June 4, 2017, Epping, N.H. – Matt Hagan put his Mopar® Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T in the winner’s circle for the third time this year at the New England NHRA Nationals on Sunday, besting Courtney Force in the Funny Car final round at New England Dragway. Dodge has dominated the series in 2017.
“This Mopar/Pennzoil/Sandvik car had been on a string all day long,” said Hagan after the race. “It just ran down the racetrack, I didn’t hardly have to drive it. Just everything went the way it should’ve today.”
In the final round matchup, Hagan made a pass of 3.897 seconds at 332.59 mph after a .058-second reaction time in the right lane. It was enough to beat Force’s solid lap of 3.927 at 332.34 after she got off the starting line with a .078 reaction time. The pairing was a rematch of the final round during the season-opening NHRA Winternationals at Pomona, also won by Hagan.
The win, the 25th of Hagan’s career, extended the Mopar streak of winning at least one Nitro category to 10 consecutive events, dating back to Pomona in November last year. Dodge Funny Cars have claimed wins in eight of the nine events so far in 2017, an incredible domination of the class.
Hagan kicked off eliminations in an unfavorable matchup against 16-time champion John Force in the first round, thanks to Force’s uncharacteristic poor qualifying effort. Hagan was able to turn on the win light, though, making a clean pass as Force smoked his tires. It was Hagan’s first defeat of Force in the last five matchups between the two champion drivers. Hagan then went on to defeat Del Worsham to create a showdown with his Mopar and Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. Hagan pulled away from Johnson’s Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T near the finish line to go to the final round against Courtney Force.
Earlier, Johnson first took on Funny Car rookie J.R. Todd in his round one matchup. After struggling to get the car fired, Johnson ultimately defeated his opponent in a close race as Todd was forced to slow near the finish line after nearing the wall. Johnson next made a clean pass to defeat upset-minded Mike Smith, who had defeated No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in round one. Johnson’s day was ultimately ended by teammate Hagan, but Johnson’s team seemed to have righted the ship after a string of four consecutive first-round exits since winning at Las Vegas. Johnson had advanced to the last two final rounds at New England Dragway.
Ron Capps represented the third Mopar Funny Car semifinalist. Last year’s Funny Car winner in New England, the 2016 champion and winner of the last four events in 2017, Capps began his day with a win over Jeff Diehl. Capps ran into trouble on his pass with his Dodge Charger R/T, but Diehl drove into instant smoke, giving Capps a lucky break. Capps next knocked out Bob Tasca III in round two to set up a matchup with Courtney Force. Although Force ended Capps’ bid to win his fifth consecutive Funny Car event, he maintained the series points lead and improved his won-loss record on the season to an incredible 23-5. He also won 17 rounds over five events before finally bowing out.
The only Dodge/Mopar Funny Car from DSR not to make at least the second round was Jack Beckman’s Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T. Beckman got sideways near the 330-foot mark in the first round, forcing him to give up the win to Worsham.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett started her day with a first-round bye in her specially branded Dodge Challenger SRT® Demon dragster, thanks to her No. 1 qualifying effort on Saturday. She then matched up against rival Steve Torrence. Pritchett’s car shut off down track and she was forced to coast to the finish line, but Torrence immediately smoked the tires, giving the win to Pritchett. She went on to face Antron Brown in the semis and turned in a solid run, but was bested by Brown in a side-by-side race.
Pritchett’s Top Fuel teammate Tony Schumacher lost traction and was forced to pedal his car down track in his Mopar-powered U.S. Army dragster in round one. He was upset by independent campaigner Smax Smith, despite getting a massive advantage off the starting line.