NHRA New England Nationals
Event 13 of 24 (Epping)
New England Dragway
July 5-7, 2019
DSR Epping Elimination Highlights:
Matt Hagan notches third consecutive NHRA New England Nationals Funny Car victory
Hagan’s Epping win marked his second triumph of 2019 and 31st overall
Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) advanced to the quarterfinals, and each moved up one spot in the Countdown to the Championship point standings
Three-peat for Matt Hagan in Epping
EPPING, N.H. (July 7, 2019) – Matt Hagan continued his dominance of the NHRA New England Nationals by racing the MOPAR Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to its third consecutive Funny Car triumph at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. on Sunday.
To notch his 31st career Funny Car victory, Hagan was forced to take down the hottest competitors in the class. His run to the finals started with a match-up versus fellow DSR Hellcat pilot Jack Beckman, who defeated Hagan in recent first rounds at Richmond and Topeka. Hagan and his Dickie Venables-led team turned up the wick and unloaded with a monster run of 3.958 seconds, the quickest Funny Car E.T. of the weekend, to defeat a stout 4.016 run by Beckman and set the tone for a long day of turning on win lights.
“We can’t seem to get away from our teammates in the first round, and they’re the hardest to get around and beat,” said Hagan of facing a DSR Dodge in the opening round at five of the last seven events. “I have so much respect for them; the drivers, the crew chiefs and the caliber of their cars. They’re always tough, but that’s the thing about Dickie Venables, when you give him a couple of runs, and he gets some confidence in himself it’s game over. We came in here, and it was brutally hot throughout qualifying, but we were getting down the race track, and that bred a lot of confidence in myself and our team going into today.”
Facing another teammate in the quarterfinals, two-time 2019 winner Ron Capps, Hagan and Venables were once again up to the task. Hagan left the line first and never trailed, posting a run of 3.991 to advance and face Bob Tasca III in the semifinals. Against Tasca, Hagan snagged the early lead and drove away to capture his 350th round win, and reach his 57th career final and third in 2019.
The two-time Funny Car champion was not going to be denied of an Epping three-peat, and his .033 reaction time in the final was proof. Hagan powered his way to victory over Shawn Langdon with a winning pass of 4.014 at 322.81-mph to give him 12 consecutive round wins at the Epping track.
“My guys were flawless putting the car together today, and I’m really proud of Dickie Venables and Mike Knudsen and the decisions they were making together today. We didn’t just get lucky; the car went down the race track every single time. There’s a lot of good cars out there, a lot of good drivers, but I feel like this is the most consistent car I’ve had underneath me in a long time.
“I’m really excited that we were able to pull down another win for MOPAR. We needed this race to be a turning point for our season, and now we have the Western Swing coming up and then Indy and the Countdown, and you want to have that momentum. With this new combination we have in our bellhousing, I feel like we’re making the right steps to move forward.”
The triumph for Hagan was the fifth win by a DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver in 2019, and 338th overall victory for Don Schumacher Racing.
Qualified: No. 6 (4.051 E.T. at 318.47 MPH)
E1: 3.958 E.T. at 326.24 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 4.016 E.T. at 322.04 MPH
E2: 3.991 E.T. at 325.22 MPH defeated Ron Capps 4.101 E.T. at 262.64 MPH
E3: 4.000 E.T. at 324.05 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 4.478 E.T. at 219.12 MPH
E4: 4.014 E.T. at 322.81 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 4.046 E.T. at 317.49 MPH
Driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 4 (3.848 E.T. at 321.73 MPH)
E1: 4.018 E.T. at 281.42 MPH defeated Cameron Ferre 4.406 E.T. at 187.26 MPH
E2: 6.843 E.T. at 101.10 MPH defeated by Scott Palmer 4.252 E.T. at 214.31 MPH
Antron Brown was seeking his fourth consecutive Epping final round appearance on Sunday and with a No. 4 qualifying effort, looked to be in a strong position to make it a long day of racing.
The 2016 New England Dragway event champion faced Cameron Ferre in the opening round of eliminations. Brown was first out of the gate and started dropping cylinders shortly after but was able to hang on for the win, defeating Ferre who made his best run of the weekend. In the quarterfinals, Brown lined up opposite event runner-up Scott Palmer. Once again, Brown was machine-like and had a sizeable reaction time advantage over his opponent but was up in smoke right at the hit and Palmer was able to take the win. Quotable:
“We’re just going to keep working on our combo, so when it gets hot out that it doesn’t release. Our main goal now is to get this Matco Tools Toyota dragster ready for Denver and the Western Swing. We’re working on it and we need to just keep getting after it. We need to go out to Denver and make sure we make good power and have a good clutch program. With the elevation, it’s a huge change of the way you run the car. We’re going to go out with some stuff that we ran last year and use that as our starting point. We need to go out there and win that race.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 11 (4.117 E.T. at 310.55 MPH)
E1: 4.016 E.T. at 322.04 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 3.958 E.T. at 326.24 MPH
Coming off two runner-up and two semifinal finishes over the last four events, Jack Beckman and the Infinite Hero Foundation team were eyeing the NHRA New England Nationals to score their first Wally trophy of 2019.
