Erica Enders (far lane) drove to her first win since 2015. The Elite Motorsports team has got a handle on the Chevrolet.
Erica Enders raced to her first victory of the electronic fuel injection era with an impressive run through a gauntlet of 2017 winners in her Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. It was the two-time champion's first win since the 2015 fall race in Las Vegas, a span of 35 national events.
"People always ask which win means the most and right now I can't imagine one meaning more than this," Enders said. "What a huge relief. What a special moment for all of us on this Elite Motorsports team. Money can buy a lot of things but you can't buy the drive to win this group has inside them.
"This is for my crew. This is for Rick Jones, the best crew chief in the sport. This is for Richard Freeman (team owner) for never giving up on us. Other wins have meant other things, but this one will always be very special."
The day started with Enders getting an unexpected free pass after Round 1 opponent Shane Tucker failed to make the call due to an expired motor. She went on to run a 6.551 at 212.90 mph.
Enders then got a .014-second jump on Line at the start of their quarterfinal tilt but unexpectedly gave up the lead around the 330-foot timer. She then drove back around the champ at 1,000 feet and took the win by a scant nine inches. The final numbers showed Enders winning with a 6.574 at 212.09 mph to Line's 6.562 at 211.53 mph.
Getting past Jason Line and Bo Butner, Enders met Tanner Gray in the final. Enders improved to 2-0 versus Gray by winning their head-to-head finale straight up, leaving the starting line first and arriving at the finish line with a 6.534 at 213.16 mph to Gray's trailing 6.550 at 212.06 mph.
Bo Butner made his way to the semifinals with the quickest car on Sunday to pad his points lead. In the first round, he made a notable 6.549-second pass at 212.13 to a red-lighting Alan Prusiensky, and with lane choice over Vincent Nobile in round two, he took advantage of the KB Racing horsepower under the hood to put a 6.532, 211.86 on the scoreboard. Nobile stalled and then could not get it started in time to make the pass.
The Jim Butner Auto Chevrolet Camaro driver had lane choice over Enders in the semifinals, but it did not prove to be the key to victory. Enders moved first as the tree came down, and although Butner made the second-quickest pass of raceday with a bold 6.533, 212.33, he forfeited the victory by just .018-second.
Jason Line defeated Allen Johnson in the first round 6.544/211.46 to 6.842/167.82, but lost in the second to Enders, whose .008 RT gave her the holeshot win.
Four-time Pro Stock world champ Greg Anderson bowed out early, and he will be looking for a swift return to power next weekend at the NHRA Summernationals in Englishtown. In the first round on Sunday in Epping, the driver of the red Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro saw his hope of a third-consecutive New England Nationals victory go up in smoke. Anderson and Kenny Delco left the starting line in near synchronicity, but a very immediate and very bad bout of tire shake was something that the defending event champion could not overcome. Delco won on a 6.717, 210.24 to Anderson's 9.866, 98.80.
"We missed the starting line, overspun, and shook the tires," said Anderson, an 87-time NHRA Pro Stock winner and the only Pro Stock driver on the tour to have won at every active racetrack on the circuit. "It's disappointing, but we have to leave here and put it behind us. This is one of my best racetracks, but that didn't get us much today. It was a learning experience, and we've got sharp guys. We will learn from this."
Tim Wilkerson and Team LRS looked to have their ducks in a row heading into eliminations, but an unusual disturbance relating to the clutch stopped them in their tracks. Wilkerson did his burnout next to opponent Cruz Pedregon, backed up his Funny Car, and staged. When the tree came down, he immediately succumbed to wicked tire smoke.
"There was a clutch flow stuck open," explained Wilkerson. "That happened to us last year once and we figured it out, but that was during qualifying. This year it had to happen during a run on Sunday. We came back and checked [the clutch flow valve], and it looks like it had already blown the piece of debris out that was stuck in there. We couldn't get any of them to leak, so we're going to disassemble the entire unit, clean everything, and start over.
"What happens is, we set that clutch bearing in a specific spot – and if it moves before the car launches, then it sees more clutch than it's supposed to. When I let my foot off the clutch after the burnout, it moved .075", then when I let my foot off the clutch to stage, it moved another .075", so the clutch was actually .150" further back than it's supposed to be. It won't go down the track like that."
Although certainly disappointed, Wilkerson did not lose ground in the Funny Car standings. He remains No. 9, and he and the team are looking over their parts and pieces before next weekend's event in Englishtown – the second of four races in a row.
Cruz Pedregon, who has struggled this season, got his first round win over Tim Wilkerson, but lost to Courtney Force in the second round.
Mike Smith brought the “New Englander” Dodge Stratus FC to the track and qualified No. 16 in the field. In the first round, opponent Robert Hight was out first bu then got loose and Smith went on to the win. Tommy Johnson Jr. brought an end to Smith’s day in the second round after the Stratus began to lose cylinders.
Bob Tasca III represented the Ford faction along with Tim Wilkerson. Tasca’s 4.572/253.14 was enough to oust Alexis DeJoria’s 4.854/253.80 in the first round. Then Ron Capps took the next round with a 3.959/326.63 to Tasca’s 4.416/204.54.
There were some surprising upsets in Top Fuel as Smax Smith got a first-round win over Tony Schumacher. It was the first round win in NHRA competition for Smith. Unfortunately, the Englishman who now lives in Canada was not able to return for the second round.
Scott Palmer was ousted by Antron Brown in the second round of eliminations.
Scott Palmer got the win after his first-round opponent, Terry McMillen, had a huge explosion that took off the top of his engine. It was the second oil-down for the season for McMillen and in addition to the damage to his dragster and engine, cost him $2,000 and 10 points in fines from the NHRA.
