Matt Hagan on track during last year's New England Nationals. (NHRA Photo)

New England Nationals: What To Watch For

After last year’s New England Nationals eliminations were relocated from New England Dragway in Epping, N.H., to Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway due to weather, the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series returns to the northeast this weekend. 

Continued Hagan Dominance?

While Matt Hagan holds a mere four-point lead in the Funny Car standings over Austin Prock, Hagan may have the most momentum entering this weekend. Hagan is fresh off his 51st career win two weeks ago at Route 66 Raceway where he outgunned John Force in the final round. 

Hagan will be searching for a third consecutive victory on this year’s tour after wins at North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway and at Route 66.

Notably, the Tony Stewart Racing driver is the all-time leader in New England Nationals victories, having won four of the last six events. 

During that span, he has compiled an 18-2 record. Hagan has more No. 1 starts at Epping than any other Funny Car driver with three.

“Coming off of back-to-back wins is big momentum for Epping,” Hagan said. “Every race is so different though when it comes to track conditions and weather. What’s nice is that I’ve been with Dickie (Venables – crew chief) for so long now, I think we’re coming up on 15 years. 

“Epping has been very kind to me, having won four races there. I think I’ll grow the handlebar mustache again and try to bring that juju back. It’s so tough to win one race in a nitro Funny Car,” Hagan continued. 

“To win back-to-back races is a massive feat, so to be able to win three in a row would be pretty awesome. We’re rolling into the weekend with a lot of data to go off of and positive vibes.”

How Does Brittany Force Rebound?

The NHRA’s last stop on the schedule saw two-time Top Fuel champion Brittany Force miss the cut at the Route 66 Nationals, her first DNQ since 2014 at Pomona in California.

Currently 10th in the standings after six events, Force is the last driver currently in the NHRA Countdown, the series’ version of the playoffs. 

New England may be the perfect place for a resurgence, as she scored the Top Fuel victory at the track in 2017.

Pro Stock Battle Brewing?

After two victories apiece to kickoff the year, Greg Anderson and Dallas Glenn have been the top of the class in Pro Stock.

Glenn holds a four-point advantage over Anderson entering the New England Nationals.

Sixty-six markers behind Glenn is six-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders. 

Perhaps experience may pay big dividends this weekend, as Anderson enters with back-to-back victories in 2016-’17 at the facility, while Enders won the last Pro Stock race held at New England Dragway in 2022.

Smoke On The Horizon

One of the top storylines throughout the NHRA season has been NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart’s progress and acclimation to full-time Top Fuel racing.

While Stewart continues to learn on the fly, he’s managed to reach the finals once (Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas) along with two semi-final appearances. 

Despite showing flashes of positives to come, Stewart is keeping his expectations tempered as he experiences New England Dragway for the first time. 

“Epping is a new track to me so I’m going to have to just learn the facility first,” Stewart said. “Neal (Strausbaugh – crew chief) and Mike (Domagala – co-crew chief) and the team have been there multiple times, so it’s just me getting caught up to the race track and learning the nuances of it that are different than any of the other tracks we go to.”