Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals, New England Dragway, Epping, New Hampshire, USA, June 20-22, 2014
Angie WINS at Epping
story and photos by Tim Hailey and NHRA
Whether you know her as Angie Smith or Angie McBride, Angie secured the first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of her career with a winning run of 6.905 at 191.89 on her Kandy Magazine Buell Sunday at the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals. She defeated husband and teammate Matt Smith, whose NitroFish Buell slowed as it approached the finishline. “In this sport, I'll take it any way I can get it," said Smith. "It's my first one, I'm proud to be here. I'm really tired of dusting all of [Matt's] Wallys. I at least want to dust one of mine at the house. Now I have one, and I'm good with that."
It was the first time that a husband and wife met in the final of an NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event. Matt, the reigning Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion, lost in the Epping final for the second season straight, falling to teammate John Hall last year.
Angie had no easy path on her way to the winner’s circle. She qualified in the middle of the pack in the eighth position with a 6.87 elapsed and got a free run in the first round of eliminations when Jim Underdahl withdrew after damaging an engine in qualifying.
From there it got as hard as it could. She faced a three time champ, Harley-Davidson factory rider Eddie Krawiec and won on a holeshot: her razor-sharp .003 reaction time allowed her to win with a 6.89 elapsed time to Krawiec’s quicker 6.86.
In the semifinals she met Krawiec’s teammate, former champ and current points leader Andrew Hines, and beat him straight up, 6.90 to 6.92. It was the tenth semifinal appearance of her career but only the first time she was able to advance to the final round.
In the final husband Matt got a huge lead off the line but faced engine trouble and shut the bike down. Angie took the win, running a consistent 6.90 elapsed time. “Angie earned this one fair and square,” added Matt Smith. “She took out both Harleys to meet me in the final. Anytime you can say you beat Eddie Krawiec, Andrew Hines and Matt Smith in the same day you have done your job.
"We decided before the race that we would race for the win. She had a terrible light and I had her beat until my motor went away. Instead of blowing up my engine I pulled the clutch in. We have three races in a row and we won’t be going to back to the shop to fix any broken motors.”
“When it’s your day, its your day,” she said after beating riders with a total of eight NHRA championships between them. “It’s a dream come true for me to finally win a national event in NHRA competition after seven years of trying. I can’t thank my MSR team enough and I’m so thankful to have Kandy magazine sponsor me for these past events. I’m so blessed. I am living proof that you should never give up on your dreams.”
The New England event, added to the NHRA Mello Yello championship series last year, has been good to the MSR team. Team rider John Hall scored his first NHRA event win at inaugural Epping event.
With her win, Angie becomes the fourth female to win a NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle event (the others being Angelle Sampey, Karen Stoffer and Peggy Llewellyn) and the 14th woman to win in any pro class in NHRA competition. She also made a big gain in the points chase, making the top 10 – currently sitting in the eighth position – for the first time this year.Angie and MSR would like to thank Kandy magazine, BarkAid, S&S Cycles, Mark & Marshall Stockseth, Kenny Koretsky & NitroFish, Red Line Oil, Vanson Leathers, Mac Tools, PJ1, World Wide Bearings, IDG, Affliction, FireCore, GoodFab, CP Pistons, & Haltech.
Ron Capps raced to his first victory of the season in Funny Car. Capps drove his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger to the win over Alexis DeJoria with a 4.095-second run at 315.19 mph to claim the 41st victory of his career in Funny Car. “It was huge to get [crew chief] Rahn Tobler back his mojo,” said Capps. “He was beating himself up. He found something overnight. He and Eric [Lane, assistant crew chief] worked all night on what they were going to do this morning.”
