Competition Plus’ Water-Cooler Topics From The NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, NH.

1. Mother Nature is a Party Pooper - The big winner this past weekend at New England Dragway at the 10th NHRA New England Nationals was the weather. It wreaked havoc on the race schedule, befuddled tuners, frustrated drivers, and drove away maybe even the hardiest fans on the Camping World Drag Racing Series tour. A few moments of racing, though, produced some noteworthy results.

The weather was cussed and discussed all weekend. Leah Pruett had it pegged when she said Saturday afternoon, “This is already an extreme weekend.” The weather-related strategizing stretched well into Monday afternoon, when the NHRA  finally decided they needed to throw in the soggy towel. That’s another blow for the earnest Joe Lombardo and his staff at the Epping, N.H. dragstrip after COVID restrictions robbed them of hosting this race in 2020. The event will finish later this week at Bristol Dragway.
2. #2Hor2Tasty turns into #2Wet2Cold - Had the weekend progressed as planned, Leah Pruett and Clay Millican would have been going head-to-head for the $10,000, winner-take-all prize in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge for Top Fuel, along with appropriate bonus points. Ron Capps and Tim Wilkerson would have met in the final round of the Funny Car version of the specialty race. But because of Saturday’s rainout following the Q2 session, the competition was waived off. No one will receive bonus points this time, and the participants will split the purse. Millican and Capps each will receive $5,000 as the quickest first-round winners Saturday. Pruett and Wilkerson will each receive $1,500, and each of the remaining drivers will receive $500. 
3. Chad Green gets his first No. 1 - Funny Car’s Chad Green was the first racer Friday to make it the full length of the track under power, and his 4.100-second elapsed time was enough to secure his career-first No. 1 qualifying position.

4. Brown Makes The Most of the Weather Window - Top Fuel’s Antron Brown took advantage of the small window of opportunity Saturday, swiping the No. 1 qualifying position from Friday leader Leah Pruett with a 3.729-second run at 329.99 mph. The No. 1 qualifier was his 50th No. 1 qualifier of his career. 
5. Zizzo, McNeal Pass On Epping Special Program -  T.J. Zizzo earned the right to race in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge but chose not to attend the event. That tossed the privilege to Scott Palmer Racing’s Jacob McNeal, who also passed. Leah Pruett was next in line, and she gratefully accepted the offer – and won her first round of competition Saturday. Considering the weather-related disappointment, maybe Zizzo and McNeal made wise choices.
6. Light Car Counts in Epping - After overflow fields at Joliet, Ill., two weeks before, the nitro fields at New England Dragway were short. The Top Fuel class had only 13 entrants, and the Funny Car category was one short of a full contingent.

7. Alexander Makes Up for Friday Snafu - Blake Alexander was lucky that the Funny Car class got in one Saturday qualifying session. He missed the Friday chances to lock in an advantageous starting spot in the Funny Car order, because he missed out altogether Friday. Team owner Jim Head is a seasoned pilot who flies himself and some crew members to the races aboard his personal plane. This time, his plane experienced a mechanical problem before taking off from Columbus, Ohio, so Head and a significant portion of the crew didn’t arrive at Epping in time to prep the car and have Alexander make a pass Friday. He claimed the No. 12 spot in the lineup.
8. Schumacher Gets His Piece in the Valley - Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel’s most successful driver ever, found out this past weekend that he will be inducted this coming weekend into the Legends of Thunder Valley hall of fame at Bristol Dragway. The SCAG dragster driver, when he was driving with U.S. Army sponsorship, won the Top Fuel trophy at Bristol in 2004, 2008-10, 2012, and 2018 and was runner-up there in 2001 and 2016. He has qualified No. 1 there four times (2004, 2006-08). He’ll become the 20th member of the prestigious club that includes his own father, 2014 inductee Don Schumacher.

9. OMG... was the FCC listening? - It’s a slow news watch when the biggest “Ohmygosh!” moments of the weekend just might have been the remarks by Dan Wilkerson and Big Jim Dunn.  Perhaps Wilkerson, Chad Green’s crew chief, set the tone Friday when he, forgetting he was speaking on the public-address microphone, said ... well, one of those seven words comedian George Carlin said you can’t say on television. Then early Saturday, when his driver, Alex Laughlin, jumped to the No. 3 starting position with a 4.190-second E.T., team owner Dunn explained their success in an enlightening way: “You pray a lot, cross your fingers, and say, ‘Bulls---.’” Who knew?

