Spencer Massey, Courtney Force, Allen Johnson and John Hall were inaugural winners of an event that exceeded all expectations.
EPPING, N.H. – Making her second trip to New England Dragway, Top Fuel driver Brittany Force will have an entirely different look and mindset heading into the 2014 Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals, which takes place this weekend at the historic track located just north of the Boston metro area.
Gone are any rookie jitters and any tentativeness, replaced with confidence, aggressiveness and a growing amount of success. Force already has made her first final round appearance of her NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series career this season and she has been the No. 1 qualifier at two of the past three events, including the most recent race in Bristol. Next up is earning her first victory and that could happen this weekend in Epping for Force, the 2013 Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner.
“I’m definitely getting used to this Castrol Edge dragster,” Force said. “I know if the car hasn’t done anything to act up on the run, I’ll stay in it. I learn something new on every pass and each run is always different. This team is so much stronger than it was last year. Todd Smith (crew chief), Dean Antonelli (assistant crew chief) and the rest of my guys have been doing awesome this season. We’ve been qualifying great, going rounds and looking strong.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were inaugural winners of an event that exceeded all expectations and will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2.
She has qualified fifth or better at four races this season in her 10,000-horsepower Castrol Edge dragster, including No. 1 at Topeka, joining sister and Funny Car standout Courtney Force to become the first pair of sisters to qualify No. 1 at the same event, and Bristol. Brittany Force advanced to the semifinals in Topeka, but lost in a disappointing first-round affair over the weekend at Bristol. With the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals marking the second of four straight race weekends, Force is eager to make amends as soon as possible.
“It’s definitely disappointing to come out as the number one qualifier and go out in the first round,” Force said. “It almost seems like a curse. It seems like the number one qualifier just doesn’t make it to the final round. Courtney broke that curse a few weekends back, but it’s tough to go rounds and make it all the way to the winner’s circle when you’re the number one qualifier, and I don’t know why that is.”
Force has her sights set on getting that figured out in a hurry and she will have to do so against a loaded Top Fuel field that includes points leader Doug Kalitta, who advanced to his sixth final of the year in Bristol. Massey is after a repeat victory at New England Dragway and his third victory overall in 2014, while other contenders include 2012 world champion Antron Brown, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, defending world champion and Bristol winner Shawn Langdon, and new Kalitta Motorsports driver J.R. Todd.
“The one thing I will tell my guys is that we’re going to jump right back into it, so don’t beat yourselves up over our first round loss,” Force said. “We’ll use the momentum and really go after it next weekend (in Epping). I know our day (in Bristol) ended short for us, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be in the winner’s circle next weekend.”
Courtney Force, who beat her father and 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force in the final a year ago, recently earned the 100th professional win for female NHRA drivers in Topeka and is after her second win of the season. She is chasing points leader Robert Hight while other championship-caliber drivers include Alexis DeJoria, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., who won the most recent event in Bristol, Jack Beckman and local favorite and Rhode Island native Bob Tasca III.
The 2012 Pro Stock world champion Johnson is currently third in points with a class-best three wins but is chasing teammate and reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, as well as points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has won three times including this past weekend in Bristol. Other factory hot rod class hopefuls seeking a first win at Epping include Vincent Nobile, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, V Gaines, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Chris McGaha.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hall claimed his first career win on his Buell last season at the inaugural event and is currently third in the points standings. The Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec sit first and second, respectively, in the points standings and will face strong competition from the likes of reigning world champion Matt Smith, John Hall, Hector Arana Jr., Michael Ray and Scotty Pollacheck.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Families who are planning to attend the event will want to take advantage of the free tickets for kids ages 12 and under. Fans will also want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, June 20, with sessions at 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 21, at 12:15 and 2:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 22.