Beckman motored his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to the 11th qualifying spot with a run of 4.117 seconds on Friday. The 2012 Funny Car world champion desperately wanted to make his fourth qualifying pass Saturday afternoon and improve his starting position, but Mother Nature washed out the final session. So instead, Beckman found himself racing fellow DSR Hellcat pilot and eventual Epping Funny Car champion, Matt Hagan, in round one. Beckman got the starting line advantage and made his best run of the weekend, 4.016 seconds at 322.04 mph, but it wasn’t enough to knock out Hagan, whose 3.958 E.T. held up to be the quickest Funny Car pass of the meet.
“It was bound to bite us. We qualified in the bottom half of the field. I’m not making excuses, but that rained out Q4 may have hurt us more than any other team. We had tried some stuff and wanted to go back to our combo for that final session, but we didn’t get the opportunity. We got a big dog in the first round, and we go out there and lay down the quickest losing time of the round. That gets you nothing. It’s frustrating to end our hot streak, but I don’t know that we ended it, we just suffered an early-round exit today. We still know that we have a great Hellcat. The guys will take a week off, go back and freshen up our parts and we are going to come out swinging at Denver. And at Denver, you throw away all of the data. It’s the one race where they dust off that one notebook in the back of the cabinet. The crew chiefs hate it; the drivers love it. I’ve been successful there. I can’t think of a better place than that mountain to get our first win of the year, because I’m going to tell you, there is nothing that sets the tone for a championship run better than standing there on Sunday holding the trophy.”
Driver of the NAPA Batteries Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 3 (4.039 E.T. at 313.07 MPH)
E1: 3.980 E.T. at 315.19 MPH defeated Mike Smith 7.299 E.T. at 84.21 MPH
E2: 4.101 E.T. at 262.64 MPH defeated by Matt Hagan 3.991 E.T. at 325.22 MPH
Bannering a patriotic NAPA Batteries livery, Ron Capps earned the No. 3 starting position on Fourth of July weekend to lead DSR as the highest-qualified entry heading into race day at the NHRA New England Nationals.
Capps and the Rahn Tobler-led NAPA Batteries team battled tough conditions throughout an abbreviated three-run qualifying schedule to earn five bonus points, and it was clear that Friday and Saturday’s high temperatures had them well-prepared for a warm race day.
In round one, Capps rocketed the NAPA Batteries Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat down the track in 3.980 seconds, posting the first three-second Funny Car pass of the weekend to take the round win over opponent Mike Smith.
The quarterfinals pitted Capps against fellow Hellcat pilot Matt Hagan, the only other driver to make a sub-four second Funny Car pass in round one. The owners of the two best E.T.s of race day lined up prepared to battle for their spot in the semifinals. Capps and Hagan were nearly even early into the run, but Capps’ machine started to drift toward the centerline, and he was forced to click it off and give up on the run.
“Don’t mean to sound cliché, but we are having a lot of these weekends. We have a great race car. We’re great through qualifying, and we put a target on our backs. Any time we go up there, we have to be at our very best because we put that pressure on other teams and it’s great. That’s why I brag about Rahn Tobler and the NAPA Know How guys because we consistently go down the track. If you look at qualifying here in New England, to make all three qualifying runs between a 4.03 and 4.05 and gain five bonus points, that’s the kind of consistency we are used to having. It just hurts a little more to go down on race day, because we really felt like we had a car that could go rounds.
“It was fun to represent NAPA Batteries and the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund with our red, white and blue car on Independence Day weekend. You could not ask for a better sponsor to let us go do fun stuff like this and raise money for a good cause. And that’s when you really want to park it in the winner’s circle, so it stings a little more.
“We’ll take today’s outcome and go on to the Western Swing. I say it all the time, I don’t care where we qualify, I feel like we always have a car capable of winning. If we keep doing that, the wins will come, and we’ll be ready for The Countdown.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 8 (4.069 E.T. at 311.34 MPH)
E1: 4.559 E.T. at 186.38 MPH defeated by Tim Wilkerson 4.259 E.T. at 233.72 MPH
Starting from the top half of the Funny Car field for the eighth consecutive event, Tommy Johnson Jr. looked prime for a long day of racing as he sought his first Epping victory.
The driver of the Make-A-Wish Dodge entered the weekend fresh off a string of five semifinal finishes or better over the last six events but suffered an uncharacteristic first-round loss on Sunday morning at New England Dragway. Johnson had the slight starting line advantage over opponent Tim Wilkerson, but his machine lost traction early into the run, enabling Wilkerson to claim the round win. The round-one loss was only the second for Johnson through the first 13 events and his first since Houston, dating back to April.
“You’ll have a tough weekend now and then, and I’m glad it’s now instead of later in the season. We’ll learn from this and try and make the car better. I thought we had a good handle on it, but we never seemed to hit our stride this weekend. But, we’ll regroup and move on to Denver and hopefully start the Western Swing off on a strong note.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings: Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence - 1278
2. Doug Kalitta - 799 3. Antron Brown - 781
4. Brittany Force- 777
5. Mike Salinas - 732
6. Clay Millican - 730 7. Leah Pritchett - 651
8. Richie Crampton - 612
9. Terry McMillen- 576
10. Scott Palmer - 563 Funny Car
1. Robert Hight - 1079
2. John Force - 903 3. Tommy Johnson Jr - 891
4. Ron Capps - 870
5. Jack Beckman - 851
6. J.R. Todd - 825 7. Matt Hagan - 770
7. Bob Tasca III - 770
9. Tim Wilkerson - 691
10. Shawn Langdon - 675