10. Pro Stock classes missing from the show - The Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes did not compete at Epping, N.H., but both will be back in action this coming weekend at the Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol, Tenn. There was supposed to me the Mountain Motor Pro Stock




BRING OUT THE TARP! The overriding theme of Saturday New England Nationals qualifying was the wild swing in conditions and the rain shower following the early nitro session that cut short the action at Epping, N.H.

Rain clouds made good on their threat just before 4:30 p.m. Eastern. And for safety’s sake, with temperatures dropping and at least a two-hour track-drying process ahead of them, NHRA officials declared right away that racing was finished for the day.

The plan is to move up the start of eliminations Sunday from the original 11 a.m. to 10 o'clock. Pre-race ceremonies and the scheduled track walk have been scrapped.

The second day of this seventh stop on the Camping World Drag Racing Series started out with windy conditions and markedly cooler temperatures than Friday. So crew chiefs and drivers experienced just as much frustration as the day before, but for the opposite reason.

“It’s disappointing for the fans,” said Bob Tasca III, Funny Car owner-driver and “next-door neighbor” from Cranston, R.I.

“We didn’t forget how to drive out here. These are just really challenging conditions. You’ve got unbelievable power with this air. This racetrack is really tough. [Fellow Funny Car owner-driver Ron Capps called circumstances ‘treacherous.’] I don’t think I’ve gone down a track like this but maybe a couple of times in my career,” Tasca said, referring to the frigid 60-70-degree reading of the racing surface. Fans got a long look at his beautiful PPG livery as he made two slow rolls down the 1,000-foot New England Dragway course this weekend.

Top Fuel crew chief Ron Douglas, from the Josh Hart/R+L Carriers organization, said Saturday’s racing surface was “tricky in a different way” from Friday’s. He said, “We’ve all had to adjust our power level quite a bit. We’ve had to change compression ratios and blower overdrive.” Still, Douglas figured that the track “should be able to handle some impressive runs.”

Even before any nitro cars approached the starting line, Douglas said tuners “still need to be cognizant of what we’re doing” and that “shaking [tire shake] early becomes an issue in these kinds of conditions.”

“It’s kind of a crapshoot,” crew chief Jason McCulloch said after his driver, Shawn Langdon, secured the No. 2 Top Fuel spot in the Connie Kalitta “Bounty Hunter” tribute car with an encouraging 3.738-second pass at 327.66.

As for Langdon, he slipped on a wool toboggan-style hat as soon as he removed his helmet following his Q2 pass. “Yesterday I was sweating my butt off in my firesuit, and today I put the firesuit on as soon as I could,” he said.

Tasca predicted that “as challenging as [conditions] are, give these crew chiefs another swing at it and a couple more cars go down the track, I think you’ll see us make a full pull next time.”

But the weather prevented him and everyone else from finding out. 

First, though, the Top Fuel class saw Antron Brown take the No. 1 qualifying position with a 3.729-second elapsed time with a speed just a tick under being the only 330-mph effort. Langdon also leapfrogged Friday’s tentative leader, Leah Pruett. Brown earned a first-round bye as the reward for his accomplishment.

Langdon will take on No. 13 Tony Schumacher in Round 1 of eliminations, and Pruett, as the third-place qualifier, will face No. 12 Doug Kalitta. Hart, who’s starting fourth with the last of the three-second runs (3.902), drew No. 11 Brittany Force on the adjusted ladder for the 13-car field.

Chad Green dropped out of the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, losing to quasi-teammate Tim Wilkerson, but he maintained his No. 1 spot in the qualifying order. Matt Hagan stayed second. Green will race Jim Campbell in the opening round of runoffs, and Hagan has No. 13 Terry Haddock in his sights.    

WILD PAIRINGS SET FINALS FOR #2FAST2TASTY BONUS RACES – A combination of thorny conditions and the enticement of a $10,000 winner’s payout and valuable extra Countdown points made for some aggressive and entertaining driving in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car versions of the Mission Foods #Fast2Tasty Challenge specialty event Saturday.

Advancing in Top Fuel were Joliet winner Clay Millican and alternate entrant Leah Pruett. The Funny Car final round of the bonus race will be a rematch of the Route 66 Raceway final round between Tim Wilkerson and Ron Capps.

