It seemed inevitable that the TascaParts.com NHRA New England Nationals presented by Bandero Premium Tequila was going to be a runaway win for Don Schumacher Racing’s Matt Hagan. But there is a new “Fastest Man in New England” to celebrate tonight, and that man is John Force.
After a poor showing on Friday night with an unrepresentative 7.431 second run at 85.24 mph, Force found redemption Saturday in the early Funny Car qualifying session. Paired next to the Granite Man himself, Matt Hagan—the New England torch must have passed to Force as he ran a 3.979 to Hagan’s 3.994. That was good enough to move the Blue DEF Camaro to second in qualifying.
In the third session, the big move of the day came from the NAPA Auto Parts team when Ron Capps upped his game with a 3.927 run at 324.59 mph that catapulted him into the number two spot and bumped back Force to number three. The odds seemed more likely Ron Capps had a better chance to unseat Hagan than Force did.
“This represents a team effort. All the people that take care of me. I want to thank all of the fans in Epping, Danny Hood, and the team."—John Force
In round one of elimination on Sunday the day began with Cory Lee, the New Englander versus the greatest Funny Car racer of all time. Force’s car quit well before the finishing line, but Lee had to peddle his car twice and couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity Force allowed him.
Round two solidified Force’s Epping march toward the winner’s circle when he paired up next to J.R. Todd. While Todd knocked him out on the reaction time .(067 to Force’s .085), Force won with a quicker and faster 3.957-second run at 329 mph to Todd’s 4.006 at 319.98 mph.
Force drew fan-favorite Terry Haddock in the semifinals, and for a moment it seemed like the JFR team might have had a technical issue at the starting line. The crew seemed to be engaged in preparation behaviors that are not typical for their team. Haddock made a valiant run, but Force did what he does and clicked off a quicker run with a slower elapsed time.
The final round pairing was going to be an all John Force Racing affair, and when asked about the matchup Force said, “Let me tell you something, Robert’s my family. Bottom line, we can’t lose. I’m gonna go after him, he’s gonna go after me.”
Force and Hight had met 55 times in Funny Car racing, and this pairing was their seventh time in the finals. They were three and three each going into this race, and Force not only left with the advantage but also his 153 win.