On a sunny Sunday afternoon in Epping, New Hampshire, the National Hot Rod Association returned to the New England Dragway for the first time in two years after skipping last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
John Force defeated Robert Hight in an all-Force final to take home his 153rd career Funny Car victory, while Billy Torrence secured his first Top Fuel victory of the 2021 season and Aaron Stanfield won over No. 1 qualifier Greg Anderson in the Pro Stock finals.
The day started out hot for John Force and his PEAK/BluDef Chevrolet Camaro. After qualifying third, Force won over his first round opponent, Cory Lee, by going 4.279 seconds and 211.03 mph. The victory was almost a given for Force as Lee smoked the tires down the strip.
In the second round, Force had a good race against Kalitta entry, J.R. Todd, to advance to the semi-final. His second run was much better as Force went 3.957 seconds and 329.19 mph to meet Terry Haddock in the semis. Haddock was having great momentum when he upset Ron Capps in the first round after Capps hazed the tires.
As the semis approached, Force won over Haddock with an ET of 3.975 seconds and 324.83 mph to advance for his 259th career final round appearance. It was in the finals where he met his teammate Robert Hight, who won over Alexis DeJoria, Bob Tasca and Tim Wilkerson to set the seventh finals matchup between him and Force.
When the Christmas tree went green, the two Funny Cars were nearly even before Force pulled away with the victory going 3.972 seconds and 327.51 mph over Hight’s 3.993 and 323.35 mph. The victory was Force’s second of the 2021 Funny Car season.
“(The win) represents a team effort. You have to look at both of these cars and all the people that take care of me, that’s what it’s all about,” said Force, who has won two of the last three races this year. “Robert helps me so much trying to help me back in the driver’s seat where I don’t suck so bad and, right now, I’ve got a car and I won today, and I did my job. I want to thank all the people in Epping for coming back and I want to thank Daniel Hood for a great tune-up, and (Tim) Fabrisi for fixing the cockpit in my car.”
In a unique twist, he won the 900th career Funny Car race as well. He was the winner of the 400th Funny Car event back at Englishtown in 1999.
Hight scored the 31st runner-up finish of his career and his second of 2021.
“Really wanted this one for AAA New England,” Hight said. “We all really wanted it. This crew, Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham, they worked hard. We went some rounds and got better, but not the result we wanted. You always want to be the ones winning, but I’m glad it stayed in the John Force Racing family. John’s been working hard, too. All of our teams have been and we’re dominating. That’s ultimately what you want. In Norwalk, it will be us.”
Funny Car Championship Standings
1 Bob Tasca III, 495
2 John Force, 480
3 J.R. Todd, 450
4 Robert Hight, 423
5 Matt Hagan, 375
6 Ron Capps, 372
7 Tim Wilkerson, 364
8 Alexis DeJoria, 325
9 Cruz Pedregon, 305
10 Terry Haddock, 226
You could almost say that No. 1 qualifier Billy Torrence had somewhat of an easy weekend, but the victory wasn’t all that easy for the CAPCO driver. On Saturday, he earned his fifth No. 1 qualifier and the second of the season which put him in a first-round match against Joe Morrison. Torrence got off the line first and won easily over Morrison after Morrison lost a cylinder down the track.
With the first-round victory, Torrence was set to face Don Schumacher Racing’s Antron Brown in the second round after Brown won over Brittany Force. When Torrence and Brown faced each other, it was a straight-up drag race with nearly identical reaction times. Brown had a reaction time of .074 while Torrence’s was .073. Torrence edged Brown with the win by going 3.837 seconds and 326.79 mph to give him an automatic bye in the semi-final.
It was in the finals where he met Mike Salinas after Salinas eliminated Torrence’s son, Steve Torrence, in the semi’s, after he smoked the tires.
Like the semi-final, the Top Fuel final proved to be another close drag race as Billy Torrence won by .002 seconds over Salinas to win his first elusive victory of the year.
“Another great job by the Capco boys,” Torrence said. “It would have been great to race my ‘ol man in an all-Capco final round but hats off to Mike Salinas and that Scrappers team. We just didn’t have anything for them in the semis but, thanks to Billy
and the boys, we’re taking another one of these little gold men (a reference to the NHRA “Wally” trophy awarded to event winners) back home to Kilgore.”
With Billy Torrence and John Force taking home victories in the Funny Car and Top Fuel class, Sunday marked the first time in quite some time in either class competition that there was no Don Schumacher Racing driver in victory lane at the New England Dragway. Matt Hagan had won the past three consecutive Funny Car races. However, he was eliminated by Tim Wilkerson in round two, ending his New England Nationals hot streak.
Top Fuel Standings
1 Steve Torrence, 606
2 Antron Brown, 444
3 Billy Torrence, 391
4 Shawn Langdon, 354
5 Brittany Force, 341
6 Doug Kalitta, 330
7 Justin Ashley, 283
8 Josh Hart, 278
9 Clay Millican, 270
10 Leah Pruett, 267
No. 1 qualifier Greg Anderson was looking to make Sunday a very special day up in the northeast. He set the No. 1 qualifier for the 111th time in his career on Saturday and was eager to not only give a Wally to Mr. Hendrick but also tie legendary Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson on the All-time career win list.
Anderson was poised to do just that with victories over John Gaydosh in round one, Troy Coughlin Jr. in round two and Matt Hartford in the semi-finals, to give Anderson his 161st final round appearance. But, he had another competitor who was also looking to make a name for himself, Aaron Stanfield.
Stanfield qualified third on Saturday and faced Alan Prusiensky in the first round. He won with a time of 6.562 seconds and 210.28 mph to help him advance to a round two match up with Richie Stevens. Stanfield secured the second round victory over Stevens going 6.583 seconds and 209.52 mph to see a semi-final appearance for just the third time in his career against competitor, Mason McGaha.
The semi-final was a close race with Stanfield having a reaction time of .051 and McGaha a .056 reaction time. The action was really close but ultimately Stanfield got the semi-final victory after putting down a pace of 6.595 seconds and 209.59 mph to meet Anderson in the final round.
As the finals were set, the two got off the starting line with Stanfield having a quicker reaction time of .037 over Anderson’s .066. The times were still close as both drivers were having a good drag race for the victory. Eventually, Stanfield got the best of Anderson with an ET of 6.576 seconds and 209.88 mph over Anderson’s 6.577 seconds. The victory for Stanfield was the second of his career in just his 27th start.
“It’s been a lot of hard work from all the guys on the team,” said Stanfield, who jumped to second in points. “They’ve been working a lot on this hot rod and I’ve been trying to do my best to do my job behind the wheel. It all gelled together today. Getting to race somebody you grew up watching do well over the years, it’s cool to race him and beat him, so we’re happy.”
Anderson will have to wait another day after nabbing his 65th career runner-up finish, his first of the season.
“I’ll be honest, this is not a good feeling, but the only thing we can do is learn from it and do better next time. The good news is that our HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro is the best race horse out here,” said Anderson. “It’s hard to smile right now, but a day like today just drives you to do better. I’m definitely looking forward to redemption.”
Pro Stock Standings
1. Greg Anderson, 543
2. Aaron Stanfield, 438
3. Mason McGaha, 402
4. Deric Kramer, 390
5. Erica Enders, 388
6. Matt Hartford, 373
7. Dallas Glenn, 343
8. Troy Coughlin Jr, 321
9. Kyle Koretsky, 312
10. Chris McGaha, 240
- Billy Torrence; 2. Mike Salinas; 3. Steve Torrence; 4. Leah Pruett; 5. Antron Brown; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. Brittany Force; 8. Justin Ashley; 9. Shawn Langdon; 10. Clay Millican; 11. Joe Morrison; 12. Buddy Hull.
- John Force; 2. Robert Hight; 3. Terry Haddock; 4. Tim Wilkerson; 5. Matt Hagan; 6. J.R. Todd; 7. Bob Tasca III; 8. Cruz Pedregon; 9. Jim Campbell; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Alexis DeJoria; 12. Cory Lee; 13. Blake Alexander.
- Aaron Stanfield; 2. Greg Anderson; 3. Mason McGaha; 4. Matt Hartford; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 7. Dallas Glenn; 8. Richie Stevens; 9. Kyle Koretsky; 10. Chris McGaha; 11. Val Smeland; 12. Bob Benza; 13. John Gaydosh Jr; 14. Kenny Delco; 15. Alan Prusiensky; 16. Deric Kramer.
Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will take next weekend off before heading back on the road for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio on Sunday, June 27.