Millican’s victory over Brittany Force was a pedal-stomping affair that left her saying, “Things can always change on race day” and him trying to explain the wild chain of events that saw him get nearly sideways and flirt with both the wall and the center line.

“It went out there and shook,” Millican said. “I gave it a pedal. Carried the front end. Got over by the wall. Let off of it. Got on it again. Spun the tires and got [toward] the center line. I went to my first Indy 500 [last weekend] and hung out with Sting Ray Robb and thought I could go left and right. I didn’t do a very good job of it, but it was good enough to turn the win light on.”

Then along came Pruett, who beat, Hart but not without riding out her own difficult 1,000-foot trip down the track. In the race only because legitimate qualifier T.J. Zizzo opted out of the opportunity and so did first alternate Jacob McNeal, Pruett made the most of her chance to earn some money for her crew and pick up some Countdown points. Hart had traction issues at the start of his run.

The Funny Car Challenge was no less frantic.

In the first match-up, John Force damaged the left front of his Peak Chevy Camaro by hitting the timing cones toward the end of his run, handing the triumph to Wilkerson, who was fighting his car and the track in his own lane.

In the other pairing, Green was in trouble at the hit of the throttle, and Capps pedaled his way to the victory, joking later that he was using the “Fred Flintstone” method of driving.

Alluding to Force, Capps said, “You see the G.O.A.T. had issues getting down the track” to demonstrate just how difficult it was to navigate the course. 

CAMPBELL TO FACE TOP-QUALIFIER GREEN – Jim Campbell had been itching to get back on track ever since a staging-lane incident kept him from making his first-round Funny Car pass at Phoenix in March. But his first chance this weekend in the Herzhauser Racing’s Captain Paul Watson/Last Exit entry didn’t exactly scratch his itch. The crew didn’t take off the throttle stop, and the result was a 14.716-second coast downtrack at 66.15 mph.

Word early Saturday afternoon was that the crew intentionally left the throttle stop on for Friday’s appearance. But once again, Campbell, who was hired just two weeks ago to drive this car, was unable to make a full pass under power – like 13 other Funny Car drivers in Saturday’s Q2.

Campbell wound up as the 14th and final qualifier in the short field and will have a chance to play spoiler Sunday. He’ll meet No. 1 starter Chad Green (4.100 seconds, 310.98 mph) in the Bond Coat Mustang in Sunday’s first round. The winner will receive a free pass into the semifinals. So Green will be going for a third chance to race in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge at Bristol, Tenn.


‘AWW – I’M TELLING!’ – Maybe Dan Wilkerson, Chad Green’s crew chief, set the tone Friday when he, forgetting he was speaking on the public-address microphone, said ... well, one of those seven words comedian George Carlin said you can’t say on television.

And early Saturday, when his driver, Alex Laughlin, jumped to the No. 3 starting position with a 4.190-second E.T., team owner Jim Dunn explained their success this way: “You pray a lot, cross your fingers, and say, ‘Bulls---.’” Sounds simple, right?


PEDREGON’S QUALIFYING STREAK HITS SNAG – After No. 1 qualifying performances at Pomona and Las Vegas and No. 2 starts at Charlotte and Joliet, Funny Car’s Cruz Pedregon was bitten Saturday by tire shake, like so many of his rivals. The Snap-on Dodge Hellcat driver will open race day from the No. 7 position and will line up in Round 1 Sunday against J.R. Todd.



HART, TEAM MAKING PROGRESS – Josh Hart drove his R+L Carriers dragster to the final round at Route 66 Raceway at Joliet, Ill., two weeks ago in pursuit of his first race victory of the season and third overall. But he lost to Clay Millican by 0.0106 of a second, or about five feet.

“We won the Pep Boys All-Star Call-Out and had a car that could have won the Gatornationals on Sunday, but the driver cost us,” Hart said. “After that we went into a little slump, and we have been methodically working our way back to our rookie-season performance level. No one ever panicked over here. We just went to work and figured some things out. The main thing we have seen is we are making progress and keep moving forward. Chicago was a big race for this R+L Carriers team.” But that Sunday was Millican’s day.

“Clay is a great friend of mine and we wanted to win for sure, but seeing what that win meant to Clay and his team was pretty cool. We have a race car that can win rounds, and we are looking to have more success in Epping than we did last year,” Hart said. In his previous visit to New England Dragway, he qualified fifth, but his engine grenaded at the starting line.

