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In Front of Sellout Crowd, J. Force, Kalitta and T. Coughlin Jr. Win NHRA New England Nationals

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John Force finished off an impressive double-up weekend in front of another sellout crowd on Sunday at New England Dragway, as the 16-time Funny Car world champion outran teammate Austin Prock in the final round of the 11th annual NHRA New England Nationals.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) also won the seventh of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season. It was the second straight sellout for the NHRA this weekend.

In an all-John Force Racing Funny Car final round, Force went 4.081-seconds at 319.29 mph in his 11,000-horsepower PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS in the finals to slip past Prock’s 4.096 at 316.38. It gave the legendary driver his second victory of the season, third at New England Dragway and 157th in his career.

He reached the finals by defeating Buddy Hull, Blake Alexander and J.R. Todd, holding off Prock in a thrilling side-by-side duel. Force also won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge on Saturday, with Sunday’s double-up victory pushing him to second in points in what has truly been a remarkable season for the longtime star.

“I love the crowds. For three days they packed them in. I came here 40-something years ago and this place is special,” Force said. “We had a good race car and what keeps me alive is driving this hotrod and all these fans.

“I’m down right now because don’t like beating my teammate in the final. He is the future. I love that kid. He’s going to be here for a long time and Robert [Hight] will be coming back. I’m not being dramatic, but my time is up. It was up when I was 65. Hell, it was up when I turned 50. The world is changing for me and I’ve got to do some real thinking. I’m not quitting today. I’m going to Bristol, but I just know I’m not what I used to be.”

Prock, who jumped back into the points lead in the category and was also the No. 1 qualifier, went to the championship round for the fourth time in 2024 and 12th time overall with wins over Mike Smith, Chad Green and Daniel Wilkerson.

In Top Fuel, Doug Kalitta enjoyed his own special moment on Sunday at New England Dragway, defeating Tony Schumacher in the final round with a pass of 3.802 at 332.92 in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools/Toyota dragster. The victory clinched an impressive mark for the reigning world champ, as Kalitta now has a win at every track on the NHRA circuit. It’s another remarkable achievement for the veteran, who has been riding high since clinching his first world title last year.

On Sunday, Kalitta, who also qualified No. 1 and ran well all weekend, defeated Scott Farley, Tony Stewart and Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon to reach the finals. He powered past Schumacher in the championship round, earning his second win of the season – and vaulting to second in points – and the 54th in his career.

“Coming in here, my goal was to try and get the win. This is the last place haven’t won. I didn’t want to put a lot of attention on it, but it’s hard not to,” Kalitta said. “This was incredible. We’ve been digging hard and I was just trying not to screw it up.”

“Then on Saturday, we got set up for our tribute to Scott [Kalitta]. It’s great to have an opportunity to have a good meal with a lot of the teams and I know it means a lot to Connie. He loves this sport. It was a good time to be able to pull off this win. It was super special.”

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Schumacher advanced to his second final round of the season and the 159th of his career after defeating Brittany Force, Josh Hart and Clay Millican. Justin Ashley stayed in the points lead, though Kalitta closed the gap to just 26 points on Sunday.

Troy Coughlin Jr. turned in a stellar day on Sunday in Pro Stock, capping things off with a holeshot victory over reigning world champion and Elite Motorsports teammate Erica Enders in the final round. Coughlin went 6.584 at 210.05 in his JEGS.com/White Castle Pro Stock car, holding off Enders’ hard-charging 6.563 at 210.54 on the strength of an impressive .013 reaction time. It is Coughlin’s first win of the 2024 season – and first at New England Dragway – and also the fifth Pro Stock victory in his career.

After qualifying second, Coughlin reached the final round for the first time this season by defeating Brandon Miller, Aaron Stanfield and points leader Dallas Glenn. That set up a marquee final round, but Coughlin’s strong reaction time was just enough to ward off the six-time champion.

“It was definitely a wonderful day,” Coughlin said. “Erica is fast. She hits the tree well and it’s an honor just to race her. When I practice every week on a simulator, you’re asking nothing more of yourself than you do each week on the track. You’re just racing yourself and you need to be that way when you’re running a champ like Erica.

“In the final I just tried to crush it and make my best lap. I got there by four thousandths of a second and here we are.”

Enders, who was the No. 1 qualifier, reached her 81st career final round thanks to wins against Fernando Cuadra Jr., Deric Kramer and Jerry Tucker, coming up just short in the bid for her 50th career national event win.

The 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series returns to action June 7-9 with the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tenn.

This story was originally published on June 3, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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