It looked to be a very promising race day for HEMI®-powered machines at New England Dragway for the TascaParts.com New England Nationals, the sixth National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series event of the season. Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) stablemates Matt Hagan and Ron Capps qualified No. 1 and No. 2 aboard their Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat Funny Cars, while Cruz Pedregon extended his season-long streak of qualifying in the top-half of the eliminations ladder with a sixth place seeding.
Reigning Funny Car world champion Hagan returned to Epping, New Hampshire, dragstrip as the defending three-time winner (2017, 2018, 2019) and in the hunt his first win of the 2021 season after taking his DSR Performance Mopar® to the No. 1 qualifier position with his Friday evening run at 3.891 seconds at 331.53 mph. With that effort, Hagan earned three valuable bonus points and a first round bye. He powered his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to a 3.935 seconds/ 327.11 mph pass, the quickest of the opening round, to find himself paired with Tim Wilkerson for a quarterfinal showdown. The two competitors gave the crowd a great show and a close race but Hagan’s 3.983 sec./328.06 mph was just short of Wilkerson’s 3.956/324.44 mph winning pass to defeat the defending event champ.
Hagan’s teammate Capps earned his No. 2 qualifier position with his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat’s 3.941-second pass at 315.42 mph in Q2, and then backed that up with the third quickest pass in Q3 to earn a total of four bonus points. A two-time winner at the New England Nationals (2014 and 2016), Capps came out strong in the opening round against No. 13 seed Terry Haddock in order to take advantage of a quarterfinal bye opportunity, but sparks appeared at half-track causing a sudden lack of traction. He tried to wrangle his ride but ultimately saw his opponent squeak by as they approached the finish. While fire made an appearance beneath him, Capps brought his Funny Car to a safe stop and immediately turned his focus to the next event in Norwalk, Ohio, in two weeks.
Also qualified in the top half of the Funny Car eliminations ladder for a sixth consecutive event this season was Pedregon who earned the sixth place starting position by taking his Snap-On Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for a 3.969 second run at 326.71 mph, the fastest speed in final qualifying. That effort set up with a first round match-up against No. 9 qualifier J.R. Todd and, looking to build on the Pedregon Racing team’s season-long progression, the veteran driver came out swinging. Pedregon hit the throttle and earned the starting line advantage with a 0.052-second reaction time to Todd’s 0.085-second launch. The two battled side-by side the length of the dragstrip to cross the finish line within just 0.0003 seconds of each other. Unfortunately, the approximately two-inch margin of victory was not in Pedregon’s favor as his 4.027/321.73 mph run was edged out by Todd’s winning 3.994/322.88 mph pass.
In Top Fuel competition, DSR’s Leah Pruett marked her NHRA silver anniversary with a silver ribbon displayed on her HEMI-powered dragster’s roll cage and tenth seeded position heading into race day in celebration of her racing debut 25 years ago as an eight year-old in Junior dragsters. From the hit, Pruett took her DSR Precision Manufacturing Mopar Dodge//SRT dragster straight down the lane for her quickest pass of the weekend at 3.771 sec./324.28 mph to dispose of No. 3 qualifier Justin Ashley in the opening round. Pruett had a similarly strong run in the quarterfinals against No. 4 seed and Top Fuel points leader Steve Torrence, posting a 3.811/323.12 pass to her opponent’s 3.823/320.13, but a quicker start gave him the edge he needed and the holeshot victory to end her day. The next event on the NHRA’s 70th anniversary season calendar, Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, takes place June 25-29 at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.