It was the first finals appearance for Capps since Brainerd last season. He had reached five semifinals this season before advancing to this final to face DeJoria. With the victory, Capps grabbed the final transfer spot in the Traxxas Nitro Shootout which will occur during the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis on Labor Day weekend. “It was big because we haven’t been in the winner’s circle since Brainerd,” said Capps, who defeated Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Courtney Force to advance to the final round. “It was bigger because there was one spot left in the Traxxas Shootout. Nobody wanted to talk about it in our pit area, but that was it.”
Capps leaves Epping fourth in the Funny Car point standings. Funny Car points leader Robert Hight reached the second round, falling to John Force Racing teammate Force.
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher piloted his U.S. Army dragster to a pass of 3.824 at 323.27 to defeat points leader Doug Kalitta and pick up his second victory of the season. In earlier rounds he raced past Steve Torrence, Antron Brown and Clay Millican. “The fans that paid good money to go to a drag race got the best show I’ve seen this year,” Schumacher said of the close action all weekend long. “It was outstanding racing. It’s cyclical. You go up and down. Right now we’re up and it’s outstanding.”
It was the 74th career victory for Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, and first at the Northeastern track. With the win, Atlanta Dragway now stands as the only track that Schumacher has yet to record a victory. “I’d like to have that,” Schumacher said of the win in Georgia. “It would be really cool. Of all the records we’ve set and we’ve set everything there, that’s the one that’s out there.”
Kalitta’s Mac Tools dragster reached its sixth final of the season. With the finals appearance, Kalitta increased his points lead over Antron Brown to 156 markers.
In Pro Stock, Dave Connolly reached his first final since 2012 and made the best of it with his performance of 6.536 at 213.23 in his Charter Communications Chevy Camaro to defeat Gray Motorsports teammate Jonathan Gray. “I had very high expectations of this team,” Connolly said. “I know the caliber of people working on it. The talent pool is deep. What a great weekend.”
It was the 24th win of Connolly’s career and first since Reading, 2012. Connolly advanced to the final with round wins over Kenny Delco, Vincent Nobile and Greg Anderson. "This class is brutal right now,” Connolly said. “It’s tough. One-thousandths of a second separate us every weekend. Today was no different.”
Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens and her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro team had their race end early following a second round defeat to four-time world champion Greg Anderson.
Sunday's final results from the Second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park. The race is the 11th of 24 in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Tony Schumacher, 3.824 seconds, 323.27 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 3.813 seconds, 323.89 mph.
Funny Car -- Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.095, 315.19 def. Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.121, 309.98.
Pro Stock -- Dave Connolly, Chevy Camaro, 6.536, 213.23 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.577, 213.16.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Angie Smith, Buell, 6.905, 191.89 def. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.230, 145.99.
Super Stock -- Joe Santangelo, Chevy Camaro, 10.903, 93.11 def. Dan Fletcher, Camaro, foul.
Stock Eliminator -- Ron Infantino, Chevy Camaro, 11.060, 116.70 def. Joe Lisa, Camaro, 10.962, 116.99.
Super Comp -- Timmy Markoglu, Dragster, 8.924, 176.49 def. Kyle Cultrera, Dragster, 8.920, 178.83.
Super Gas -- Ray Balian, Ford Probe, 9.924, 162.90 def. Brian Khoury, Chevy C-10, 9.943, 153.74.
Super Street -- Art Gardner, Chevy Nova, 10.922, 149.81 def. Frank Quarno Jr, Nova, 10.893, 135.40.
Pro Stock Snowmobile -- Tina Duncanson, Ski-Doo, 8.289, 156.52 def. Mark Case Jr., Ski-Doo, 9.534, 149.46.
Top Sportsman -- Matt Harper, Pontiac Grand Prix, 7.544, 183.10 def. Marc Caruso, Chevy Cobalt, 6.986, 192.44.
