- Top Fuel’s Mike Salinas is a three-time winner, despite himself
- Does radical mustache give Funny Car points lead Matt Hagan an edge?
- Erica Enders takes aim at No. 1 designation on Greg Anderson’s Pro Stock car
Imagine what Mike Salinas could do if he learned to drive his Scrappers Racing Top Fuel dragster correctly.
He just might record a better race-day record than three NHRA victories in a seven-race stretch. That’s what he has, even with a driving performance he would classify as sub-par.
In only his second meeting ever in eliminations with Justin Ashley, Salinas won the New England Nationals at Epping, N.H., Sunday to match points leader Brittany Force and move into second place in the standings, just 30 points behind her.
Salinas leapfrogged Steve Torrence, the No. 1 qualifier at New England Dragway with a track-record elapsed time (3.664 seconds on the 1,000-foot course). Torrence lost traction against class newcomer Scott Farley and dropped out in the opening round.
Joining him in the winners circle Sunday were points leaders Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock). Salinas’ daughter, Jasmine Salinas, also won the Top Alcohol Dragster final Sunday at the NHRA Lucas Oil Series divisional race at Norwalk, Ohio.
The Camping World Drag Racing Series heads south to Bristol, Tenn., in two weeks. In the meantime, Salinas—who also won this year at Phoenix and Charlotte—said he will be devoting himself to improving his driving skills.
“I was lucky today. Driver messed up all day long, even in the finals” Salinas said after defeating Ashley by about a car length at the finish line.
“The car’s been moving on me on the top end. Antron [Brown] drove my car a few weeks ago, and the car did really nice with him. It’s the driver. I’m doing something wrong, and what we’re doing is we’re correcting me,” he said. “We changed the steering. We changed different things on the car to find out [what need to be different]. Every run is a different run. We’ll get it. We’ll go straight. And we will win some more races.”
Salinas said his crew is “so dedicated it’s scary.” He might be, too, when he masters the subtleties of driving the dragster.
Funny Car’s Matt Hagan Swears By His New Look
Telling himself, “Man, we can’t let this thing slide through our fingers,” Tony Stewart Racing standout Matt Hagan won for the third time in six races and cemented his lead in the standings.
He said that watching Hight “hold the trophy and hoop and holler” after his victory at Richmond—in Hagan’s backyard, while the Christiansburg, Va., farmer was runner-up—made him think, “That’s an awful feeling. We’ll try not to do that again.” And this time—after losing to him three time earlier this season already—he held off Hight to win.
Hagan and Hight have combined this year for six victories in the eight completed events. Only Ron Capps at Las Vegas and John Force at Charlotte—both in four-wide format—have broken the Hight-Hagan cycle.
“I have so much respect for Robert Hight as a driver and their team over there. It’s going to be a slugfest all year, but that’s what I love. We’re putting on a great show. It’s a great rivalry between us and [John] Force and all those guys,” Hagan said.
He emphasized that he relies on crew chief Dickie Venables and his key assistants Mike Knudsen and Alex Conaway “and all the boys that are wrenching on this car.” He said, “They’ve earned my trust, with my life. I trust them with everything.”
And with a wink, Hagan insisted that his radical new Fu Manchu-style mustache played a part in producing his fourth New England Nationals victory: “I’ve got to give credit to the mustache. I think it was worth 17 horsepower. My crew chief says he doesn’t see it on the graph, but it’s there, you know what I mean?”
Enders Living Up To Her ‘No More Nice Erica’ Promise
So far this year, Erica Enders has ruled the Pro Stock roost, and she has been a wee bit stingy with the victories, pushing her overall total to 37.
The class has made six appearances among the eight events in the Camping World Drag Racing Series, and she has hoarded four of them, conceding just one apiece to Sunday runner-up Aaron Stanfield (at Phoenix) and Dallas Glenn (at Gainesville).
She and Stanfield, her Elite Performance teammate, have traded the points lead, but at this point in the season, she indicated she’s ready to start becoming more territorial. After all, she promised after setting the tone at the season-opener at Pomona, Calif., that this year is the start of “no more Nice Erica.”
The reason, she said, is “the way we lost [the championship] last year.” Enders said that “losing by a round to Greg Anderson and seeing that ‘No. 1’ on his car . . . just coming down to the wire and seeing Greg dominate all year and still only win by a round . . . It’s our mission this year to put that No. 1 back on that Melling Performance red car.
