For the first time this year, Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan beat Robert Hight in the final round, earning an impressive third victory of the season on Sunday at the NHRA New England Nationals at a sold-out New England Dragway.
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also scored victories in the eighth of 22 races in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. For the second day in a row, NHRA and New England Dragway officials announced a sold-out crowd at the facility.
Hagan clocked 3.922 seconds at 327.98 mph in his 11,000 horsepower Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat for Tony Stewart Racing in the championship round against Hight, as the two stars met in the final for the third time in 2022. Hight won the first two, including the most recent race, but Hagan picked up his 42nd career win on Sunday. It was also his fourth victory at New England Dragway in the last five events, as Hagan beat Dale Creasy Jr. and JR Todd to reach the final round. It was his sixth championship round in eight races and followed it up with the impressive win over Hight.
“It was just a great weekend, and I can’t say enough about (team leader) Dickie Venables,” Hagan said. “Nothing really needs to be said because the race car speaks for itself. All the boys who look after the car do a great job, and when I crawl in this car I don’t have I can’t think of anything but leaving the starting line. I’m nothing without these guys, and I’m so proud of them. They really deserve all the credit, and I should give all my trophies to these guys- the.
“We are in a good rhythm and Dickie is in a big mental space. I think we will continue to do what we are doing. There will be dips, but that’s drag racing. You just try to ride that wave for as long as you can. I give Robert Hight and Jimmy Prock a lot of respect for their presence and showing, and I love it. This creates a great rivalry for the fans.
Hight remained second in points, advancing to the final round for the fifth time this year and 89th overall with wins over Cory Lee, Alexis DeJoria and reigning world champion Ron Capps.
In Top Fuel, Salinas earned his third victory in what has been a stellar 2022 campaign, passing Justin Ashley in the final round with a 3.729 to 330.80 in his 11,000 horsepower Valley Services/Scrappers Racing dragster. A year after crashing in the final round at New England Dragway, Salinas made amends on Sunday, climbing to second in points with his sixth career victory. He reached the final round with victories over Joe Morrison, Leah Pruett and Austin Prock before passing Ashley to claim his first win at the historic facility.
“I was happy to come back and redeem myself,” Salinas said. “I will honestly say I got lucky. It’s been an off week for me. I’ve been everywhere and a mess. I’d call it a lucky week for me. I was doing a few silly things in the car, but we know we have a good car and we still managed to get the win. I love the people here and everyone here is so great. The fans and the people are amazing. They are good people and 90 % of them thanked us for coming. It’s a place out of time.”
Ashley reached the final for the third time this year after round-robin wins over Dan Mercier and Shawn Langdon. Brittany Force, who set the track speed record on Sunday with a run of 334.90, held on to the points lead, holding 50 points over Salinas.
More than a month between Pro Stock races didn’t slow Enders down one bit as the points leader remained scorching at Epping, capping her weekend with a winning run of 6.547-211.00 in the final in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Enders knocked out defending event winner Aaron Stanfield in the final round, earning his third straight win and his fourth in what has been a dominating 2022 season.
Enders reached the final round with wins over Kenny Delco, reigning world champion Greg Anderson and Mason McGaha, then led a wire-to-wire against Stanfield to walk away with his 37th career win. It’s only the second time in the four-time world champion’s career that she’s been on a three-fight winning streak, showing just how motivated she is to win a fifth world title.
“We’ve had a great start, and we’ll enjoy the race while it lasts and try to build on it,” Enders said. “But it’s a dream come true. Every weekend where we can stick two Elite Motorsports cars in the final round is awesome and winning here in 2017 has been kind of a game-changer for us. It’s a unique place to racing, and the cars generally run really well here. I love racing in this part of the country. It’s exciting to see the fan reception for our class when nitro kind of takes the lead because they explode and go smash and bump into things. But Pro Stock is so intricate and precise, and the fans here love it. This is Pro Stock country.
“It’s our effort for our fifth title, and the fashion we lost last year was pretty heartbreaking. But it gave us the motivation to go to work. We started the season on the right foot and I have the lucky to be the girl who drives this race car.
Stanfield advanced to the final round for the third time this year, knocking out Troy Coughlin Jr., Deric Kramer and Fernando Cuadra Jr. He also remained second in points, although Enders’ lead increased to 92 points. with victory.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns June 17-19 with the NHRA Thunder Valley National Championships at Bristol Dragway.