John Labbous Jr. continued his hot start to the 2017 season with his seventh victory of the year, and twin brothers Byron and Bryan Worner raced in a national event final for the second time in less than a season at the 5th annual NHRA New England Nationals at historic New England Dragway. The other NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series champions who were crowned in front of a sold-out crowd were David Ficacci (Stock), Rich Dorr (Super Comp), Brian Sawyer (Super Street), Deborah DiGenova (Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs), and John Benoit (Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs).
Labbous, who entered the Epping event leading the points standings in both Super Comp and Super Gas, made the long trip from Tennessee to New England at the request of car owner Anthony Bertozzi, who doubled up at the inaugural NHRA New England Nationals in 2013. Labbous had never raced at New England Dragway, a move that he said worked in his favor. In the Super Gas final, Labbous stopped New York-based Chuck Rothermel on a holeshot, 9.922 to 9.914. It was the seventh time that Rothermel has been a runner-up at an NHRA national event. In eight races this year, Labbous has four wins following his latest triumph in Epping, which brought his points total up to 614 points with plenty of opportunities left to improve his score. [Watch video]
For the second time, twin brothers Byron and Bryan Worner raced in a Super Stock final, and for the second time, Byron emerged as the winner. Byron, the 2013 NHRA Super Stock champion, repeated his performance from last year’s Reading race when he defeated his brother for the Wally. Byron grabbed a .02-second lead at the start and won with a 9.736 on his 9.73 dial after Bryan broke out. It was Byron’s fifth national event title in six career final rounds. [Watch video]
Stock winner Ficacci earned his third national event title and first since the 2010 JEGS NHRA SPORTSnationals in Columbus when he defeated Thomas Auger in a final round that featured two vintage muscle cars. Ficacci coasted to the win in his ’69 Camaro after Auger fouled in his ’63 Dodge Polara. [Watch video]
Dorr joined the list of first-time winners when he drove his Undercover dragster to the Super Comp title over Ray Fredricks in the final round. Dorr, a regular at New England Dragway, got the best of Fredricks in a double-breakout battle, 8.892 to 8.871. Dorr also defeated Jason Kenny on his way to the Wally. [Watch video]
After watching his father, Ray, and brother, Mike, win multiple times in Super Gas, Sawyer joined the crowd with his first national event title in the Super Street class. Sawyer’s sister-in-law, Kari, is also a former national event champion in Super Comp. Sawyer was driving the same Camaro that brother Mike drove to a runner-up finish at the inaugural NHRA New England Nationals and father Ray wheeled to the Super Pro track championship at New England Dragway in 1993. In the final, Sawyer grabbed a big lead against first-time finalist Karri Khory and won via a holeshot, 10.982 to 10.921. [Watch video]
The Top Dragster presented by Racing RVs class produced NHRA’s latest female winner when DiGenova turned on the win light in the final against low qualifier Scott Hall. DiGenova put together a three-hundredths package in the final round with a .014 light and a 6.826 on her 6.81 dial for the win, while Hall broke out by nine-thousandths in his supercharged, small-block dragster, a car formerly campaigned by his father, Dale, a Division 1 Hall of Famer. Like several other Epping winners, DiGenova is a New England Dragway regular, along with her husband, Val. [Watch video]
On Saturday, Benoit was honored when his Corvette was chosen as the winner of the Mothers Best Appearing Car award in Epping. A day later, he collected another significant honor by winning the Top Sportsman presented by Racing RVs title. Benoit was sharp in the final with a 6.444 on his 6.43 dial to edge defending event winner Matt Harper, who was just a thousandth of a second behind at the finish line with a 7.441 on his 7.43 dial. [Watch video]