“This is the best way we’ve started out any year in my Pro Stock driving career, even in 2015, when we completely dominated and won nine races in 11 finals,” she said. “Team Elite has won five of six. We’ve won four of six. It just goes to show that our hard work and determination are second to none.”
Newcomer Scott Farley Upsets Top-Qualifying Steve Torrence
Earlier in the week, novice Top Fuel racer Scott Farley encouraged drag-racing fans to either watch the FOX broadcast of the New England Nationals or “come on out to see some great racers (and me too).” In just his second race, the 22-year UPS cargo pilot scored the biggest upset of the weekend. He took advantage of a rare mistake by the Capco Contractors Dragster team and knocked out No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence.
Moreover, Farley was competing with a different team than he raced with at his February debut at the Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. At the season-opener, Farley drove Terry Haddock’s dragster, but this weekend he competed in Terry Totten’s for-lease entry. And Farley said he doesn’t plan to show up on the Camping World Drag Racing Series tour until the Finals at Pomona roll around in November.
“Good for those guys, not so good for us Capco Boys. That’s why we don’t run these things on paper, I guess. We should have won that round, but anything can happen in this sport and usually does.”
The victory, memorable certainly for Farley, was more significant for Torrence. It put the brakes on what appeared to be a pivotal improvement in performance for the admittedly struggling four-time and current champion. He remains winless in seven consecutive starts for the first time since 2015 as he let Brittany Force expand her lead over him in the standings. She entered the event 81 points ahead of him. Now he trails her by 99 points, after falling from second to third place.
Farley’s crew couldn’t fix the engine damage that occurred at the top end of his victorious pass in time for him to run Justin Ashley in the quarterfinals. So his day also ended early.
Torrence got help from Austin Prock in the second round. Prock used a holeshot to eliminate John Force Racing teammate Brittany Force by four-thousandths of a second. But Torrence’s surprising exit ended the Capco team’s three-time streak at Epping. Steve Torrence had won in back-to-back years (2018, 2019), and his father Billy won in the post-pandemic 2021 return.
Brittany Force Still Setting Top Fuel Track Records
Brittany Force didn’t pick up a second victory at New England Dragway (she won in 2017). But she and her Monster Energy / Flav-R-Pac Dragster team are a step closer to a monopoly on track records. In the first round of eliminations Sunday, she reset the track speed mark at 334.90 mph. That ended Doug Kalitta’s run since June 2017 with his 331.69 mph.
After this weekend, Force has just three venues on the current circuit at which she doesn’t own the record for either elapsed time or speed. She has the E.T. mark at 11 of the 17 and the speed record at 10.
This race remains one of four at which she never has qualified No. 1. But she has a chance to fix that, for two of those three racetracks (Seattle and St. Louis) remain on this year’s schedule. The spring Las Vegas four-wide meet is the other event.
NHRA New England Nationals
Results, Updated Points Standings
Sunday’s final results from the ninth annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway. The race is the eighth of 22 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel — Mike Salinas, 3.729 seconds, 330.80 mph def. Justin Ashley, 3.782 seconds, 315.78 mph.
Funny Car — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.922, 327.98 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 6.232, 110.15.
Pro Stock — Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.547, 211.00 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.553, 212.13.
Super Stock — Eric Merryfield, Dodge Dakota, 10.802, 101.47 def. Joe Santangelo, Chevy Camaro, 11.801, 88.93.
Stock Eliminator — Timothy Stickles, Chevy Malibu, 11.913, 106.35 def. Jean Philipp Tremblay, Ford Mustang, Foul – Red Light.
Super Comp — Rob Hyatt, Dragster, 8.879, 167.88 def. Brad Coryell, Dragster, Foul – Red Light.
Super Gas — Ted Leahy, Olds Cutlas, 9.899, 162.29 def. Mike Sawyer, Chevy Corvette, 9.895, 170.51.
Super Street — John Olson, Chevelle, 10.867, 140.88 def. Keith Mayers, Porsche, Foul – Red Light.
Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers — Freddy Perkins, Chevy Nova, 7.594, 179.16 def. Dennis Gaboriault, Ford Mustang, 6.125, 229.66.
Pro Stock Snowmobile –– Brandon Beauregard, Polaris, 5.607, 119.75 def. Keith Culley, Ski-Doo, 5.649, 120.14.