“We were ready to go in that first round, and I remember hitting the throttle pedal and then all heck broke loose,” said Hart. “The only positive was there were some amazing photos, but that isn’t really what we are after out here. My team works too hard to not win rounds. We want to win races. This season has been a progression of positive steps.”

Hart lost in Saturday’s first round of the Mission Foods Challenge but secured the No. 4 starting berth and another date with Brittany Force in the first round Sunday. It’ll be the third time they’ve raced each other in seven events so far this year. 

SMITH MISSES OPPORTUNITY – Veteran racer Mike Smith, who didn’t come to the starting line Friday, started Funny Car qualifying Saturday in Rhea Goodrich’s “The Hard Guys” entry. First he couldn’t get the car in reverse, then he couldn’t get it to go forward. He didn’t stage the car, so he wasn’t credited with an attempt to qualify. Consequently, he finished the shortened weekend without a spot in the field that had only 15 cars on the property.


HAVE MERCIER – Canadian part-time Top Fuel team owner-racer Dan Mercier took the No. 5 spot in the order Saturday with his 4.024-second, 278.69-mph clocking in the Ross racing Pistons/Amalie Oil dragster from Friday. He’ll go against Justin Ashley, the No. 10 qualifier in the Phillips Connect Toyota Dragster for Ashley Maynard Racing.




RAIN ONCE AGAIN A FACTOR AT EPPING – With afternoon thunderstorms, including “heavy and torrential downpours at times,” forecast for later Friday during the New England Nationals at Epping, N.H., the NHRA moved the nitro qualifying sessions up by five hours, from a 6 p.m. (ET) start to 1 p.m., and extended a helping hand to Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitors.

“All racers currently entered in the event in Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Dragster, and Top Sportsman” who opt out of the event because of the weather report “will have the entry fee credited to their account for use at a future NHRA national event,” according to a statement the NHRA issued before the start of the race.

The 15 Funny Car entrants took to the New England Dragway 1,000-foot course, with the Top Fuel and FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Series following. The sportsman classes began at 9:15 a.m.

Saturday’s two qualifying rounds, as well as the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, remain on schedule for 2 and 5:30 p.m. ET, and Sunday’s final eliminations still are set to start at 11 a.m. ET. The NHRA suggested fans check online for any further changes.

Ron Douglas, R+L Carriers Dragster crew chief for Top Fuel owner-driver Josh Hart, said the track was “tricky, for sure” Friday – “but it’s manageable. You’ve just got to lower your expectations.”

Neal Strausbaugh, Tony Stewart Racing crew chief for the Rush Truck Centers dragster, did that. He said he looked back at a test run that Leah Pruett had made at Phoenix’s Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park “and said a prayer.” It was the right combination of tactics to give Leah Pruett the provisional No. 1 spot Friday.

She and Antron Brown produced the first and only entertaining side-by-side Top Fuel pairing of the day. She posted a 3.856-second, 319.37-mph pass, Brown a 3.899, 310.98.

“It shows that our team is very adaptable,” Pruett said moments after exiting her car. She called her team’s strategy a “full-court press,” and she said, “It’s more difficult to run slower.”

Funny Car tuner Dan Wilkerson definitely would agree with her, but he knew that’s what he had to get owner-driver Chad Green to do Friday, given the conditions.

“I just stopped everything. I just slowed it down. I’m known as a chicken,” Wilkerson quipped after Green was the first racer to make it down the track under power.

The NHRA’s call was a sound one, as no rain hampered pro qualifying.     

PRUETT BENEFITS FROM NO-SHOWS – “Super-part-timer” T.J. Zizzo, thanks to some fresh equipment from longtime Chicago connection Don Schumacher, made another impressive appearance at hometown dragstrip Route 66 Raceway a couple of weeks ago. He defeated Mike Salinas and Leah Pruett to reach the semifinals and earn a berth in the Top Fuel class’ Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge this weekend.

But he isn’t at New England Dragway – a track familiar to him from his IHRA days – this weekend. Next-in-line Jacob McNeal, the driver for Scott Palmer Racing, had the dubious distinction of being the "quickest second-round loser" at Joliet, Ill., but he also had to pass on the opportunity to go for $10,000 and three Countdown bonus points.

So Pruett received the chance to race Josh Hart in the Saturday-qualifying spectacle.

