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2014 Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals: Who to watch

The second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals is the 11th race of the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. The event takes place Thursday through Sunday, June 19th through 22nd, at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire and features all four classes – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

In last year’s inaugural event, Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home Wallys from the track, just north of the Boston metro area.

One driver who was missing from last year’s inaugural festivities was Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens. This year, she goes to New England with a new team, Elite Motorsports, and no data on the track – but she’s not worried.

"We don't have any data there, but there's not a racetrack anywhere that my crew chiefs can't handle,” said Enders-Stevens. “They do a really good job with this race car, and I'm not worried about it at all. We'll be fine. We'll take it round by round and day by day."

A driver who was there and is looking forward to going back is Rhode Island’s Bob Tasca III, who considers the Boston-area track his home track.

“With the way our season is going we need some home court advantage,” said the Funny Car veteran. “We need a good weekend and it couldn't come at a better time than right now. I can tell you no one is working harder than we are to turn our season around. Unfortunately we have nothing to show for it yet. I know we are very close to turning the corner and there is no better time than the New England race.”

Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, whose sister Courtney went to victory lane last year in Funny Car, is proving there’s no such thing as a sophomore slump for the Force family – she’s earned her first final-round appearance and two No. 1 qualifiers in the season’s first 10 races.

“I’m definitely getting used to this Castrol Edge dragster,” said Force. “I know if the car hasn’t done anything to act up on the run, I’ll stay in it. I learn something new on every pass and each run is always different. This team is so much stronger than it was last year. Todd Smith (crew chief), Dean Antonelli (assistant crew chief) and the rest of my guys have been doing awesome this season. We’ve been qualifying great, going rounds and looking strong.”

Connecticut native Hall, who took home the first Wally of his career last year at New England, is also returning to his home track.

“I didn’t know if I would ever get a Wally and when you get it, you can’t believe it,” said Hall. “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.”

Pro qualifying for the Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals begins Friday at 4:15 and 6:45 p.m. ET and continues Saturday at 12:15 and 2:45 p.m. ET. Final eliminations get underway Sunday at 11 a.m. ET. Keep up with the action at

Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.

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