Story By: NHRA – EPPING, NH – Matt Hartford turned around his 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season with a victory at the most recent race in Houston.
Now, the challenge for the Pro Stock veteran will be trying to keep that rolling in a loaded class at this weekend’s TascaParts.com NHRA New England Nationals presented by Bandero Premium Tequila at New England Dragway.
With a host of standouts in Pro Stock, the racing continues to be as close as ever. Hartford faced the brunt of that early in the year, but he rose to the occasion in Houston driving his Total Seal/CIP 1 Chevrolet Camaro. Repeating that won’t be easy during Pro Stock’s first appearance in Epping since 2018, but Hartford promises to be ready to try.
“We just need to keep our head down and capitalize on the little bit of momentum we’ve built,” Hartford said. “Our entire team realizes we had some good fortune go our way in Houston and hopefully that can continue. In Pro Stock, the cars are so closely matched. You’re winning and losing by inches, and you really have to be able to perform when it counts.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) were winners of the 2019 event, and this year’s race will be televised on FOX, including live finals coverage starting at 1:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 13. It is the sixth race of the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season in Pro Stock and Hartford got things turned around in Houston.
He had just two round wins in the first four races before picking up his fourth career victory. Hartford qualified well, had a strong-performing car and was strong on the starting line, which are all necessary to succeed in a class loaded with top performers like points leader Greg Anderson, defending back-to-back world champ Erica Enders, rookie Dallas Glenn, Deric Kramer, Mason McGaha and Troy Coughlin Jr.
“Show me one car in our class that can’t qualify near the top of field and can’t win on Sunday. It’s a very evenly matched class,” Hartford said. “But I look forward to the challenge of it and I look forward to how we can make sure the car is set up to the best of our ability to put up a good number on the board. I really like the challenge of what happens in between rounds. We’re going to Epping confident and hopeful we can put on a good performance.”
Heading to New England Dragway is also a scene Hartford enjoys. The fanbase is passionate about Pro Stock and drag racing, and he welcomes the first-class treatment all the teams receive when arriving in Epping. It continues all weekend with an incredible atmosphere and Hartford looks forward to feeding off that energy at the track.
“Epping is a track where the owners roll out the red carpet,” Hartford said. “You see all the diehard fans and it’s very fan-friendly. It’s a race that brings out everyone in the Northeast. If you win on Sunday with all the fans in the stands and all that energy, it really does hype you up.”
In Top Fuel, three-time defending world champ Torrence is after his third straight win in Epping and third consecutive victory of the 2021 season. Trying to stop that is an all-star cast that includes Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Doug Kalitta, Justin Ashley and Clay Millican.
Hagan is after his fourth straight win at New England Dragway and also his first victory of the season. To do so, he’ll have to get past the likes of points leader and area native Bob Tasca III, Alexis DeJoria, Ron Capps, John Force, Robert Hight and J.R. Todd.
The race also includes thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills. After qualifying, fans can watch the thrilling “Beast from the East” Jet Dragster driven by Ernie Bogue. It marks the first time this dragster has made an appearance at a NHRA event. Jet cars are thrust-driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Nostalgia Funny Cars will also be in action at New England Dragway, adding another must-see special attraction to the event. A group of 12 nostalgia Funny Cars will be on display at the track, with several cars making exhibition runs during the weekend.
Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 5:30 p.m. ET on Friday, June 11, with the two final rounds slated for 12:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. on Saturday, June 12. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 13. Television coverage includes live action from eliminations beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 13 on FOX.