With the possible exception of Pomona and the surrounding areas of Southern California, there isn’t a track on the NHRA tour that celebrates the heritage of NHRA racing better than New England Dragway. The host of a Camping World NHRA series event since 2013, the track has roots that go back more than a half-century earlier, when drag racing began at the Newington Airport in 1953.
So much for the quick history lesson; the racers who are headed to Epping for this weekend’s TascaParts.com NHRA New England Nationals presented by Bandero Premium Tequila are only interested in one thing; bringing home a Wally trophy. To that end, the drivers who figure to have the best chance of doing that are Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock). Torrence and Hight are coming off wins in Houston while Anderson has been the Pro Stock points leader for much of the young season.
FUNNY CAR | PRO STOCK
Steve Torrence might never be able to duplicate what he did in 2018 when he won 11 of 24 races, went undefeated during the Countdown to the Championship, and clinched the first of his three-straight championships. Then again, based on his performance so far this season, he might just repeat that incredible feat. The Capco car has been money at almost every race this season including the most recent one in Texas. He is the biggest favorite on the board and his odds reflect that.
A quarterfinal loss in Houston was not what anyone expected, especially after the Matco car was third quickest in qualifying. That does little to diminish what has already been a much improved 2021 season. There is still a bit of consistency to be had, but when it comes to performance potential, the numbers are already there. He also defeated Steve Torrence here in 2016. A rematch is very possible.
So far, his Epping resume includes a runner-up finish in 2014, but the pros haven’t raced here since 2019 so that’s not a true indicator of performance or potential. The Mac Tools dragster has already been to a pair of final rounds this season but it’s time to pick up a victory. No reason to think that can’t or won’t happen this weekend.
After five events, the DHL dragster is hanging tough in third place in the Camping World points and it’s hard to imagine they won’t hover around that spot for the foreseeable future. He had an excellent shot to make the final round in Houston but lost to teammate Kalitta in the semifinals.
Monster Energy/Flavor Pak
One of these days (and probably very soon) this car is going to make Tipster look awfully foolish. Honestly, he doesn’t need the assistance but there is a win coming soon for the Monster team and when it happens, it will likely be a dominant performance. This car is capable of outrunning anyone in the class, and it’s capable of doing it consistently. It’s only a matter of time before crew chief David Grubnic figures it out.
The big mystery here as to why this car hasn’t been able to equal the performance of Steve’s Capco dragster. Does anyone have any suggestions? Whatever the reason, it won’t last much longer. This car hasn’t been past the second round yet this season but that obviously won’t be the case much longer. Remember, these guys have qualified in the first five spots at all but one event this season.
When your average qualifying position for the year is 4.2 and you’ve got just two round wins to show for it, something is clearly amiss and you’ve just been the victim of some very bad luck. In this case, we tend to think it’s the latter and that things will begin to even out shortly. The Mopar dragster has run 3.71 and 3.73 at the last two events so they can’t be that far off.
Since he’s not planning on running all the events, the big challenge here will be staying in the Top 10 and so far, the Gainesville winner is on schedule. After five events, he’s solidly in the No. 6 spot so a couple of win lights this weekend would be huge. Regardless, it’s been fun to watch a rookie come in and give the bigger teams all they can handle right now.
Auto Club Chevy
“Almost a given he wins one of the next two or three races. Bank on it.” That was Tipster’s not-so-bold prediction before Houston and it obviously paid big dividends. Now that we’ve got our first win of the season out of the way, expect to see a couple more in the near future. The Funny Car class is tough right now, but the Auto Club car rates a slim edge over the field.
Bob Tasca III
Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford
Racing at his home track in front of his many fans, a win here would be a career highlight. What else could anyone ask for? For starters, his name is on the race as a title rights sponsor and he’s led the points standings for most of the season. Obviously, this event means a lot to Rhode Island’s most famous racer and we’re sure he’ll treat it accordingly.
