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NHRA: Winning weekend in New England for Hagan, Torrence

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At the rate things are going, New England Dragway may want to think about changing its name to something like Matt Hagan Dragway.

For the third time in as many years, the Don Schumacher Racing driver won the NHRA Funny Car division in Sunday’s finals of the New England Nationals at the Epping, New Hampshire dragstrip.

Hagan (4.014 seconds at 322.81 mph) defeated Shawn Langdon (4.046 seconds at 317.49 mph) in the final round to take home the “Wally” winner’s trophy.

It’s Hagan’s second win of the 2019 season and 31st of his Funny Car career. In his semi-final matchup Sunday, Hagan stopped Bob Tasca III’s two-race winning streak (Tasca won at both Bristol, Tennessee, and Norwalk, Ohio in the last two NHRA national events).

We went down the track in qualifying and that created a lot of confidence in our team,” said Hagan, who also picked up his 350th career round win during eliminations. “Rolling into race day, I knew we had a great car and I was confident in it.

We kept lane choice every pass and that was big. I’m really excited we were able to get another win and we needed this to be our turning point this season. We needed to gather up some momentum and I feel like we’re making the right steps to move forward coming out of this race.”

As for Top Fuel, Torrence remains virtually unstoppable. The Texas native earned his seventh win of the season, as well as his second straight triumph at New England.

Torrence (3.861 seconds at 321.58 mph) defeated Scott Palmer (4.014 seconds, 251.25 mph) in the final round to keep his class-dominating performance rolling. Torrence is now just four wins away from tying his 11-win season in 2018, which included becoming the first driver in NHRA history to win all six Countdown to the Championship playoff races.

Sunday’s win was Torrence’s 13th in the last 19 races dating back to last season’s playoffs and 26th win since 2017.

I really, really want Scott Palmer to win a race, but we want to win them all, too,” said Torrence, who qualified ninth and won from the seventh different qualifying position in 2019. “That was a great final round. That’s a really good group of guys and to see the progression we’ve both made, it’s pretty neat and really special for us.

Without being cocky and just being confident, you carry the mindset of you want to go everywhere and win. With doing that, you don’t treat anywhere any differently. This is a fun place to come to and it’s a pretty neat part of the country.”

NOTES: Torrence is nominated for the Best Driver Award at Wednesday’s 2019 ESPY Awards. … Surprisingly, Mike Salinas, who has been one of the biggest stories in Top Fuel this season after Torrence, did not make the trip from his San Jose, California home base for this weekend’s race in New England. … John Force still continues to chase the 150th win of his illustrious career. … There are now 11 races left on the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. … The NHRA enjoys next weekend off before the start of the annual “West Coast Swing,” which begins July 19-21 with the 40th Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver, followed by Sonoma, California and Seattle, Washington.

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Here’s the final statistics from Sunday’s eliminations in New Hampshire:

FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence; 2. Scott Palmer; 3. Richie Crampton; 4. Clay Millican; 5. Dom Lagana; 6. Terry McMillen; 7. Antron Brown; 8. Austin Prock; 9. Audrey Worm; 10. Brittany Force; 11. Cameron Ferre; 12. Doug Kalitta; 13. Dan Mercier.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Matt Hagan; 2. Shawn Langdon; 3. Tim Wilkerson; 4. Bob Tasca III; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6. Ron Capps; 7. Robert Hight; 8. J.R. Todd; 9. Jack Beckman; 10. Jim Campbell; 11. Terry Haddock; 12. John Force; 13. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 14. Jeff Diehl; 15. Mike Smith.

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SUNDAY’S FINAL ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Steve Torrence, 3.861 seconds, 321.58 mph def. Scott Palmer, 4.014 seconds, 251.25 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.014, 322.81 def. Shawn Langdon, Toyota Camry, 4.046, 317.49.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Dom Lagana, 3.862, 305.98 def. Brittany Force, Foul – Red Light; Steve Torrence, 3.756, 328.62 def. Austin Prock, 3.843, 323.19; Clay Millican, 3.914, 247.84 was unopposed; Terry McMillen, 3.867, 322.50 def. Doug Kalitta, 7.563, 104.88; Antron Brown, 4.018, 281.42 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.406, 187.26; Scott Palmer, 3.894, 320.13 def. Dan Mercier, Broke; Richie Crampton, 3.827, 320.20 def. Audrey Worm, 4.020, 296.11; QUARTERFINALS — Palmer, 4.252, 214.31 def. Brown, 6.843, 101.10; Millican, 3.813, 324.20 def. Lagana, 3.886, 321.81; Crampton, 4.176, 219.01 was unopposed; Torrence, 3.883, 323.81 def. McMillen, 4.328, 217.25; SEMIFINALS — Torrence, 3.832, 323.35 def. Crampton, 4.062, 292.20; Palmer, 3.905, 299.13 def. Millican, 9.020, 79.49; FINAL — Torrence, 3.861, 321.58 def. Palmer, 4.014, 251.25.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 4.540, 188.10 was unopposed; Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.006, 320.20 def. Jeff Diehl, Camry, 4.568, 206.01; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.037, 281.36 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 4.239, 268.76; Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.980, 315.19 def. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 7.299, 84.21; Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.036, 316.75 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.062, 305.98; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.958, 326.24 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.016, 322.04; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 4.511, 257.28 def. John Force, Camaro, 4.540, 244.56; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.259, 233.72 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.559, 186.38; QUARTERFINALS — Tasca III, 4.023, 319.22 def. Pedregon, 4.045, 319.45; Hagan, 3.991, 325.22 def. Capps, 4.101, 262.64; Langdon, 3.999, 320.51 def. Hight, 4.103, 271.24; Wilkerson, 4.242, 233.88 def. Todd, 4.274, 229.12; SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 4.006, 320.36 def. Wilkerson, 4.053, 315.56; Hagan, 4.000, 324.05 def. Tasca III, 4.478, 219.12; FINAL — Hagan, 4.014, 322.81 def. Langdon, 4.046, 317.49.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,278; 2. Doug Kalitta, 799; 3. Antron Brown, 781; 4. Brittany Force, 777; 5. Mike Salinas, 732; 6. Clay Millican, 730; 7. Leah Pritchett, 651; 8. Richie Crampton, 612; 9. Terry McMillen, 576; 10. Scott Palmer, 563.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, 1,079; 2. John Force, 903; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 891; 4. Ron Capps, 870; 5. Jack Beckman, 851; 6. J.R. Todd, 825; 7. (tie) Matt Hagan, 770; Bob Tasca III, 770; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 691; 10. Shawn Langdon, 675.

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Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.