ROUND ONE — Austin Prock, no time, no speed def. Antron Brown, 3.875, 312.42; Shawn Langdon, 3.762, 327.74 def. Josh Hart, Broke; Doug Kalitta, 3.742, 330.23 def. Cameron Ferre, 10.412, 76.22; Mike Salinas, 3.888, 323.12 def. Joe Morrison, 4.092, 228.89; Scott Farley, 4.062, 244.87 def. Steve Torrence, 5.816, 148.35; Brittany Force, 3.702, 334.90 def. Clay Millican, 10.057, 80.52; Leah Pruett, 3.796, 322.11 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.980, 266.32; Justin Ashley, 3.743, 332.10 def. Dan Mercier, 6.139, 102.04;
QUARTERFINALS — Salinas, 3.746, 328.62 def. Pruett, 3.807, 321.27; Prock, 3.734, 330.96 def. Force, 3.704, 334.82; Langdon, 3.787, 324.20 def. Kalitta, 5.270, 170.97; Ashley, 3.786, 328.06 def. Farley, Broke – No Show;
SEMIFINALS — Ashley, 3.750, 327.59 def. Langdon, 3.776, 300.13; Salinas, 3.865, 289.63 def. Prock, 5.530, 126.01;
FINAL — Salinas, 3.729, 330.80 def. Ashley, 3.782, 315.78.
ROUND ONE — J.R. Todd, Toyota Supra, 4.118, 282.72 def. Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 4.626, 184.02; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 4.328, 280.49 def. Cory Lee, Mustang, 4.523, 250.32; John Force, Camaro, 3.910, 332.10 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 5.821, 124.64; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.097, 261.83 def. Dale Creasy Jr., Charger, 10.284, 88.72; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.948, 323.74 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.839, 161.56; Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 3.973, 324.28 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.128, 269.83; Ron Capps, Supra, 3.974, 323.04 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 12.153, 41.16;
QUARTERFINALS — Todd, 4.019, 318.24 def. Pedregon, 4.670, 182.03; Capps, 3.946, 328.94 def. Force, 4.012, 323.35; Hight, 3.933, 326.79 def. DeJoria, 3.988, 321.65; Hagan, 3.948, 323.27 was unopposed;
SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 3.963, 325.69 def. Todd, 3.981, 321.58; Hight, 3.927, 327.19 def. Capps, 4.092, 281.66;
FINAL — Hagan, 3.922, 327.98 def. Hight, 6.232, 110.15.
ROUND ONE — Fernando Cuadra Jr., Ford Mustang, 6.594, 208.62 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.681, 202.79; Mason McGaha, Chevy Camaro, 6.544, 209.82 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.569, 209.59; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.535, 210.37 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.537, 211.06; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.535, 210.90 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 13.849, 61.75; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.531, 210.70 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.589, 209.43; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.554, 209.95 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.566, 210.01; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.559, 209.49 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 15.949, 66.59; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.517, 211.56 def. Kenny Delco, Camaro, Foul – Red Light;
QUARTERFINALS — Cuadra Jr., 6.579, 209.79 def. Glenn, 6.584, 209.49; Stanfield, 6.535, 211.79 def. Kramer, 6.552, 206.04; M. McGaha, 6.556, 210.64 def. Koretsky, 6.536, no speed; Enders, 6.536, 211.53 def. Anderson, 6.515, no speed;
SEMIFINALS — Enders, 9.260, 107.33 def. M. McGaha, Foul – Red Light; Stanfield, 6.570, 210.05 def. Cuadra Jr., 11.912, 70.78;
FINAL — Enders, 6.547, 211.00 def. Stanfield, 6.553, 212.13.
Updated Points Standings
EPPING, N.H. — Point standings (top 10) following the ninth annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway, the eighth of 22 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series –
1. Brittany Force, 668; 2. Mike Salinas, 638; 3. Steve Torrence, 569; 4. Justin Ashley, 561; 5. Austin Prock, 425; 6. Clay Millican, 396; 7. Josh Hart, 376; 8. Doug Kalitta, 373; 9. Shawn Langdon, 341; 10. Tony Schumacher, 329.
1. Matt Hagan, 797; 2. Robert Hight, 756; 3. Ron Capps, 634; 4. John Force, 507; 5. Cruz Pedregon, 452; 6. J.R. Todd, 403; 7. Bob Tasca III, 386; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 362; 9. Chad Green, 321; 10. Tim Wilkerson, 311.
1. Erica Enders, 592; 2. Aaron Stanfield, 484; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 405; 4. Dallas Glenn, 366; 5. Mason McGaha, 352; 6. Greg Anderson, 343; 7. Camrie Caruso, 307; 8. Bo Butner, 274; 9. Deric Kramer, 270; 10. Troy Coughlin Jr., 255.
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