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NHRA New England Nationals at Epping, New Hampshire


Words by Bill Klingbeil

Photos by Ron Lewis

Matt Hagan continued his dominance at the NHRA New England Nationals, driving the Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to his third consecutive Funny Car triumph at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, on Sunday, July 7.


While Hagan became the third driver to score multiple wins this season in the Funny Car class, his DSR teammates Tommy Johnson, Jr., Ron Capps, and Jack Beckman placed Dodge//SRT Mopar in three of the top five positions in the Funny Car standings following the New England event.

Jack Beckman


To score his 31st career Funny Car victory, Hagan was forced to take down the hottest competitors in the class. His run to victory started with a match-up versus fellow DSR and Charger SRT Hellcat pilot Beckman, who defeated Hagan in recent first round battles at Richmond and Topeka and would have again if the two-time Funny Car world champion wasn’t on his game. Hagan posted the quickest run of the weekend, a 3.958-second elapsed time (ET), to defeat a 4.016 run by Beckman for the 1,000 feet.

Ron Capps


Two-time 2019 winner and fellow Dodge//SRT Mopar driver Capps was the competition in round two. Again, Hagan and his Dickie Venables-tuned Charger SRT Hellcat was up to the task with Hagan leaving first and never trailing, posting a run of 3.991 to advance and face Bob Tasca III. In the semifinal, Tasca left first, but Hagan had the lead almost instantly and drove away for his 11th straight round win at Epping and 350th round win of his career to reach his 57th career final and fourth in 2019.


The two-time Funny Car champion was not going to be denied, and his .033-second reaction time in the final was proof. Hagan powered his way to victory over Shawn Langdon with a winning pass of 4.014/322.81 to notch his 12 consecutive round win at the Epping track.


The triumph for Hagan was the fifth win by a Dodge//SRT Mopar machine in the last six years at New England Dragway in the Funny Car class and fifth by a driver of a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in 2019 competition.


Two-time NHRA New England Nationals champion Capps was on a mission to take his red, white and blue Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for a long Sunday drive after three consistent qualifying runs that landed the 2016 Funny Car world champion third on the elimination ladder. He flexed his muscle dispatching Mike Smith in the first round posting the first three-second run of the weekend with his pass of 3.980 to set up a second-round battle with Hagan. In the race pitting winners of four of the previous five Funny Car Wally’s in Epping, Capps trailed slightly off the starting line and was on a good run before drifting toward the centerline near mid-track, forcing him to click off the run.


Beckman and his DSR Infinite Hero Foundation team have been the model of consistency over the past five races, advancing to a pair of finals and five consecutive semifinals. The 2012 Funny Car world champion used his first qualifying pass Friday to grab the 11th position on Sunday’s elimination ladder and made his best run of the weekend in his first-round matchup with Hagan, but he wasn’t able to knock off his DSR teammate and advance.


“We can’t seem to get away from our teammates in the first round, and they’re the hardest to get around and beat,” said Hagan of facing a DSR Dodge in the opening round at five of the last seven events. “I have so much respect for them; the drivers, the crew chiefs and the caliber of their cars. They’re always tough, but that’s the thing about Dickie Venables, when you give him a couple of runs, and he gets some confidence in himself it’s game over. We came in here, and it was brutally hot throughout qualifying, but we were getting down the race track, and that bred a lot of confidence in myself and our team going into today.”

For the second consecutive event, Johnson qualified his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat eighth in the field and faced Tim Wilkerson in the first round. Johnson, who was chasing his second 2019 victory and first-ever at Epping, lost traction early and was not able to recover to extend his recent run of five semifinal appearances in the previous six races.

Jim Campbell drives for team owner Jim Dunn.

Veteran Cruz Pedregon is an independent driver.


In other round action with Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Cars competing, Jim Campbell lost in round one to Shawn Langdon, while Cruz Pedregon advanced to round two before being eliminated by Tasca.


Sportsman Spotlight

Richard Kay (far lane) from East Meadow, New York, drove his SS/BM 1969 Plymouth Valiant to a Super Stock runner-up finish at the NHRA New England Nationals. Powered by a 376 cubic-inch Mopar V8 engine, Kay raced his way through six rounds of competition to reach the finals. Kay is a prior recipient of the Dodge Top Finisher award.


In Stock Eliminator, John Shaul from Fultonham, New York, advanced to the third round with his A/SA 1964 Plymouth Fury, joining Kay as a Dodge Top Finisher honoree at Epping. Consistent low 10-second elapsed-times powered by his Mopar 426 Max Wedge V8 under the hood enabled Shaul’s Plymouth to turn on a pair of win lights.


The Dodge Top Finisher award, now in its third year, awards $500 to Stock Eliminator and Super Stock drivers who advance the furthest behind the wheel of a Mopar-powered Dodge, Chrysler, or Plymouth race car at all 24 NHRA national events. 



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