Sox & Martin And McCandless Collection To Sponsor NHRA Hemi Challenge

Yes, you read that headline right and no, you haven’t been whisked back to 1970. The annual NHRA HEMI Challenge has been a fan favorite for two decades, and with Mopar officially withdrawing after 2023, it was a surprise to many to learn that Sox & Martin would be picking up the reins as the title sponsor.

Where that not enough, the NHRA HEMI Challenge will be presented by the McCandless Collection, reuniting Sox & Martin with its former teammate, Herb McCandless. For Mopar enthusiasts and fans of the legendary HEMI-powered SS/AH race cars, this announcement is quite literally a dream come true.

In addition to footing the bill to help keep this class thriving, McCandless will also be found up in the tower announcing the round-by-round action during this exciting event. As a final bit of excitement, 2024 also marks the 60th anniversary of the 426 HEMI, so you’ll be sure to see some very impressive machines participating this year.

Here’s the original press release:
Sox & Martin® and the McCandless Collection are thrilled to announce their sponsorship of the 2024 HEMI Challenge during the 70th annual NHRA US Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The HEMI Challenge is the longest running continuous specialty race in NHRA history and has been a fan favorite for over two decades. This event features exciting heads-up, wheel standing, side-by-side racing of HEMI-powered 1968 Super Stock Dodge Darts and Plymouth Barracudas competing in the NHRA SS/AH class.

These limited production ‘HEMI Package Cars,’ built specifically for Super Stock competition, have been a part of drag racing history for over five decades and made the Sox & Martin name legendary among fans and feared among the competition. The Sox & Martin HEMI Challenge presented by the McCandless Collection will elevate this celebrated event to even greater heights with an enhanced social media and marketing focus that’ll bring even more recognition to the hardworking and diehard SS/AH racers and their HEMI-powered machines.

“I’m so excited and pleased to have the Sox & Martin brand sponsor the HEMI Challenge at the 2024 NHRA US Nationals, especially since this is the 60th anniversary of this tremendous engine. I’ve always been attached to the 426 HEMI engine and Ronnie (Sox) won many races and championships driving HEMI-powered Plymouth race cars starting in 1965,” said Mopar legend Buddy Martin. “When we opened our new race shop back in the late 1960s, I intentionally used ‘426’ for our P.O. Box number.

“The 426 HEMI is legendary and the Mopar drivers who currently compete in the NHRA Super Stock HEMI class keep this iconic engine’s legacy alive for the next generation of racers. To see how fast these 1968 HEMI Barracudas and Darts are going today is simply amazing. To be a part of ‘The Big Go’ is an honor for me and the Sox & Martin name. I have many great memories from the NHRA US Nationals, including the 1969 event when Ronnie won Super Stock and then our back-to-back Pro Stock wins in 1970 and 1971 with Ronnie and Herb (McCandless) driving our team cars,” reflected Martin.

Along with Buddy Martin serving as the Grand Marshal and Honorary Starter during the 2024 Sox & Martin NHRA HEMI Challenge presented by the McCandless Collection, another Mopar Legend, Herb McCandless, will once again be in the pits talking to racers, swapping stories, and up in the tower announcing the round-by-round action during this exciting event that’s been a part of the NHRA US Nationals tradition for over two decades.

“If it wasn’t for Sox & Martin, there’d be no HEMI Challenge, no McCandless Collection, or even a Herb McCandless. Not only did Buddy Martin have a positive impacted in drag racing, but also in my racing career. When Buddy hired me to drive the team’s second Pro Stocker in 1970, it changed my life forever!” said Mopar icon and 1970 NHRA US Nationals Pro Stock champion Herb McCandless.

“The annual HEMI Challenge is an event I look forward to every year and I’ve attended around 20 of them at Indy. Despite being the same basic engine and vehicle package we ran way back then, it’s mind boggling to see how fast these 1968 HEMI Barracudas and Darts are going now. The technology and refinement the racers have put into their cars is impressive and this year’s event will be extra special as it’s the 60th anniversary of the 426 HEMI. I’m very proud of my son Mike (McCandless) in getting Sox & Martin and the McCandless Collection as the sponsor of the NHRA HEMI Challenge!”

“Thanks to NHRA, my father was able to make a career out of drag racing and the motorsports parts industry. When I was presented with the opportunity to give back not just to NHRA, but to the Sportsman Racers who are the backbone of the sport, I jumped at the opportunity. Over 50 years ago, Buddy Martin of Sox & Martin fame gave my father the opportunity to showcase his driving and tuning skills for the number one team in drag racing.

“I can’t think of a better way to show my appreciation than lending my support to this unique event, which will now become the Sox & Martin HEMI Challenge presented by the McCandless Collection. Since this is also the 60th anniversary of the 426 HEMI, an engine that totally changed drag racing, we felt this was another great reason to take over this event,” said Mike McCandless, founder and CEO of The McCandless Collection and youngest son of iconic Mopar drag racer Herb McCandless.

The Sox & Martin NHRA HEMI Challenge presented by the McCandless Collection is scheduled for Friday, August 30, 2024, at Indianapolis Raceway Park during the running of the 70TH annual NHRA US Nationals. The Sox & Martin HEMI Challenge presented by the McCandless collection is open to all NHRA SS/AH competitors and will require one Grade Point from a Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event or National Open before entering the NHRA US Nationals to compete in the HEMI Challenge. All SS/AH racers are encouraged to submit their event entry before Friday, August 23.

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching Mopar Connection Magazine. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story. He's also the co-author of "The Chrysler B-Body Restoration Guide."

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