EPPING, N.H. -- Final round-by-round results from the Second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park, the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Khalid alBalooshi, 3.833, 319.14 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.831, 313.15; Clay Millican, 3.920, 305.63 def. Brittany Force, 4.560, 274.22; Richie Crampton, 4.028, 300.20 def. Dom Lagana, 4.044, 297.75; Antron Brown, 3.858, 315.12 def. Todd Paton, 4.081, 290.88; Doug Kalitta, 3.810, 325.45 def. Terry McMillen, 4.341, 186.00; J.R. Todd, 3.826, 317.05 def. Bob Vandergriff, 4.081, 230.61; Spencer Massey, 3.968, 293.86 def. Shawn Langdon, 4.141, 254.86; Tony Schumacher, 3.854, 322.34 def. Steve Torrence, 3.922, 304.19;
QUARTERFINALS -- Crampton, 3.800, 325.14 def. Massey, 3.794, 323.97; Millican, 3.834, 318.62 def. Todd, 3.836, 320.97; Schumacher, 3.787, 324.28 def. Brown, 3.794, 320.66; Kalitta, 3.813, 325.45 def. alBalooshi, 3.856, 318.92;
SEMIFINALS -- Kalitta, 3.792, 325.92 def. Crampton, 3.822, 325.37; Schumacher, 3.825, 322.81 def. Millican, 3.860, 316.38;
FINAL -- Schumacher, 3.824, 323.27 def. Kalitta, 3.813, 323.89.
ROUND ONE -- Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.069, 314.39 def. Mike Smith, Dodge Stratus, 7.026, 89.34; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.089, 313.73 def. Dave Richards, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.900, 160.23; Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.107, 291.76 def. Jeff Arend, Dodge Charger, 4.744, 176.12; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.127, 312.64 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.767, 190.14; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.120, 310.13 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.374, 224.17; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.127, 309.84 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.123, 309.20; Ron Capps, Charger, 4.064, 316.45 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.061, 314.46; John Force, Mustang, 4.129, 312.50 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.119, 305.36;
QUARTERFINALS -- J. Force, 4.095, 314.83 def. Hight, 4.067, 312.35; Capps, 4.097, 311.13 def. C. Pedregon, 4.109, 308.85; C. Force, 4.124, 312.86 def. Worsham, 4.133, 308.92; DeJoria, 4.106, 310.98 def. Johnson Jr., 7.002, 88.00;
SEMIFINALS -- DeJoria, 4.086, 312.21 def. J. Force, 4.130, 312.06; Capps, 4.104, 314.09 def. C. Force, 4.131, 312.21;
FINAL -- Capps, 4.095, 315.19 def. DeJoria, 4.121, 309.98.
ROUND ONE -- Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.525, 213.16 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.530, 213.64; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.547, 212.56 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.532, 213.43; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.525, 213.27 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 11.043, 88.86; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.531, 213.43 def. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.563, 208.59; Shane Tucker, Chevy Cobalt, 6.537, 213.16 def. John Gaydosh Jr, Pontiac GXP, 6.719, 209.95; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.513, 213.23 def. Kenny Delco, Cobalt, broke; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.527, 212.49 def. Val Smeland, Cobalt, 7.609, 142.46; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.518, 212.73 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.563, 211.76;
QUARTERFINALS -- Johnson, 7.742, 181.18 def. Tucker, 13.393, 63.99; J. Gray, 6.564, 212.59 def. S. Gray, 6.559, 213.06; Anderson, 6.551, 212.86 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.551, 213.40; Connolly, 6.526, 212.93 def. Nobile, 6.562, 213.13;
SEMIFINALS -- J. Gray, 6.583, 212.76 def. Johnson, 6.525, 213.60; Connolly, 6.517, 213.23 def. Anderson, 6.549, 212.93;
FINAL -- Connolly, 6.536, 213.23 def. J. Gray, 6.577, 213.16.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE -- Angie Smith, Buell, 7.061, 191.27 def. Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, broke; John Hall, Buell, 6.820, 196.04 def. Chaz Kennedy, Buell, 6.922, 189.76; Adam Arana, Buell, 6.995, 193.85 def. Michael Ray, Buell, foul; Hector Arana, Buell, 6.826, 196.67 def. Shawn Gann, Buell, 10.531, 78.32; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.843, 195.28 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Buell, 6.897, 193.88; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.827, 194.80 def. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.893, 194.35; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.799, 197.48 def. Justin Finley, Suzuki, foul; Matt Smith, Buell, 6.834, 195.48 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.904, 194.21;
QUARTERFINALS -- M. Smith, 6.879, 194.86 def. A. Arana, 6.979, 193.88; Hines, 6.919, 195.14 def. H. Arana, broke; Arana Jr, 6.808, 196.47 def. Hall, 6.868, 194.72; A. Smith, 6.896, 192.49 def. Krawiec, 6.862, 197.25;
SEMIFINALS -- A. Smith, 6.908, 193.77 def. Hines, 6.921, 192.33; M. Smith, 6.873, 195.11 def. Arana Jr, 13.014, 61.08;
FINAL -- A. Smith, 6.905, 191.89 def. M. Smith, 7.230, 145.99.
