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Drag racing expected to draw 60,000 fans in Epping this weekend

By JOHN HABIB
New Hampshire Union Leader

June 09. 2015 8:28PM
NHRA top fuel driver Antron Brown (near) against Jenna Haddock during the Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park on Sunday, in Englishtown, N.J. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

World championship points standings leader Antron Brown and defending champion Tony Schumacher headline the third annual NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series at the New England Dragway and Motorsports Park in Epping this weekend.

“We’re expecting 60,000 fans this weekend,” said dragway general manager Joe Lombardo of the three-day event.

On Friday, the Lucas Oil Series qualifying and Mello Yello Series qualifying will be held at 4:30 and 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the Lucas Oil Series eliminations and Mello Yello Series qualifying will start at 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

On Sunday at 10 a.m., pre-race ceremonies will be followed by the Mello Yello Series eliminations at 11 a.m.

In the Top Fuel points standings through nine events this season, Brown holds a 751-633 lead over runner-up Schumacher. Spencer Massey is third at 588, followed by Richie Crampton (579), Doug Kalitta (554), Shawn Langdon (530), Larry Dixon (508), Brittany Force (479), J.R. Todd (456) and Clay Millican (427).

Typically in Top Fuel, cars can travel 325 mph and can cover the quarter-mile strip in less than 3.8 seconds. The cars are 25 feet long and weigh 2,320 pounds.

Brown enters this weekend with momentum coming off his 50th NHRA win last Sunday in Englishtown, N.J. He has 34 career wins in Top Fuel and 16 in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Schumacher will have an advantage of knowing what it takes to win in Epping, along with Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Dave Connolly (Pro Stock), who were 2014 winners at the New England Dragway and Motorsports Park.

“The level of competition continues to increase each season where we’re seeing quicker and faster cars on the track,” said Lombardo. “Fans want to see this type of competition and we’re fortunate to be the only track in New England to provide it. The closest track to us is eight hours away in Englishtown. We’re drawing people from New England, Canada and parts of eastern New York near the Albany area.”

Lombardo said because the Epping track is near sea level, drivers have the ability of generating more horsepower. “The likelihood of that happening will be Friday when the forecast calls for low humidity and drier, cleaner air,” said Lombardo. “Under those conditions, there’s always a possibility of setting a national record.”

Lombardo said the 50-year-old Epping track offers the fans the luxury of camping down atop “Spectator Hill.”

“The view from the hilltop is great to watch the action,” said Lombardo. “People can sit back on their blankets and enjoy the competition.”

On Saturday and Sunday, Lombardo said ESPN2 will televise the competition on tape delay for a total of 5½ hours. On Saturday, ESPN2 plans on replaying the action from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and again on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

“Last year, we were the first event to go live on ESPN, which wanted to try it,” said Lombardo. “It was great.”

This weekend, 359 competitors have entered to participate in one of 10 categories, including many New Hampshire residents listed below.

• Stock Eliminator: Dean Ribeiro, Candia; Tyler Fillipone, Hampstead; Bob Broadbent, Hampton; Tim Stickles, Dover; Robert Kelliher, Manchester;

• Competition Eliminator: Chip Ippolito Jr., Laconia; Charles Little, Atkinson; Super Stock: Tony Fillipone, Hampstead; Tim Stickles, Dover;

•  Super Comp: Hong Lee, Jr., Epping; Marc Petit, Nashua; Rob Hyatt, Salem; Michael Caron, Merrimack; Jimmy DiTucci, East Kingston; Bill Silva, Merrimack; Jeff Viens, Epping; Ray Fredricks, Nashua; Brad Coryell, Weare; John George, Loudon;

• Super Gas: Daniel Christopher, Raymond; Eric Cabral, Manchester; Brian Khoury, Derry; Francis Ross, Milford; John Pulyak, Rochester; George Whiteman, Jr., East Kingston;

• Super Street: David Johnson, Brookline; Hong Lee Sr., Epping; Casey Grubb, Milford; Jack Webster, Derry; Jared Kinson, Plaistow;

•  Top Dragster: Rick Bell, Merrimack; Zac Biron, Weare; Deborah Di Genova, Derry; Val Di Genova, Derry; David Lavoie, Peterborough; Harry Gray, Litchfield

Tickets are available by calling 679-8001 or online by visiting www.newenglanddragway.com.

“We usually get a larger number of walk-up ticket buyers at the track,” said Lombardo. “We’re expecting great weather this weekend, giving our fans the chance to enjoy the competition for the third straight year in Epping.”


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