Tony Schumacher raced to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel Friday at the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event near Boston.
Schumacher ran a track record 3.742-second pass at 324.12mph in his U.S. Army dragster to top the leaderboard after the first day of qualifying. Schumacher, the eight-time and defending world champ, is looking for his first top qualifier at Epping and second of the season.
“I think the car is excellent right now,” said Schumacher, winner of this event last season. “There was more there. You look at the computer and there is some room [to improve]. I’m sure most cars that go out there are going to find it.”
Schumacher debuted a new car at the national event in Atlanta last month and finally feels that his dragster is starting to pick up steam. The team has struggled since the switch, losing twice in the second round and once in the first.
“We brought the car out at Atlanta and that’s not been many races,” said Schumacher. “We haven’t gone and won rounds, haven’t been to a final with it. It’s a great car. It should benefit us when it gets warm outside. Right now, we are just maintaining.”
Richie Crampton currently sits second following a 3.744 at 325.92 in his Lucas Oil dragster. Shawn Langdon, the 2013 world champ, was strong with a 3.745 at 324.98 in his Knuckle Sandwich/Bass Pro Shops/AJPE dragster and is provisionally third. Steve Torrence and Spencer Massey, who reset the track speed record at 327.66 mph in his Red Fuel dragster, are fourth and fifth.
Johnson Jr. claimed the Funny Car top spot during the final pair of the category with his 4.047 at 319.45 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T. Johnson Jr., who entered this event sixth in points, is two sessions away from securing his first No. 1 qualifier since Chicago last season and his first at Epping.
“I was expecting a lot better numbers than what we saw tonight,” Johnson Jr. said. “We got up there and thought we were going to try to run a low zero. The 4.04 was a good number and the guys had a good handle on the tune-up. Track conditions kept getting better and I was thrilled with a 4.04.”
Two-time world champ Cruz Pedregon ran a 4.052 at 306.46 in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry to sit second. John Force, a 16-time world champ searching for his first New England win, is currently qualified third with two sessions remaining. Fellow John Force Racing competitors Courtney Force and Robert Hight are fourth and fifth.
In Pro Stock, McGaha ran a 6.520 at 212.66 in his Harlow Sammons Chevy Camaro to lead the factory hot rod field following Friday’s sessions. McGaha is searching for his fifth career No. 1 qualifier and third of the season.
“It’s a pretty good start. Starting sometimes is the most important thing but you’ve got to finish in the end,” said McGaha. “We’ve started off No. 1 before and been able to maintain it. You never know what tomorrow leads. We will see what happens tomorrow and will go from there.”
Four-time world champ Greg Anderson, the most recent Pro Stock winner at Englishtown, is second following Friday’s action with a 6.521 at 213.30 in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro. Two-time world champ Jason Line’s 6.530 at 212.69 in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro was good enough for the provisional No. 3 spot. Defending world champ Erica Enders and Jonathan Gray sit fourth and fifth.
Qualifying at the NHRA New England Nationals wraps up on Saturday with sessions at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to set the fields for Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations.