Story By: NHRA – EPPING, NH – There’s always something special about racing at home, which is why Funny Car’s Bob Tasca III can’t wait for this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.
It’s the place the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series veteran driver grew up racing and it would be the perfect spot to get the first win of his 2022 season in his 11,000-horsepower PPG Ford Shelby Mustang. It would also be his first Funny Car victory at New England Dragway, which would be the ideal way to finish off a week that includes Tasca throwing out the first pitch at the Boston Red Sox game on Wednesday.
It’s an event Tasca is looking forward to, especially if it also means finishing the weekend in the winner’s circle in front of another packed house in Epping, one that will surely include plenty of friends and family.
“It’s a treat to go out and throw out the first pitch at Fenway Park, one of the most historic parks in the country,” Tasca said. “It’s one of those moments you relish and I’m excited to promote the NHRA race. I’ve gotten so much feedback from friends and family and the people at PPG, and they’re all excited about the weekend. There’s not any pressure because I’ve always had the high expectation to go out and win, but I’m looking forward to giving the New England fans a great show. Conditions are going to be absolutely unbelievable. To have great weather on a track that’s already awesome, you’re going to see great race and you could see some record runs.”
Billy Torrence (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) all won the 2021 event, and this year’s race will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1). It is the eighth of 22 races during the 2022 season and Tasca has started to pick up steam at the perfect time, advancing to the semifinals at the last two events.
It hasn’t been a total struggle in 2022, as Tasca has round wins at every race but one this year, but the veteran is after victories in the star-studded class. Points leader Matt Hagan and Robert Hight have combined for five of them through seven events this season, with defending champ Ron Capps and 16-time world champ John Force claiming the other two, but back-to-back solid outings have Tasca, who is currently sixth in points, primed for a breakthrough performance in Epping.
“After back-to-back semifinals in Charlotte and Richmond, we think we’ve found something,” Tasca said. “I’ve got really talented guys in Mike Neff and Jon Schaffer leading this team, and our car ran lights out on Sunday in Richmond. We came up short in the semifinals, but to go to the semis at two straight races has us feeling good. It’s a nice place to be, we just didn’t want to have two weeks off. But we’re going to Epping, which is home to me, and we’ll try to put this car back in the winner’s circle.”
Top Fuel’s Justin Ashley will look to recreate what took place at the season-opener, as Ashley started the season with a victory in Pomona. He’s qualified No. 1 since then and advanced to another final round, which puts him fourth in the loaded Top Fuel class, but a victory at the track closest to home would mean a lot for the young standout. Last year marked the first appearance at New England Dragway, but after a first-round loss in Epping, Ashley has his sights set on a big weekend in his 11,000-horsepower Phillips Connect Toyota dragster powered by Vita C Shot.
To do so, Ashley is likely going to have to get past points leader Brittany Force, who has already posted a trio of wins in what has been a dominant year for the former world champ. Of course, Ashley also must deal with a litany of other top stars, including four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, Mike Salinas, who has a pair of wins this year, Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher, making his first appearance at the track since 2018, Leah Pruett, veteran Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican.
“Last year we were going to a lot of tracks that were first time experiences for me,” Ashley said. “I think the more times I have the privilege of racing at a particular track the more comfortable it becomes, so I am looking forward to my second race in New England. This Phillips Connect Toyota Vita C Shot team has shown we know how to perform at a high level and turn on win lights. I have a lot of confidence in our team, but the competition continues to get better and that is what I love about racing Top Fuel. This will be an active and exciting stretch for our team to start the summer months. We have an opportunity to learn, grow and continue to get better in a short period of time.”
In Pro Stock, drivers will be eager to return to action after a six-week break between races on their 2022 schedule. Stanfield earned his first victory at New England Dragway a season ago and he’s off to a strong start in 2022, collecting a pair of wins. But he’s chasing teammate and points leader Erica Enders, who has three wins and won the race in 2017. It won’t be easy to get another one in a talented class that features reigning world champ Greg Anderson, who is after his 100th career win, Gainesville winner Dallas Glenn, 2018 event winner Chris McGaha and top rookie Camrie Caruso.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which features some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as exciting exhibition racing in the snowmobile category throughout the weekend. After nitro qualifying, fans can enjoy the big thrills of jet cars, as the jet car team Douthit Motorsports will make runs. The Zona Motorsports’ nostalgia cars will also be doing exhibition runs and cacklefests throughout the weekend. On Saturday, fans can also attend Nitro School with Tasca to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds.
Fans at New England Dragway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan-favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the NHRA New England Nationals event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Epping. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6 p.m. ET on Friday, June 3 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 4 at 1 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 5. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, 7 p.m. on Saturday, and then eliminations action at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday.