NHRA New England Nationals: Drivers to Watch

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Erica Enders Racing (1); Matt Hagan (2)

It’s 12 rounds down, 12 to go in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, with the world’s premier drag racing championship kicking off the second half of its season at New England Dragway this weekend. The sixth annual NHRA New England Nationals may be relatively new to the schedule, but what the event lacks in age, it makes up for in passionate local fans and thrilling action.

Today marks the second and final day of qualifying action, as the sport’s top teams and drivers duel for lane choice and better placement on the ladder before Sunday’s eliminations. Look out for these three competitors in the sport’s top classes to be compelling follows throughout the rest of the weekend:

Top Fuel: Steve Torrence

The current Top Fuel points leader, Torrence’s championship advantage is buoyed by four wins so far this season—exactly matching the winning pace he was on last year, when he took eight victories over the course of the 24-race schedule. That has him 117 points clear of Clay Millican for the top spot in the standings, and a further 30 on Tony Schumacher. He’ll look to improve on last year’s New England results, where he beat Doug Kalitta in the first round but fell to top qualifier Leah Pritchett in the second.

Funny Car: Matt Hagan

Defending New England winner Hagan is coming in hot, having won the most recent round at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals and sharing second in the standings with Jack Beckman. At the end of Friday’s qualifying, his run of 3.932 seconds (322.04 mph) was good for the preliminary pole, .024 seconds ahead of Beckman in second. While he won’t be able to make up the entire 250-point deficit to Courtney Force in one round, Hagan can at least do some damage with another victory.

Pro Stock: Erica Enders

Like Hagan, Enders enters New England as a defending winner after making it to the final round two weeks ago in Ohio. While she wasn’t able to take the victory there, falling to Tanner Gray in the decisive matchup, the two-time Pro Stock champion still leads the class with five final round appearances on the season—a win in Charlotte and four runner-up results. That has her only 52 points out of the lead in a hotly contested points battle, behind only Gray and Greg Anderson in second.

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