Epping: Series spotlight - History and tradition

History, tradition and great racing meet at New England Dragway When it comes to history, tradition and great racing, nothing matches the spectacle that is the Amalie Motor Oil North American Nationals presented by Dodge at New England ...

History, tradition and great racing meet at New England Dragway

When it comes to history, tradition and great racing, nothing matches the spectacle that is the Amalie Motor Oil North American Nationals presented by Dodge at New England Dragway.

For the 12th consecutive year the IHRA Nitro Jam tour will be back at the historical Epping track with championships to be decided and Ironman hardware to be claimed.

Drivers have seen their championship hopes realized and dreams shattered at the legendary quarter-mile and with only three races remaining in the 2009 season, this year's event promises to once again make a huge dent in the title chase of all 10 of IHRA's championship classes.

"This is a big race for us. All of the success we have seen over the past couple of months could disappear in an instant if we don't keep this going," said two-time Epping winner and Elite Motorsports Pro Stock points leader Frank Gugliotta. "We know what it takes to win here, we just have to get it done."

Gugliotta is a two-time winner in 2009 and is also a former winner at New England Dragway with victories coming '05 and '07. Ever since taking over the points lead in June Gugliotta has been slowly pulling away, but he has been in this position before and knows that if he falters even a little that momentum could be gone in an instant.

"I have been in the top five since 2003 and have never been able to clinch a championship," Gugliotta said. "It always slips away at this time of year and I have to make sure that this year we keep doing what we are doing and hopefully it doesn't happen again."

On top of chasing a championship, drivers will also be vying for a win at one of the oldest strips in the nation at an event that has seen its share of stars turn laps.

"Anybody who is anybody in the history of our sport has made a pass at New England Dragway," said IHRA President Aaron Polburn. "The place is just retro-cool. It takes you back to another time and you can just feel the history when you step out onto the track. Just like Indianapolis and Daytona are to oval racing, New England Dragway is hallowed ground in the world of drag racing."

The history of the North American Nationals dates back to 1992, but the event did not become a regular fixture on the Nitro Jam circuit until 1998 where it has since become one of the biggest races of the year.

Some of the best drivers in the world have made passes on the historical quarter-mile and on September 11-13 someone new will try to add their name to the long list of legends who have graced New England Dragway's winners circle.

"We are so excited that we can hardly contain ourselves," said two-time Epping Top Fuel winner and New York native Bobby Lagana Jr. "It is the best track and the greatest fans and it is like a home track for us.

"With all of the racing my dad did up there it seems like there is a lot of good energy and there is something about that place that fits us perfectly. I can't wait to get up there."

But well before the Epping facility joined forces with the IHRA, drivers were already turning tires at the New Hampshire strip.

Drag racing actually made its New England debut at the old Newington Airport in 1953 before the sport finally found a permanent home at its current location on September 11th, 1966.

Still owned by many of the racers who helped build the facility over 40 years ago, along with a new crop of shareholders, the track remains the only quarter-mile drag racing facility in New England.

And when the drivers of the Nitro Jam series roll onto the track for the first time in 2009, exactly 43 years to the day after the tracks grand opening, a new batch of stars will etch their names into New England drag racing lore.

And Joe Lombardo, General Manager of New England Dragway, hopes to draw on that excitement with one of the biggest weeks of racing in the tracks history.

Along with the Nitro Jam event on September 11-13, the track will also host an IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Pro-Am Tour presented by Mr. Gasket event the following weekend creating a two week stretch of non-stop championship racing.

"With an opportunity to earn a berth or get within striking distance of earning a slot in the Tournament of Champions, this year's Nitro Jam and Pro-Am events at New England Dragway promise to ratchet up the competition level," Lombardo said. "Because this event follows our national event, we are certain some of the best racers in the Northeast will take a crack at a coveted world championship berth in Rockingham.

"There is little doubt in my mind the double weekend will be a success on all levels. All of us at New England Dragway are anxious to experience the excitement that is the hallmark of IHRA drag racing."

Already one of the more historical seasons in the IHRA's long history, a season that has seen some of the closest championship point battles and on track racing the sport has ever seen, the drivers of the Nitro Jam tour will look to continue that tradition of superb drag racing action in Epping.

"This has been a remarkable year for IHRA drag racing. From close racing and great rivalries to our noticeable increase in spectators and fans, the IHRA is moving forward and we plan on giving fans in New Hampshire an up close and personal look at what we are all about -- entertainment and great racing," Polburn added.

From the 10-foot header flames of the nitro-burning Top Fuel dragsters to the incredible side-by-side racing of the door car classes, don't miss a chance to be a part of history September 11-13 at New England Dragway.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bobby Lagana Jr. , Frank Gugliotta