Allen Lessels on Motor Sports: Clocking in at 313 mph
EPPING -- They roared off the starting line, shook the ground as they rumbled down the track and clocked in at 300 miles per hour and change.
The Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rocked the inaugural NHRA Auto Plus New England Nationals on Friday evening at New England Dragway in front of packed grandstands.
John Force, 64, was the first to hit the 300 mph mark when he checked in at 302.01 mph.
Qualifying results are determined by how long it takes to the finish and not by miles per hour. Force was fifth in the first round with a run of 4.153 seconds.
He lowered that to 4.051 in the second round — and was clocked at 313.44 miles per hour — to take over the top qualifying spot.
“What’s cool is, the fans showed up,” Force said over the track’s sound system. “Thanks for coming, guys. We’ll give you a heck of a show.”Matt Hagan, who leads the series point standings, clocked a 4.139 seconds to lead the first round, but was edged by Force in the second.
“The car was just running real good and everything stuck,” Hagan said. “It was a nice smooth lap.”
He agreed with Force’s assessment of the dragway and the crowd .
“It’s awesome here,” Hagan said. “It’s elbow to elbow in the pits. It pumps me up to see them pumped up.”
Hagan was runner-up in the second round of qualifying and Force’s daughter, Courtney, was third.
The Funny Car, Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Motorcycle competitors hit the track for the first time on Friday evening. A second qualifying run followed the first in each division.
Today’s schedule begins with Sportsman Eliminations this morning at 9 and a couple more sessions of qualifying for Funny Cars, Top Fuel, Pro Stock and Pro Motorcycles follow. The four qualifying sessions set up 16-competitor elimination rounds on Sunday.
Sunday’s wrapup event opens with a pre-race ceremony at 10 a.m. and final eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
The Top Fuel cars followed the Funny Cars and pushed the numbers even higher.Shawn Langdon qualified fastest in the first round at 3.837 seconds and hit 316.82 mph. Khalid Balooshi hit the fastest time on the speed gun at 319.67 mph and was fifth in 3.896 seconds.
Doug Kalitta took over the top spot in the second round of qualifying with a 3.795-second run. Langdon was next at 3.809.
- - - - - - -
VINCENT NOBILE figures New England Dragway is a fine place to collect his second Yello Mello Pro Stock win of the season and seventh of his young career.
“I’ve never raced here, but I’ve been here many times over the years watching my Dad race in the IHRA (International Hot Rod Association),” Nobile said. “And my Dad won his first-ever race here in 2004. It would be pretty cool if I could win at the same track he did.”
Nobile, 21, lives in Dix Hills, N.Y., and is a fulltime student at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y.
He’s having a pretty good run as a drag racer, too.
Nobile had three wins and finished fifth in his first full Pro Stock season in 2011 and improved to third place with a pair of victories last year.
He won this year’s opener at Pomona, but has struggled some since. He lost in the first-round for the third time last week at Bristol, Tenn., and as a result slipped to seventh in the points standings.
Nobile will try to start turning that around this weekend.
“It’s a smooth racetrack and when my Dad raced here it was one of the fastest around,” Nobile said.
He’s thinking it still is.
email@example.com; on Twitter: @allenlessels