“We rightfully qualified for the first two, and I am thankful we get to compete in this third one, even if by default. But even if by default, that means we were the closest-qualified contender,” Pruett said. “I’m not focused on who we’re running. However, the balance is very real between using these qualifying rounds to sharpen our sword of a race-car machine, which means tuning on the edge, while competing for coveted championship points and some cash for my guys. The goal is to have it all: a top-qualifier car to win the Challenge and also win the race. That is what I believe we are capable of and intend to do.”

Although she has led the Top Fuel field here twice (2017 and '18) and has owned the track elapsed-time record (3.673 seconds) since June 3, 2017, Pruett is seeking her first Epping victory in her eighth try.

Hart, who at the start of the season gained $80,000 for winning the Pep Boys All-Star CallOut, is participating in the Mission Foods Challenge for the first time. He said he “will be ready for whoever we have to race. These specialty races are great for the fans, and when you get into the Countdown, those championship points could come in handy. I want to thank Mission Foods for putting this race on.”

Energized by hanging out at the Indianapolis 500 last weekend with and cheering on Rick Ware Racing colleague Sting Ray Robb, Joliet Top Fuel winner Clay Millican will start Saturday’s Challenge against Brittany Force. He moved on to the final round at Chicago by beating Force in the semifinals.  

While Millican is trying to parlay a strong showing in Saturday qualifying into back-to-back victories, reigning-champion Force is angling for her first trophy of this season in the Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac Dragster.

“We’ve had some luck in Epping in the past,” she said, alluding to her 2017 victory. “This team is looking for more this weekend. Our plan is to qualify in the top five, attempt a Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge win during qualifying, and chase down a Sunday win. We still have so much racing ahead of us this season, but it’s time to turn things around going forward and get back to the top.”

She has set the top speed at every meet this year, set low E.T. twice, and has been No. 1 qualifier at three of the completed six events, but she hasn’t advanced to a final yet.

Meanwhile, Zizzo said he and his team considered entering this Epping race. He said, “Did we think for 30 minutes or so about going to Epping? Yes.”

But, he said, “You know our team, we stick to a plan. Our team is all volunteer, and making sure our team still has time to spend with their family is important, Plus, I am on vacation with my family right now ... in Florida, next to the pool with my family.”

So it will be up to Pruett, Hart, Millican, or Force to make the big splash this Saturday.


FUNNY CAR QUARTET GOING FOR $10K – Joliet victor Tim Wilkerson, Friday’s provisional No. 1 qualifier Chad Green, reigning NHRA champion Ron Capps, and 16-time champ/155-time winner John Force are up for valuable Countdown bonus points and $10,000 Saturday in the Funny Car version of the Mission Foods #2Fast2TastyChallenge.


DEFINITELY NO STOOGE – Considering that Tony Schumacher had turned Bristol Dragway into one of his most successful venues, it seemed surprising that he hadn’t yet been honored as one of the Legends of Thunder Valley. Several years ago, he wisecracked that he simply was waiting to have his likeness carved, a la Mt. Rushmore, into the East Tennessee stone face at the racetrack – “me and The Three Stooges.”

Schumacher is no stooge, and he finally will be receiving his well-deserved induction into the historic dragstrip’s hall of fame next weekend during the Thunder Valley Nationals.

The announcement took the sting out of Schumacher’s disappointing Friday tire-smoking pass that left him last among the 13 Top Fuel entrants at the New England Nationals.

The SCAG-sponsored driver, when he was driving with U.S. Army sponsorship, won the Top Fuel trophy at Bristol in 2004, 2008-10, 2012, and 2018, and was runner-up there in 2001 and 2016. He has qualified No. 1 at Bristol four times (2004, 2006-08). He’ll become the 20th member of the prestigious club that includes his own father, 2014 inductee Don Schumacher. Other recipients include: Wally Parks, Bruton Smith, Larry Carrier, Don Garlits, John Force, Warren Johnson, Doug Herbert, Shirl Greer, Ronnie Sox & Buddy Martin, Dale Pulde, Mark Oswald, Ted Jones, Gene Fulton, Rickie Smith, and Scotty Cannon.

As for this weekend so far, Schumacher said, “It’s no secret that we’ve had a rough start to the season. And I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but I truly believe that after last week’s test session, we will turn it around this weekend. We tested for one day after Chicago and were able to identify a huge issue. Once we pinpointed what we thought the problem was, we wanted to make sure that it translated to the racetrack. We ran a 3.78 [-second elapsed time], which was our baseline, and then we wanted to see if we made a specific change what would happen.

