engine breathes, the greater its volumetric efficiency and the more power it produces.

The hemispheric combustion chamber design of the 1951 FirePower engine allowed large valves to be located across from each other instead of side-by-side, improving flow and allowing larger valves. The design of the hemispherical combustion chamber allowed more complete burning of the air-fuel mixture, with flame from the central spark plug kept short, direct and evenly distributed. An efficient engine minimizes heat loss; heat is energy.

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Then came 1957. That was the year that the HEMI increased to 392 c.i.d. and 375 hp, and found a home in the Chrysler 300C. It also featured dual four-barrel carburetors, larger valves and ports, a beefier block and crankshaft, and improved bearings. An optional engine for the 300C had a higher compression ratio and as much as 390 hp.

The 392’s run was brief – it was reluctantly retired in 1959 due to high manufacturing cost. Yet the 392 lived on. Its power and efficiency was born for drag racing and it became a favorite of many motor sports vehicles. More than a few racers bolted on six or eight carburetors, slipped in a hotter cam, tipped some nitro into the tank and went racing.

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In 1958, racing legend Don "Big Daddy" Garlits broke the 170-mph barrier in his "Swamp Rat" HEMI dragster on nitro with no supercharger. Then in 1964, Garlits also used a 392 to officially break the 200-mph quarter-mile barrier in his HEMI dragster – going 201.34 mph in 7.78 sec.

All major top-fuel dragster teams immediately adopted the 392, because major cylinder block improvements made it virtually unbreakable under the stress of huge loads of supercharged nitro. One year during the ‘60s, all but six of the more than 64 entries in the U.S. Fuel and Gas Championships were 392s. The 392’s dominance in drag racing continued even after the advent of the 426 c.i.d race HEMI, simply because the 392 was so "dialed in" to the drag strips.

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Many have harnessed the 392’s extreme power into supercharged, horsepower-crazy, nitro-burning machines – making the 392 HEMI one of the most venerated engines today.

For more information on the 2007 International Drag Racing Hall of Fame induction ceremony, visit http://www.garlits.com.

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