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Mopar NHRA cars pay tribute to Tom Hoover

by Bill Cawthon on

Tom HooverAt this weekend’s NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway inGeorgia, Mopar Dodges are wearing a special decal that honors Tom Hoover, known to Mopar fans as the “Father of the Hemi.”

Mr. Hoover passed away in Denton, Texas, on April 30, at the age of 85. A veteran of the Korean War, he was buried Friday with military honors today in Hesston, Pennsylvania, near his home town of Huntingdon.

The tribute is fitting: in his years at Chrysler Corporation, Mr. Hoover was one of the most influential engineers in the development of the 426 Race Hemi, the Max Wedge, and Chrysler’s drag racing program.

“Tom Hoover was an exceptional human being and an engineering genius that always wanted to go faster,” said Mopar CEO Pietro Gorlier.

Mr. Hoover was a member of the Ramchargers, a legendary group of Chrysler engineers that developed some truly memorable machines, such as the “High & Mighty” 1949 Plymouth Business Coupe. His efforts also helped develop the Pro Stock and Fuel Funny Car classes. Hemi-powered Dodges are competing in both of those classes today.

After leaving Chrysler, Hoover went on to new accomplishments, including several patents, with other companies. Following his retirement, Hoover remained a popular figure with Mopar and Hemi fans and appeared at several enthusiast events.

On the subject of drag racing, Dodge drivers had an okay day in Friday’s qualifying rounds at the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta.

After two sessions yesterday, Allen Johnson qualified fourth in Pro Stock, just 0.010 seconds behind top qualifier Jason Line. V. Gaines had severe tire shake at the start in Round Two and qualified 11th based on his first pass of the day. Alan Prusiensky and Dodge Avenger did not qualify and sits in the No. 14 spot. As of Friday, there are just 16 entries in the Pro Stock field, so it looks like everyone will be in the field Sunday.

In Fuel Funny Car, Matt Hagan was in the No. 2 spot after the first round, but John Force had a hot pass to take the spot at the end of the day and Hagan dropped to No. 4 despite having the fastest run of the day. Jack Beckman was actually ahead in his Round Two matchup with Force, but the blower in the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger blew near the finish line. Beckman still qualified third in the order. Tommy Johnson Jr. had the No. 3 spot in Round One, but Force and Beckman dropped him to No. 5. Ron Capps was on the bump spot after toasting the tires on his first pass, but came back in the day’s last round and claimed the No. 9 position in the order. John Hale struck the tires in his first pass but qualified in Round One. He didn’t make a second pass and his first ET wasn’t enough to keep him in the field. He will have to try again today.

Final qualifying in the Southern Nationals is scheduled for today with eliminations scheduled for tomorrow.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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