EPPING, N.H. -- Point standings (top 10) following the Second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway and Motorsports Park, the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
1. Doug Kalitta, 1,001; 2. Antron Brown, 844; 3. Shawn Langdon, 783; 4. Spencer Massey, 709; 5. Tony Schumacher, 670; 6. Steve Torrence, 651; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 587; 8. Richie Crampton, 546; 9. Brittany Force, 540; 10. J.R. Todd, 485.
1. Robert Hight, 970; 2. Alexis DeJoria, 716; 3. John Force, 713; 4. Ron Capps, 683; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., 682; 6. Courtney Force, 658; 7. Del Worsham, 645; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 599; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 569; 10. Matt Hagan, 564.
1. Erica Enders-Stevens, 972; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 789; 3. Allen Johnson, 776; 4. Jason Line, 733; 5. Shane Gray, 713; 6. Dave Connolly, 709; 7. Vincent Nobile, 671; 8. V. Gaines, 520; 9. Chris McGaha, 492; 10. Jonathan Gray, 400.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Andrew Hines, 482; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 445; 3. Hector Arana Jr, 351; 4. John Hall, 338; 5. Matt Smith, 306; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 283; 7. Michael Ray, 270; 8. Angie Smith, 228; 9. Hector Arana, 224; 10. Steve Johnson, 218.
East Coast studs are up for Epping
“I didn’t know if I would ever get a Wally and when you get it, you can’t believe it,” Pro Stock Motorcycle racer John Hall said about his first of the iconic NHRA winners trophies. He wasn't yet known as "Johnny Balls" when he won the inaugural Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire—not far from his Hamden, Connecticut home. “Whoever won was going to be the first winner at this event and for it to be my first win, it felt pretty cool. I couldn’t believe it. When I look at that Wally it brings back a lot of memories. I could come back here in 20 years and still be known as the first Pro Stock Motorcycle winner.”
Hall gets a chance to defend that crown and become the first two-time winner in the class at New England Dragway at the second annual, which takes place June 19-22 and marks the fifth of 16 races for the PSM class. His toughest opponent is likely to be fellow East Coast PSM stud Eddie Krawiec (Englishtown, New Jersey), the 3X champ who—along with the Vance&Hines team—has the Harley V-Rod back on top of the performance game.
Johnny "Balls" Hall
That victory at Epping sent Hall to second in points at the time and he finished eighth overall, also nabbing a victory on his Buell at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis.His strong 2013 season has carried over to 2014 as well, as he currently sits third behind the Harley-Davidson tandem of Andrew Hines and Krawiec. Hall posted three straight semifinal finishes to start the year and feels confident about where his season is headed as the PSM class enters the bulk of its regular-season schedule. “I think we’re in a really good place,” Hall said. “The motorcycle is running great and I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was in the past. It takes a while to get comfortable on these bikes. I started to feel comfortable at some races and others I didn’t, but the bike has been consistent and I really feel comfortable. But there’s always something you can improve on and with everybody running so close in this class, you really have to be on your game with your reaction time. You have to be on your game on every pass.”
