Photos and Story by: Phil Hutchison
This time last year Webster, NY racer Steve Comella was on top of the world. He and his dad, Chuck, had just won the Cecil Country Lucas Oil Divisional and had a firm grip on the Division One Super Stock points chase. A lead Steve would not relinquish as the team had a good showing at the season ending Lucas events in Richmond, VA and Las Vegas, NV.
Along with winning the D1 crown, Comella also qualified his 1968 Hemi Dart to be D1 representative in Super Stock for the JEGS Allstar show. The event was originally scheduled for the Route 66 Nationals to be held at Rt 66 Raceway in Joliet, IL, but due to COVID-19 issues, the race was canceled and the JEGS event was moved to run in conjunction with the DENSO Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend.
In addition to competing with the team’s ’68 Hemi Dart, the Comella family also races a ’68 Hemi Cuda in the NHRA Dodge HEMI Challenge, which has been contested at the U.S. Nationals for decades.
To the untrained eye, both cars appear to be SS/AH Mopars. In fact both are completely legal to run the class, but that’s where the similarity ends.
Comella said, “The Barracuda is our shootout car and is built to run as quick as it can and we only run it a few times a year at special events like the Indy race. Where the Dart is slightly slower and easier to put into bracket mode, which is what you need to win the JEGS race. We worked hard to detune and gear the Dart to run consistent. It’s not easy to slow one of these cars down!”
When Chuck and Steve originally planned to run two cars at the U.S. Nationals, they were unsure that the NHRA would allow them to run each car in its separate, but somewhat similar eliminator. After a few phone calls with the sanctioning body, NHRA is allowing the team to run both cars at Indy.
“The Dart is the car we won the division with and ended up 4th in the nation in 2019. Hands down, without argument, the JEGS Allstars is the main consideration for the race. Representing D1 at the JEGS race is my major focus. It’s an honor to represent Division One and I am a little nervous, as I want to do a good job and go rounds. I’m taking this race more seriously than when we went out to Vegas last year to compete for a Lucas title. It’s not lost on me how important this is to represent the entire D1 Super Stock class in the JEGS race. We got a good team this year with Lucas World champs Frankie Aragona and Allison Doll on it. I’m hoping for good things to happen.”
The level of competition Comella will face at Indy is again, not lost on the team. “Dad and I were looking at the list of Super Stock drivers racing in the JEGS race and to be listed with all these heavy hitters is really something. Some of the biggest names in Super Stock racing. Last year at Vegas I got to meet Kyle Rizzoli and Irvin Johns and they were great guys. Looking forward to racing against them.”
“We’re locked and loaded with both cars ready to go. I’m taking the Dart to Empire Raceway this weekend to do some bracket racing to get ready for the JEGS race and will probably make a few runs in the Cuda too. After that we will pack up everything and stop by John Holt Racecars in Columbus, OH to rescale the Dart before heading to Indy to be pitted on Wednesday.”
“Racing two cars on the same day will be interesting. The first round of the Hemi Challenge is scheduled to be run earlier on Friday with the JEGS introductions and first round later.”