"So, we made the change and then went out and ran a 3.72. We weren’t trying to run quicker than that .72, which we could have, but we wanted to see how making that change would effect a .78 run, and it worked. The car did what we wanted it to do.”  So naturally, he’s hoping to improve on the 11.552-second trip down the New England Dragway 1,000-foot course.

NOT-SO-FUNNY CAR PENALTY – Bob Tasca declined to share his feelings about the incident with the unlatched body-release handles on his Motorcraft/QuickLane Ford Mustang Funny Car at the previous race and the $2,500 fine that followed.

In a statement, the NHRA said the fine may be appealed.

Tasca isn’t the only Funny Car driver with body-latch problems. For the second time in the past nine races, Terry Haddock was a victim of such a snafu. Officials ordered Haddock to cut off his engine at the starting line after his frantic crew was unable to fasten the body securely -- meaning that Haddock missed the lone Friday run. Like the 14 other Funny Car drivers and 13 Top Fuel entrants, he’ll have two more opportunities Saturday to jockey for a better starting position.

At the fall Las Vegas race last year, Haddock was making his last-ditch chance to break into the Funny Car field. Following his burnout, the crew was lowering the body and one of the latch handles broke off (with Haddock unaware of the problem inside the cockpit). The starter saw what was happening and told the team to go ahead and make the run. Haddock made the run and bumped into the field, only to be told at the top end of the track that his run was disqualified. That meant a DNQ for the hard-working journeyman.

ALEXANDER MUST WAIT – Blake Alexander is grateful for two Saturday chances to lock in an advantageous starting spot in the Funny Car order, because he missed out Friday on the first qualifying session. Team owner Jim Head is a seasoned pilot who flies himself and some crew members to the races aboard his personal plane. This time, his plane experienced a mechanical problem before taking off from Columbus, Ohio, so Head and a significant portion of the crew didn’t arrive at Epping in time to prep the car and have Alexander make a pass.
HAGAN STRONG IN NEW HAMPSHIRE – So far this weekend, Matt Hagan isn’t the Emperor of Epping, but in challenging conditions he and crew chief Dickie Venables combined to put the Rinnai Dodge Charger in second place overnight.

The only pro racer to have won as many as four times at this venue north of Boston, Hagan has dominated in the Funny Car category since 2017. He won here that year to trigger three consecutive triumphs (against final-round opponents Courtney Force, Tim Wilkerson, and Shawn Langdon), then reminded everyone of it last June, knocking off Robert Hight in the final.

“With four wins, Epping has been a really good racetrack for me,” Hagan said. “Dickie has some really good notes there. The cars run well there. Sometimes tracks just show you a lot of love, and that is one of them. Some of the data we have off the car from running at Epping the last couple years really plays into the confidence and tune-up we have. I’m excited to eat a lobster or two and hopefully celebrate in the winners circle. We’re going to stay in the points lead and extend it even more.”


DeJORIA FEELS AT HOME – Funny Car’s Alexis DeJoria lives in Texas and grew up in California, but the six-time winner – who co-sponsored this race once with Bob Tasca III – is channeling her childhood memories from her time spent at Narragansett, R.I.

Surrounded by her East Coast family this weekend, DeJoria said she’s ready to “create some more of that good momentum we had rolling into Chicago, which was a weekend we’d rather forget.”

She said, “The NHRA New England Nationals is one of my favorite events on the circuit for many reasons. It’s somewhat of a hometown race for me. I have my whole East Coast family and friends that always show up to Epping in full force. I’ve runnered-up there before, and we’re looking for another strong showing this weekend.”

DeJoria is ninth in the order after one qualifying session.

CAPPS ON A ROLL IN NEW ENGLAND – Ron Capps already has had a fun trip to New England this week, visiting with area NAPA AutoCare Center and NAPA Auto Parts personnel, attending a Boston Red Sox game at fabled Fenway Park, and making a special trip to Maine.

He presided Thursday afternoon over a “Cue and A with Capps” segment at Arundel, Maine, near Kennebunkport,  at a pub called Bentley’s Saloon. What makes it special is its owner is celebrated race-car driver Bentley Warren. He’s a two-time qualifier for the Indianapolis 500 who had a notable career in USAC champ cars, and he made a name for himself in the Northeast, racing winged sprinters in what was the forerunner of IMSA. Warren’s career was the subject of Bones Bourcier’s book titled “Wicked Fast: Racing Through Life With Bentley Warren.”

