Boston fanfest set to promote NHRA drag racing’s first-ever race in New Hampshire


When New Hampshire Dragway opened its doors in 1966, its goal was to eventually play host to a National Hot Rod Association national event.

It may have taken nearly 50 years to fulfill that goal, but drag racing fans wanting to see the sport’s biggest stars will finally get that opportunity in this weekend’s inaugural NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Auto-Plus New England Nationals at the Epping, N.H. track.

(Is that the longest sports event name you’ve ever seen, or what?)

To promote the event, some of the NHRA’s biggest stars will take part in a free fanfest scheduled for Wednesday (June 19) at the Faneuil Hall Marketplace in downtown Boston. The event begins at Noon and will feature legendary and 15-time Funny Car World Champion John Force, daughter Brittany Force, a Top Fuel driver, along with Funny Car drivers Bob Tasca III, Robert Hight and Blake Alexander, and Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon.

As for New England Dragway, about an hour north of Boston, the four-day event (June 20-23) is the culmination of not just years but decades of lobbying NHRA officials that both the track and greater New England could support a national event.

New England has long been known as a motorsports hotbed full of diehard racing fans, but most of those have been followers of NASCAR and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, or local late-model racing at well-known short tracks such as Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway and Waterford Speed Bowl, as well as the legendary Stafford Motor Speedway, owned by equally legendary racing and sports announcer Jack Arute.

The 8,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars are fast (in excess of 300 mph in many instances), loud (bring earplugs) and the nitromethane fuel that pumps through the motors is so potent that it’s sure to bring tears to your eyes if you’re anywhere within a whiff of the residual fumes.

Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes will compete in the 11th race of the expanded 24-race 2013 NHRA schedule. This weekend’s race is the second of a grueling four consecutive weekend stretch that began last week in Bristol, Tenn., and then moves on to events in suburban Chicago next weekend and Norwalk, Ohio the following weekend.

Other stars competing in this weekend’s race include Courtney Force, Tony “Sarge” Schumacher, Antron Brown, Ron Capps, Morgan Lucas, Greg Anderson and dozens of other high-horsepower jockeys.

If you’re a fan of blurring speed, ear-shattering noise and ground-pounding vibrations, New England is the place to go this weekend. Those monsters are so loud and powerful, you may even hear or feel ’em all the way back in New York City.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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