“It really looked a lot worse than it was or could have been,” McMillen explained. “Every piston and rod was in the motor. The intake manifold, blower and blower restraints are junk, but everything else is fine.”
He continued, “It was really unfortunate and in no way a reflection of our tune-up or maintenance program. The car started to lose traction early in the run and I slapped the throttle like I’ve done many times. We’re not 100% sure what happened yet, but something caused an explosion in the intake area and the rest of the story is sure to be part of a highlight reel. The car is back together and we’re ready to pick up where we left off in qualifying when we get to Englishtown next week.”
Hagan gets the Funny Car win over Courtney Force, ending the chances for women to take top honors in all three professional classes.
Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane Funny Car team had trouble navigating the tricky racetrack during qualifying on the opening day of the NHRA New England Nationals on Friday.
But crew chief Dickie Venables, assistant Michael Knudsen and the Mopar crew rallied on Saturday to qualify No. 4 for Sunday's eliminations at Epping, NH.
Hagan only gained more confidence in the Mopar team in the first round when he eliminated John Force for his first win against the 16-time champion in their last five meetings.
And then, the confidence got even greater when they defeated Courtney Force in the final round for his third event title through nine races of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the 25th of his career. Hagan’s Dodge Charger R/T posted a time of 3.897 seconds at 332.59 mph to defeat Courtney Force's 3.927 at 332.34.
"Obviously, you have to race the racetrack, but you race the racer as well. People say they don't think about who is beside you. But I think that's crap. Everybody does. Their cadence and tendencies and what they're going to do and different things like that.
"We didn't go down the racetrack (Friday) and you're thinking, 'oh man, what do we do?' But Dickie was like, 'man we're better than that.' So, he reeled it back in and made two really nice laps on Saturday and built a lot of confidence coming into Sunday."
Hagan was able to cut 40 points off the gap to DSR teammate and points leader Ron Capps trails by 79 after Capps' four-event winning streak ended in the semifinals with a loss to Courtney Force.
Courtney Force, who has qualified No. 1 or 2 the past six races in the Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro SS, fell for the second time this season in the final round to Matt Hagan.
Ron Capps was going for another win, but it was not to be.
She ended the 17-round winning streak of Ron Capps in the semifinals, and also defeated Cruz Pedregon and Jim Campbell. Force’s semifinal run of 3.895 seconds was low elapsed time of the class on race day.
Ms. Force had a spectacular explosion due to a ruptured fuel line during Friday’s first qualifying session and the team had to put together a spare car for the rest of the weekend. After an issue during the burnout in Q2 Friday, the backup car did not make a full run in the other two attempts on Saturday.
“Bringing out a whole new car, getting it figured out as quickly as (crew chief) Dan Hood and (co-crew chief) Ronnie Thompson did and to be able to get it running consistently on race day – where it counted – is incredibly important,” Force said. “It’s job well done by the team. To go all the way to the finals is a testament to their work.”
The NHRA announced that New England Dragway was sold out Saturday and Sunday with fans from all over the northeast flocking the grandstands, pit areas and campgrounds.
Small fields (15 in Top Fuel, 16 in Funny Car, and 14 in Pro Stock) and cold weather made for a strange weekend in New Hampshire as the drivers and crew chiefs had a tricky track surface to contend with for the NHRA New England Nationals, June 2-4.
A couple of exploding cars (Courtney Force on Friday and Terry McMillen on Sunday) added to the excitement for the crowd. Two of the three professional classes were won by women.
At the NHRA New England Nationals Brittany Force and her John Force Racing team stormed to her first win of the season and fourth career victory, beating defending Top Fuel champion Antron Brown in a thrilling final round.
After a frustrating beginning to the season, Brittany qualified No. 4 in Topeka, and though she lost in the second round, she knew the Monster Energy dragster had its speed back from 2016 – when she won three races and finished sixth in the standings.
“The Indy test turned everything around,” Force said. “Really after Atlanta, we already knew what the problem was and we were going to prove it on the race track in testing. We knew we were right, and that we had a problem with the clutch and we were good after that.”
Force qualified No. 2 in Epping, and that speed carried over to race day. She beat Steve Chrisman with a first-round pass of 3.754 seconds at 328.62 mph and knocked out rookie Troy Coughlin Jr. with a second-round run of 3.745 seconds at 330.88 mph.
In the semifinals, as Shawn Langdon had mechanical troubles, Force sped to the final round with a pass of 3.731 seconds at 331.69 mph. Brown had lane choice for the final, but that didn’t deter Force.
Force left with the defending series champ, with a .055-second reaction time, and she flew to the finish line with a pass of 3.716 seconds at 328.62 mph. Brown trailed with a run of 3.728 seconds at 327.98 mph.
"It was a great drag race with Brittany and she beat us by seven thousandths (of a second)," said Brown, who won the New England title a year ago. "She had an incredible (reaction time) and good elapsed time. We just got beat.
"It's always a good weekend when you get to the finals. We're growing, especially with the new front half of our chassis that the boys back at our (fabrication shop) put together for us.”
Brown leaves Epping at number two in the points chase, just 34 points behind leader, Leah Pritchett.
Leah Pritchett’s Top Fuel dragster carried a special wrap for the Dodge Demon.
Leah Pritchett qualified No. 1 and set the Top Fuel track record at 3.673 seconds. After getting a bye run in the first round due to there being only 15 entries in the class, she got the second-round win after both she and opponent Steve Torrence lost traction. Torrence was up in smoke at the hit of the throttle while Pritchett was able to get down track further before losing traction. She was able to recover enough to get the win.
VOLUME XIX, NUMBER 5 - May 2017
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