And Friday he navigated a tricky track to nail third place in the tentative line-up; maybe not as exciting as taking first place but a feat to celebrate in conditions that aren’t expected to repeat Saturday and Sunday.

“I always look forward to going back to the New England Nationals. It’s a huge event for us and we always have great support from our [NAPA] folks in that area.” He added that Bentley’s Saloon is "just such a fun time, and a great place to visit, especially if you’re a race fan.”

Ultimately, Capps said, he’s “looking forward to a great weekend and to continuing to work on getting ourselves out of second place in points and back up to the top.

“Momentum is everything right now,” he said. “And as we’ve seen over the last couple of years with winning back-to-back championships, we had to have a car that was consistent, and ‘Guido’ [crew chief Dean Antonelli] and our NAPA team have continued to do that. Here we are again, same spot, and I’m very lucky that I get to drive this NAPA Supra.

“Although we didn’t finish the weekend in the winners circle in Chicago, I believe we certainly had the car to win the race. Unfortunately, we had a small miscue in the final round with the left parachute coming out of the pack, but our team has addressed the issue," Capps said.

"Sometimes, you’ve got to stand back and look at the bright side, and luckily, it happened early in the season and not when we’re running for a championship later in the year. One of the great things about our team is that we always learn from things like that, and it makes us stronger.”

POMONA DRAGSTRIP SPONSOR FUNDS FILM SCHOOL – Lynsi Snyder-Ellingson, owner/president of In-N-Out Burger – which sponsors the dragstrip at Pomona, Calif., as well as the Camping World Drag Racing Series season finale – accepted an honor on behalf of her late grandmother, Esther L. Snyder.

Biola University, at La Mirada, Calif., announced it will rename its film school the Snyder School of Cinema and Media Arts following an undisclosed, but significant,  contribution from the iconic hamburger chain that’s headquartered at nearby Baldwin Park. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin newspaper said the university said the monetary gift is the largest in the in the school’s 115-year history, and “it will help fund a $92 million, 52,100-square-foot film school studio facility and establish the In-N-Out Burger Scholars Fund to support educational opportunities for foster and at-risk youth.”

Snyder-Ellingson, a longtime drag racer, said in a statement that Biola University shared, ““Our family values the distinctly Christian education Biola University offers and are honored to play a part in continuing to offer students opportunities to make really impactful film pieces that change people’s lives. God is a huge part of the In-N-Out story, and I have no doubt my grandmother would be grateful to know her name is associated with a school recognized for excellence in craft and character.”

Biola President Barry H. Corey said, also in a prepared statement, “This naming of the Snyder School and the inspirational vision of Mrs. Esther Snyder will be a testimony to students and alumni for generations that humility in leadership, Christ-like love of others, entrepreneurial tenacity and upright business principles are virtues worth living.”

The newspaper said the new film studio will include a soundstage with additional editing suites, production offices, motion capture, Foley and scoring stages, mixing rooms, color correction lab, classrooms, faculty and staff offices and a full theater. Groundbreaking is scheduled for October to align with In-N-Out’s 75th anniversary.

THREE OUT OF FOUR AIN'T BAD - Robert Hight has accomplished a lot in his nearly two-decades-long driving career, most recently eclipsing 600 round wins in winning the opening round at the recently completed NHRA Route 66 Nationals outside Chicago.

What the heavily decorated drag racer has yet to be able to accomplish, though, is stringing together four consecutive round wins at New England Dragway, the host for this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals. 

Hight heads into the weekend ranked third in this weekend’s championship point standings. 

“It’s been a decent season so far," Hight said. "Things are coming around and we’re finding some consistency. I’m excited to be driving the AAA Chevy this weekend. Hoping we can get the job done for them at New England Dragway.

“I’ve gotten close to winning a couple times in Epping. Would be pretty great to get the job done this weekend, mark another one off, move up in points and get AAA in the winner’s circle.”

Hight has gotten as close to winning without winning as one can get for the past two seasons by finishing runner up, first to team owner John Force and last season to Matt Hagan.

Hight has qualified no.1 in 2014 and 2017 as well, setting the current track records of 3.822 seconds and 336.74 mph in 2017.