Photos: Courtesy of NHRA
Tony Schumacher drove to a resounding victory in Top Fuel, John Force added No. 143 to his Funny Car win list and red-hot Greg Anderson earned the Chevrolet Camaro its 100th brand win in Pro Stock.
In a jam-packed arena, the New England Dragway hosted the NHRA for the third year and the reception was record-setting with beautiful weather all weekend.
Raceday was officially the U.S. Army’s 240th birthday celebration, and Tony ‘The Sarge’ Schumacher and the U.S. Army Dragster team for Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) provided the ultimate gift by driving to a booming victory in the NHRA New England Nationals.
From his No. 1 qualifier position – the series-record 78th of his career – the eight-time and defending Top Fuel world champion battled all the way to the final round, where he ousted Larry Dixon for his milestone 79th career event title, his second of the season, and second in a row at New England Dragway.
Schumacher clocked his fastest run of the day against Dixon in the finals, an effort of 3.809 seconds at 321.35 mph. Dixon, who scored first-round victories over Schumacher in their previous two meetings this season at Las Vegas and Atlanta, crossed the line in 3.881 seconds at 319.60 mph. Dixon reached the landmark 1,000 round club of NHRA competition when he defeated Antron Brown first round.
“There’s only one race a year you can do that on, so it’s very special,” Schumacher said of winning on the Army’s birthday. “To go out there and qualify No. 1, the odds are against you. People think it’s easy to win from the No. 1 spot, but it’s difficult. It was a rough first round, but Mike (Green, crew chief) and Neal (Strausbaugh, assistant crew chief) made the correct changes to go fast and we won the race. I felt like I drove well today. Together as a team, we went out and won. We did a great job, what a battle.”
Schumacher drove past Morgan Lucas, Clay Millican, and DSR teammate, Spencer Massey in the semis before meeting Dixon for the 81st time with ‘the Sarge’ now leading the series of 43 – 38 and 13 to 6 in final round matchups.
Schumacher remained in second place in the Top Fuel standings with his first win since February in Phoenix, but he closed the points deficit to his DSR teammate Antron Brown from 118 to 33 after Brown was eliminated by Dixon in Sunday’s first round.
For John Force, time is only referred to as what’s on his ET slip.
At 66, Force continues to win, impressively rising to the occasion when it matters most. He was the No.3 qualifier taking on and defeating Dave Richards, Matt Hagan on a hole shot, and Cruz Pedregon to reach his 240th final round against Tommy Johnson, Jr. earning his 143rd NHRA National event title.
“I raced here (New England Dragway) 38 or 40 years ago before most of you were born. Now to come back and have one race on the circuit that I couldn’t win; I needed this race win,” said Force from the winner’s circle stage. “One of these days I am going to go out and it is going to break my heart but I ain’t leaving until I win all of them and now I’ll try and win all of them twice. This was a great day. My daughter (Courtney Force) spanked me in the inaugural race and I tried to screw her up in the first race but I couldn’t do it. I taught her too well.”
In Sunday’s finals, Force used his JFR team’s smarts in negotiating a hot, slick track before cruising to victory with a time of 4.160 seconds to out run Johnson’s time of 4.195 seconds.
“I want to thank my crew chief brain-trust from Jon Schaffer to Mike Neff along with Ron Douglas, Dan Hood, Todd Smith and Ronnie Thompson. We are starting all over and rebuilding but we are having a ball doing it.”
This is the 24th season that Force has multiple wins and he has won at least one race in 28 of the last 29 years.
There is certainly no denying that Greg Anderson is back, and this weekend NHRA New England Nationals, the four-time Pro Stock world champion and current points leader powered his red Summit Racing Chevrolet Camaro to his second consecutive victory and the 77th win of his career. It was his third win of the season in his 122nd final round in a rematch from the Englishtown final.
“We’re definitely on the upswing,” said Anderson, who lengthened his points lead with the win to 70 points over his nearest competitor. “It’s been awesome the last few months, ever since we brought this little red Camaro out at Gainesville. We took her all the way to victory circle there, and the performance of the car has gotten better every race we’ve gone to. Looking back at today and last weekend in Englishtown, I have made 16 so-close-to-perfect runs in a row. It’s awesome. This car is fun to drive. This is what you work for, what you push for. Our team has it going on right now, and I’m absolutely having a ball.”
Anderson defeated Val Smeland, Drew Skillman and against KB Racing teammate, Jason Line in the semi-finals with a string 6.51s.
The final round was a rematch of last week in Englishtown with the outcome being the same. Anderson and Allen Johnson came to the starting line and it was Anderson with the win light at the top end in his Camaro, 6.512 at a track-record setting 214.72 mph. Johnson clocked a 6.530, 213.50.
With the win, Anderson claimed the 100th win for the Pro Stock Chevrolet Camaro. The first win was scored by Bill “Grumpy” Jenkins in 1970, the first year of NHRA Pro Stock. Jenkins won the first two events of the season in a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro.
“That’s really something, and we’re honored to have that. This year feels like one of the most special of my career,” said Anderson.