Kwick Eddie Krawiec
Everybody but Krawiec and Hines, of course, whose Vance&Hines team has had a way with the NHRA rules commitee that sullies the hard work the team has put in following rules revisions that went into effect last season. Krawiec, the 2012 PSM champion, qualified 14th in Epping and 16th in Chicago last year, losing in the first round at both events. But now Krawiec and Hines have met in each of the last three PSM final rounds and Krawiec—who won in Atlanta—carries plenty of confidence and momentum in his return to New England Dragway. “Last year, Epping and Chicago was the rock bottom for Andrew and myself,” Eddie said. “We put in countless hours trying to figure it out after that and I’m definitely excited to return. I’m looking forward to this event and Epping could have some really, really good air. Hopefully we can treat the fans to some 6.70s this year.
“I really liked it up there,” Krawiec said about Epping. “It has a grassroots feel to it and everybody loved having us there. I was excited to have the bikes part of a new market and the fans there were really enthusiastic to have us. I love these new markets and new events for the class.”
Hall also remembered the tremendous reception for the event from the massive crowd, which only added to his excitement level. “The fans were great and they were waiting a long time for us to come up there,” Hall said. “They were so appreciative and probably the most appreciative fans I’ve ever met. It was unbelievable how many fans were there and that was a huge thrill.”
Also looking to win the Epping Wally is Hall's teammate Matt Smith—the reigning world champion. Also the Aranas—Adam and Hector Sr and Jr. Don't count out Michael Ray and Hall's other teammates Scotty Pollacheck and Angie Smith.
Hall, though, remains confident, especially heading to a track that has already carries so many good vibes. “It would be awesome to get another win in Epping,” Hall said. “We still have same engine in the bike and it’s going to be cool to come back and be the defending champion of the race. We just have to stay consistent and I need to have strong reaction times, but I feel like we have a chance to win every race.”
....sort of....Hall didn't feel that way at the Commerce race. “I felt like I had a chance to win Gainesville and Charlotte, but with what Eddie was running in Atlanta, I didn’t feel like I had a chance to win that weekend," Hall said before Englishtown—another Harley 1-2 that also exposed some equipment changes granted to the Harleys by the NHRA—equipment changes that the Buells had lobbied for but were denied. See Matt Smith talk about that in this clip from the ESPN2 broadcast:
The Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals also starts a stretch of five races in six weeks for the PSM class, something Krawiec views as an opportunity to leave a significant impression on the rest of the category. “It’s more of an endurance test,” Krawiec said. “We’re seeing the class get a lot tighter and I think we have some great momentum right now. Andrew and I are sitting in a good position and this is our opportunity to stretch things out. We’re going to try our best to do that, but there’s a lot of great bikes in this class.”
In Top Fuel, Spencer Massey is looking for a repeat victory at New England Dragway and his third victory overall in 2014. Other contenders in the talent-packed class include points leader Doug Kalitta, 2012 world champion Antron Brown, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, 2013 Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, defending world champion Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd, Khalid alBalooshi and rookie driver Richie Crampton, the most recent event winner.
Courtney Force, who beat her father and 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force in a dramatic final a year ago, recently in Topeka earned the 100th professional win for a female NHRA driver and is after her second win of the season. She is chasing points leader Robert Hight while other championship-caliber drivers include Alexis DeJoria, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Tommy Johnson Jr., Jack Beckman and local favorite and Rhode Island native Bob Tasca III.
The 2012 Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson is currently third in points with a class-best three wins, but is chasing teammate and reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, as well as series points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has won twice and two weeks ago in Englishtown reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.464 seconds, 215.55 mph). Other factory hot rod class hopefuls seeking a first win at Epping include Vincent Nobile, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, V Gaines, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Chris McGaha.