Napa Car Scores at New England Nationals
Ron Capps and the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger raced to his first victory of the season in Funny Car eliminator during the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals….
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Dave Connolly (Pro Stock) and Angie Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at New England Dragway in New Hampshire.
A day after summer officially began, Ron Capps and his NAPA AUTO PARTS team picked the right time of year to officially begin a hot streak. The popular face of the NAPA Know How commercials raced to his first win of 2014 Sunday afternoon at New England Dragway.
Capps drove his machine to the event win over Alexis DeJoria with a 4.095-second run at 315.19 mph to claim the 41st victory of his career in Funny Car.
“To get a win, it feels so good for this entire NAPA team,” Capps said of his first triumph in 19 races. “Chase Elliott has been racking it up on the NASCAR side and we really needed to get a win for NAPA and what a better place to do it with all the NAPA folks from Boston and Maine and the entire northeast here this weekend. This has just been a great weekend.”
Capps qualified in the No. 10 position, but an experienced racer that’s been through the NHRA battles like Capps knows that a team can win from any of the 16 starting positions.
Capps dispersed veteran Tim Wilkerson on a slight holeshot, former champion Cruz Pedregon, fan-favorite Courtney Force, and rising star Alexis DeJoria in the final round at the second annual Epping, NH race to collect his 42nd career NHRA Wally trophy.
“I told (crew member) Joe (Chrisman) that we were going to win this race last Sunday after we lost in Bristol and he laughed at me,” Capps said. “Then I told him we were going to win the Western Swing. I hope he wrote it down like I said and my predictions keep coming true.
“We knew there was only one spot left in the Traxxas Shootout and it didn’t want it to come down to a fan vote,” Capps said of the race within a race bonus event during the U.S. Nationals. “That was important to us.”
The last time two DSR teams doubled-up for the win was at Brainerd, Minn. last August when Capps and Spencer Massey collected the Wally trophies. Capps and Schumacher doubled-up at the Phoenix race in February 2013. It was the 39th double-up for DSR nitro teams and DSR now has 228 NHRA wins.
“The guys have been working so hard and we struggled on race day at Bristol and (crew chief) (Rahn) Tobler was real upset with himself after qualifying here yesterday and he stayed here late with Eric (Lane) until they got it sorted out in what they wanted to do today,” Capps, who now ranks fourth in the NHRA Funny Car standings, said. “And to open up with that 4.06 in the first round, I knew our NAPA car was back.”
Capps leaves Epping fourth in the Funny Car point standings. Funny Car points leader Robert Hight reached the second round, falling to John Force Racing teammate Force.
In Top Fuel, Schumacher piloted his U.S. Army dragster to a pass of 3.824 at 323.27 to defeat points leader Doug Kalitta and pick up his second victory of the season. In earlier rounds he raced past Steve Torrence, Antron Brown and Clay Millican.
“The fans that paid good money to go to a drag race got the best show I’ve seen this year,” Schumacher said of the close action all weekend long. “It was outstanding racing. It’s cyclical. You go up and down. Right now we’re up and it’s outstanding.”
It was the 74th career victory for Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, and first at the Northeastern track. With the win, Atlanta Dragway now stands as the only track that Schumacher has yet to record a victory.
“I’d like to have that,” Schumacher said of the win in Georgia. “It would be really cool. Of all the records we’ve set and we’ve set everything there, that’s the one that’s out there.”
Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster reached its sixth final of the season. With the finals appearance, Kalitta increased his points lead over Antron Brown to 156 markers.
In Pro Stock, Connolly reached his first final since 2012 and made the best of it with his performance of 6.536 at 213.23 in his Charter Communications Chevy Camaro to defeat Gray Motorsports teammate Jonathan Gray.
Dave Connolly and the Gray Motorsports Pro Stock team put together an amazing set of passes on raceday at the 2nd annual NHRA New England Nationals, and their strenuous efforts were rewarded as Connolly powered the Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro to the winner’s circle. The victory was the 24th of Connolly’s career and his first of the year. The win also marked a momentous occasion, as it was the product of the very first all-Gray Motorsports Pro Stock final round.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m surprised it took us so long,” said Connolly, who has reached a remarkable 42 Pro Stock final rounds in a career that started in Chicago in 2003. “The talent pool is deep within this team, and we all had high expectations coming into this season because we know what Gray Motorsports is capable of. The team has been digging and digging and digging since we were assembled, but the class is just so tough right now. Today was no different, but our Charter Communications Chevrolet Camaro jumped out there and was low for every round. I attribute that to the team. It’s great to be part of this.”
