By Lee Elder
EPPING, NH (July 8, 2018) – Chris McGaha grabbed his second Pro Stock victory of the 2018 season to cap a dramatic day of racing at the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.
McGaha beat new points leader Erica Enders in the final round when Enders left too soon and fouled out.
Steve Torrence won in Top Fuel and Matt Hagan was the Funny Car winner.
“In the final, they gave it to me, they really did,” McGaha said. “… I went 6.57 (seconds) and she went 6.54, so basically they had us beat but just didn’t get it done.”
It was Upset City in the first few rounds of Pro Stock. Defending series champion Bo Butner was knocked out of the first round. Greg Anderson, the top qualifier at New England, went out in the second round along with fourth qualifier Drew Skillman and three-time champion Jason Line. Enders, a two-time Pro Stock champion, took advantage of the craziness to grab the Pro Stock points lead after winning in the semi-finals.
McGaha got to the final round after Kenny Delco left the starting line too early against McGaha in the semis.
“That was a crazy day,” McGaha said. “I win the first two rounds on hole shots and then I had to race Kenny Delco and I’m not going to lie: He scares the daylights out of me. … I saw his car go by the Christmas tree and it looked like a comp race because he left so soon.”
Enders had reached the final round in four of the last six events. She vaulted past both Tanner Gray and Greg Anderson in the standings. But McGaha’s final round win was his first against the two-time champ. He took his 100th career Pro Stock round win earlier in the day.
Hagan displaced Terry Haddock, Tommy Johnson Jr., and defending Funny Car champion Ron Capps before facing Wilkerson in the Funny Car final. Wilkerson raced in his first final round of the season after qualifying 10th and he had a tough list of drivers to beat in the first three rounds. He eliminated J.R. Todd, former champ Jack Beckman and Shawn Langdon before facing Hagan in the finals.
“We’re starting to come around to where we need to and we still have half the season to go,” Hagan said.
The victory was his second in a row, giving him eight consecutive round wins. He also has eight straight round wins at Epping after winning last year’s race here as well. Hagan has 29 career Funny Car wins.
“That last lap was like a dirt track car,” Hagan said. “It was sideways and I could hear Timmy over there. That’s what makes it exciting. It’s a fuel Funny Car and you never know what you’re going to get.”
Torrence had to beat Tony Schumacher, the all-time winner in Top Fuel, to get out of the third round. Brown had to work his way through a tough draw to reach the Top Fuel finals. He beat Clay Millican, a two-time winner this season, in the first round and then defending Top Fuel champ Brittany Force in the second round. He eliminated top qualifier Leah Pritchett in the third round.
“The one that mattered was the last one,” Torrence said, “but I didn’t do a very good job. I had to get my mind straight and get up on the wheel.”
Torrence said his friendship with Brown played a role in his pre-race prep, but the work was harder, not easier.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Torrence added. “He’s a best friend but I that sucker was in my head and I had to get him out of it.”
Torrence padded his lead in the Top Fuel standings with the win, reaching 1,086 points. Tony Schumacher moved past Clay Millican to take second with 896. Millican is third at 881.
Enders leads the Pro Stock standings with 956 points. Anderson is second with 920 and Gray is third at 917.
Courtney Force lost some ground but held on to her Funny Car points lead. She leads second-place Hagan 1,069-914. Jack Beckman is third with 847.
All point totals are unofficial.
NOTES: New England Dragway announced that Sunday’s crowd was a sellout.