We’re going to go ahead and give the NAPA team a big boost this week largely because of their performance in Houston, where they went to the final. That’s a sure sign that things are trending in the right direction. He’s also got a pair of wins here in 2014 and 2016 so that’s a good sign that he really enjoys racing here.
One of the few cars in any pro class that does not currently have a first-round loss and there is reason to think that won’t change any time soon. While the DHL team doesn’t often put up big numbers the way Hight and Hagan do, there is a level of consistency here that other teams struggle to match.
Really tempting to put him at the top of the Funny Car standings this year because he’s won the last three Epping races. We didn’t do it because it’s nearly impossible to win the same event four years running and the Mopar car hasn’t been quite the same this year. Now, that’s likely to change at any moment but for now, they get a mid-pack ranking.
Blue Def Chevy
The 2015 Epping winner recently won in his fifth-straight decade and there are no signs of slowing down and time soon. If you thought the 16-time champ would be rusty after sitting out most of the 2020 season, you are mistaken. The Charlotte win was a thing of beauty complete with a No. 1 qualifying award and a 3.89 on race day.
Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford
His extensive resume includes a runner-up to Matt Hagan at the 2018 Epping race but more recently, he’s been relatively consistent which helps explain why he’s currently No. 7 in the Funny Car standings. Honestly, with a break or two, the Levi, Ray & Shoup team could be a couple of notches higher in the points. Don’t be surprised to see that happen now that the warm weather is here.
RoKit/ Bandero Tequila Toyota
Few people realize it, but she’s got deep roots in New England so there might just be a tiny bit of extra motivation to succeed at this event. Honestly, the RoKit Toyota was good enough to win in Houston but slipped against Wilkerson. It’s probably also worth noting that this is still a relatively new team that has less than a full year together. Their best days are clearly ahead of them.
Hendrick Cars.com Camaro
When it comes to Pro Stock, pull the top 12 drivers’ names out of a hat and you’d have a decent shot at predicting the finishing order for a particular event because it’s just that darned close. That being said, the KB flagship has been the class performance leader this season so he’s going to continue to get top billing, for now.
We harp on this almost weekly, but a quick clutch foot is the best weapon any Pro Stock driver can have and this one is about as good as it gets. Losing on a holeshot in Houston was almost certain to light a fire under the Elite team which means the rest of the field should approach with caution.
Get BioFuel Camaro
Consistency finally paid off when he got the final round of the last event in Texas and honestly, he could easily have won. As it is, he’s right behind Anderson in the points battle and has Enders breathing down his back so he’ll need another solid performance to maintain that spot.
Total Seal Camaro
From a driving, tuning, and horsepower perspective, his win in Houston was a thing of beauty and it came about as a result of the Total Seal team fixing a few nagging issues from earlier this season. With the win, he’s climbed from No. 9 to No. 6 in the Camping World standings and there’s a good chance he moves up another notch or two this week.
Lucas Oil/Nitro Fish Camaro
Call this a bit of a hunch but Tipster still thinks he’s got a great chance to be NHRA’s next first-time pro winner. Clearly, his first year on the job has been a success and he’s only going to get better. Just imagine the chaos that will ensue when/if he gets his first Pro Stock victory.
Rad Torque Systems Camaro
If NHRA fans had to pick a rookie of the year right now, they’d face a tough choice between this guy and Gainesville Top Fuel winner Josh Hart. Thankfully, there is more than a half a season left before that becomes an issue which means there is plenty of time to continue making a positive impression.
Janac Motorsports Camaro
Six-round wins in the last four events prove the season-opening loss in Gainesville was little more than a fluke. He also bagged a holeshot win against Chris McGaha in Texas which helped fuel a semifinal finish. Expect nothing less than a top-half qualifying performance and a round win or two (or more) on race day.
Harlow Sammons Camaro
So far this season, his driving has been outstanding. The only drawback we see here is qualifying performance, which could use a lift. When you land in the bottom half of the field, you’re almost certain to draw a top-shelf car in the opening round. Not that anyone in the class scares him, but he could certainly use a hundredth or two.