Starting from the No. 3 position, Connolly began his speedy forward march to the final round with a first-round victory over Kenny Delco, who broke before the run. Connolly took the single in spectacular fashion, clearing the finish line in 6.513-second at 213.23 mph, a time that stood as the quickest pass of eliminations. In round two, Connolly raced to a head-turning 6.526, 212.93 in his defeat of Vincent Nobile’s 6.562, 213.13. The quarterfinals win paired the surging driver with Greg Anderson in the semis for the first time this season, and Connolly disposed of his challenger handily as he launched first and clocked a 6.517, 213.23 to 6.549, 212.93.
Clearly on a tear, Connolly had one more opponent to knock out in order to grab the coveted Wally trophy, and the only man standing in his way was his own Gray Motorsports teammate, rookie of the year contender Jonathan Gray. He knew Gray would be no easy draw; just last week, the newest member of the Gray Motorsports team reached his first final round.
Connolly was out of the gate first with a .019-second reaction time and cleared the finish line with air to spare, slamming a 6.536 at 213.23 on the scoreboard to defeat Gray’s 6.577, 213.16 mph.
Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro team had their race end early following a second round defeat to four-time world champion Greg Anderson.
Smith secured the first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of her career with a winning run of 6.905 at 191.89 on her Kandy Magazine Buell, defeating husband and teammate Matt Smith, whose NitroFish Buell slowed as it approached the finish line.
“In this sport, I’ll take it any way I can get it,” said Smith. “It’s my first one, I’m proud to be here. I’m really tired of dusting all of [Matt’s] Wallys. I at least want to dust one of mine at the house. Now I have one, and I’m good with that.”
It was the first time that a husband and wife met in the final of an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. Matt, the reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, lost in the Epping final for the second season straight, falling to teammate John Hall last year.
Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley Davidson teammates Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines had won three races in a row, but both riders fell to Angie Smith in the second round and semifinals respectively. Hines continues to lead the points in the two-wheel category.
Event Essentials: NHRA Auto-Plus New England Nationals (June 20-22nd, 2014)
|Low ET:||Antron Brown||3.776|
|Top Speed:||Spencer Massey||326.63|
|Low ET:||Robert Hight||3.988|
|Top Speed:||Courtney Force||323.35|
|Low ET:||Shane Gray||6.485|
|Top Speed:||Jeg Coughlin||214.25|
|Pro Stock Motorcycle|
|Low ET:||Eddie Krawiec||6.794|
|Top Speed:||Hector Arana Jr.||198.50|
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Five First Time Winners!
Five NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series racers scored their first ever NHRA national event win this past weekend at New England Dragway and the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H.
Leading the charge was Matthew Harper in Top Sportsman who paired a near perfect reaction time of .005 seconds with a 7.544 run on his 7.54 dial for a .009 package in the final round against Marc Caruso. The Wiscasset, Maine, resident Harper crossed the finish line at 183.10 mph to the quicker Caruso at 6.986, 192.44.
Super Gas and Super Street were guaranteed first time winners as Ray Balian met up with Brian Khoury in Super Gas and Art Gardner with Frank Quarno Jr., none of which had ever advanced to a national event final round. Both were close as the start with Balian, Messapequa, N.Y., pulling away for the win over Khoury, Derry, N.H., in his ’91 Ford for the Super Gas title and Gardner, Somers, Conn., won in his ’67 Nova IN Super Street when Quarno, Morris Plains, N.J., broke out.
Ron Infantino and Timmy Markoglu rounded out the first time winners as Infantino, Paramus, N.J., qualified number one and was better at the finish line to overcome a starting line advantage by Joe Lisa, Vernon, N.J., for the win in Stock Eliminator. Markoglu got the early lead on Kyle Cultrera, Eliot, Maine, and held on for the win in Super Comp in his ’10 dragster by about two feet.
A pair of heavy hitters battled for the Super Stock crown as Joe Santangelo, Marlborough, Conn., meet up with Dan Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y., with Santangelo taking his sixth national event win in his ’87 Camaro when Fletcher left early with a red light foul start.
Canadian racer Tina Duncanson joined in on the winner’s circle celebration defeating Mark Case Jr. in event’s added attraction Pro Stock Snowmobile exhibition eliminator. The pair left the line together but Duncanson pulled away for the win in 8.289 seconds at 156.52 mph.
Posted with files from : Kelly Wade, Jeff Wolf, Eric Lotz & NHRA Communications
All Photos by: Steve Embling & Dave DeAngelis
To view additional photos visit the New England Nationals Photo Gallery: HERE