Wicked. Fast. Times.
That’s what this weekend’s TascaParts.com NHRA New England Nationals presented by Bandero Premium Tequila at New England Dragway in Epping, NH, promises. Drag racing fans from the Northeast will get to experience their first taste of the new NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, the weather conditions look incredible, and the finals will be broadcast on the FOX Broadcasting Network on Sunday.
After a rain-delayed Houston race just three weeks ago where Steve Torrence, Robert Hight, and Matt Hagan raised Wallys on a Monday, the sixth race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series promises a dense action-packed weekend on the track.
The New England Nationals also marks the completion of the first third of the regular race season, and by the end of the weekend teams will have established their routines and defined their 2021 momentum that may, or may not, be enough to take them through the Countdown.
Steve Torrence’s Capco Team has won at every current national event venue, including Brainerd when you factor in Billy Torrence’s 2018 win. While there was no Camping World Top Fuel racing at Epping in 2020, Torrence went to its winner circle in 2018 and 2019.
He’s not had the dominance we’ve seen in Funny Car at Epping, as both Antron Brown and Brittany Force have given him a run for the Wally here. However with successful tune-ups and race wins in nearly every condition and friction coefficient conceivable, Torrance’s lethality is certain. He’s the odds-on favorite in Top Fuel.
Who could subdue the Capco powerhouse this weekend? Torrence’s close friend and Top Fuel rival, Antron Brown. With Brian Corradi calling the shots on Brown’s car once again, the pair return to Epping with likely the best chances at upsetting the Top Fuel Champ’s win streak as they did at Atlanta in May.
Matt Hagan comes to New Hampshire as the Funny Car favorite. He won here in 2017 (over Courtney Force), in 2018 (beating Tim Wilkerson), and 2019(defeating Shawn Langdon). Hagan doesn’t just win in New England, he makes you reconsider your Funny Car driving career. With another win in 2021 they’ll be looking to name a street in Epping after him.
Ron Capps could be the competitor to put an end to Hagan’s run. He took home the Wally from Epping in 2014 and 2016. John Force has won here as well, and coming off the successful flow of his Charlotte win he may prove the Eastern Time Zone suits him.
John Force Racing teammate Robert Hight also looks strong after succeeding (and surviving) his way through the ladder at Houston. But don’t count out Bob Tasca III, whose TascaParts.com is the title sponsor of the New England Nationals. A win in front of his New England hometown fans to back up his Mustang’s success in Atlanta is a huge motivation for him.
Mark Hartford could prove his velocity in 2021 is more important than his competitors’ success in Epping two or three years ago. With no Pro Stock racing here in 2020 or 2019, you have to go back to Chris McGaha’s 2018 win to build a case that a repeat in Pro Stock is the smart money. Yet Hartford’s resurrection from being put out first or second round in 2021, to a race win in Houston showed he may have had other potential success within his reach but lacked the people (or parts) to convert his efforts into wins.
At Houston, Hartford once again had his crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia, and could focus his efforts on driving. He also had the parts in place after discovering a failed line-loc system that was plagued by two sets of defective parts that made a diagnosis of the issue maddening.
Who could stunt Hartford’s rise to glory? Greg Anderson. Anderson is still the Pro Stock racer to beat.
Yet his consistent success is vulnerable to the new generation of Pro Stock racers that can put together sharpshooter reaction times and driving that can take down Pro Stock’s giant in a single round; guys like Deric Kramer, Kyle Koretsky, Aaron Stanfield, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Mason McGaha. Anderson has a big target on his back and they’re all taking their best shots.
The reward for navigating through that field of assassins is not pleasant either. Erica Enders has won Epping and would love to take Anderson down in 2021.
Qualifying action begins at 10:45 a.m. EDT with Super Street leading off the sportsman classes. Pro Stock teams begin running at 5:30 p.m. EDT, and Top Fuel and Funny Car round out Friday’s spectacular qualifying session at 6:15 p.m. EDT.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
Sunday, June 13, FS1 will televise qualifying coverage from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. (ET)
Sunday, June 13, FOX will televise final eliminations from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (ET)