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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

New England Dragway - Best of the '90s

by Billy Anderson

Choosing the best performances over an entire decade can prove spotty at best. There will always be arguments about the validity of why one particular run should be considered the best in a ten-year period. Having stated that, I now put out for argument what I believe to be the best performances at New England Dragway for the '90s decade.

Top Fuel

Top Fuel Race of the Decade: Shirley Muldowney vs. Rit Pustari; Nitro Cars Under the Stars; July 11, 1998. In a race that will forever go down into the annals of New England Dragway, the legendary Shirley Muldowney shattered two barriers at once. Muldowney recorded a 4.86, 302.82, the quickest and fastest time a piston driven vehicle had ever traversed the Epping quarter-mile. It was the first four-second and 300-mph time by a Top Fueler in NH. 

Making the run even more impressive was the fact that the previous track record sat at 5.02, 295.85. As if that wasn't exciting enough, Pustari was busy in the other lane keeping his car from being the first Top Fuel blowover at New England Dragway when he skied the wheels until half-track.

Best Top Fuel Performance (event): Doug Herbert; Parts Pro North American Nationals; September 11-13, 1998. The IHRA North American Nationals returned to New England Dragway, and 1992 event winner Herbert added two IHRA records. Herbert not only qualified first at 4.75, but also ran back to back 4.74s at 310 mph to establish both ends of the national record and reset the New England Dragway track record.

Top Fuel Run of the Decade: Paul Romine, 4.71; Parts Pro North American Nationals; September 11, 1999. It may be easy to choose the quickest run of the decade for run of the year, but for Romine, it not only qualified him number one but established a new IHRA World Record. It also gave the Carquest-backed driver the momentum to win the event on Sunday, his only of 1999.

Top Fuel Racer of the Decade: Shirley Muldowney. Muldowney easily turned a Funny Car friendly atmosphere onto Top Fuelers. Her first appearance in 1995 was the talk of the season, and her track record turns in 1997 (5.02) and 1998 (the aforementioned barrier blasting 4.86) helped to only fuel the fire that this veteran of the sport is still in her prime. Despite a lackluster performance in 1999, Muldowney looks poised to regain her track records when she tours full-time with the IHRA in 2000.

Funny Car

Funny Car Race of the Decade: John Force vs. D.A. Santucci; Driver's Seat Fall Funny Car Nationals; September 9, 1990. In his only appearance of the decade at New England Dragway, the king of all Funny Cars John Force, staved off D.A. Santucci's Black Magic Cutlass in a nail-biter. Force left first, .553 to .564, then ran a 5.568, 242.91 to edge Santucci's 5.564, 262.92 by .007 seconds. Force may have squeaked out the event title, but Santucci left with the track speed mark, which lasted for two years.

Best Funny Car Performance (event): Tom Hoover; Snap-On Tools North American Nationals; September 11-13, 1992. In the last appearance by Funny Cars at an IHRA national event, Hoover went to the head of the class. Despite only qualifying sixth, Hoover came to life in eliminations by resetting the track record twice (5.30 and 5.22) in the final two rounds.

Funny Car Run of the Decade: Tom Hoover, 5.22; Snap-On Tools North American Nationals; September 13, 1992. Tom Hoover shattered the incoming track record of 5.47 with a 5.22 in his final round defeat of Norman Wilding at the 1992 North American Nationals. Wilding had reset the track record in round one with a 5.38, but Hoover wiped that out with a 5.30 in the semi's, then picked up another .08 seconds in the final.

Funny Car Racer of the Decade: Tom Hoover. Besides the aforementioned accolades, the driver of the Pioneer Showtime Dodge put on an impressive match race showing in 1994 with Chuck Etchells when he reset the track speed record to a 283.46-mph clocking. That track record lasted until 1998; his E.T. record still stands at the end of the decade.

Pro Stock

Pro Stock Race of the Decade: Stewart Evans, Jr. vs. Dan Seamon; Parts Pro North American Nationals; September 13, 1998. In a battle of young guns in Fords, Evans used a holeshot to win the quickest side-by-side race in IHRA Pro Stock history, 6.69 to 6.68 (since eclipsed) . Seamon didn't go away empty-handed; his 6.68 was the quickest Pro Stock run in pro Stock at the time, and established for him a new national record. The momentum carried over into the remaining IHRA national events, as he won the championship.

Best Pro Stock Performance (event): Billy Huff; Snap-On Tools North American Nationals; September 11-13, 1992. No other Pro Stock driver was able to do at New England Dragway in 1992; set the national E.T. record AND win the event. Huff recorded the quickest Pro Stock time ever, a 6.947 to establish the IHRA record during the Saturday Night of Fire final qualifying. Huff then had to use holeshots to win the event on Sunday when great racing conditions evened the playing field.

Pro Stock Run of the Decade: Tim Nabors, 6.88; Snap-On Tools North American Nationals; September 11, 1993. New England Dragway was put into the history books the night Tim Nabors blasted out his 6.88, which was later backed up as an IHRA national record. It was the first Pro Stock run ever in the 6.8-second zone. Nabors could not parlay the record into a victory as Huff had done a year before; he lost in the semis.

Pro Stock Racer of the Decade: Billy Huff. This category was extremely close, and since the class had changed so much when the IHRA returned in 1998, it was difficult to find someone who covered the entire decade. Huff may not have been in IHRA Pro Stock racing in 1998, but his efforts in 1992 were enough to garner him this accolade: he won both the Northeast Nitrous Nationals and the North American Nationals that season, and remains the only Pro Stock driver ever to win more than one national event at New England Dragway.

Pro Modified

Pro Modified Race of the Decade: Ed Hoover vs. Scotty Cannon; Snap-On Tools North American Nationals; September 13, 1992. Hoover and Cannon put on one heck of a final round at the 1992 edition of the North American Nationals. Entering the final fresh off a new national record the round before, Cannon engaged in a staging duel with Hoover in the blower vs. nitrous match-up. Hoover surprised Cannon and maybe himself with a 6.588, 208.14 pass that was not only quick enough to win, but was the first Pro Modified pass ever in the 6.50s. It was too quick to be backed up for an IHRA record, and Cannon's trailing 6.61 stayed the standard. It was the quickest side-by-side Pro Modified race ever at the time.

Best Pro Modified Performance (event): Scotty Cannon, Parts Pro North American Nationals; September 11-13, 1998. In what would be his last season in Pro Modified, Cannon went out with a bang with a dominating performance at the North American Nationals. Saddled with a rules change intended to slow him down, Cannon not only qualified number one but improved on race day and reset both ends of the IHRA record to a 6.34, 222.33. Not only did he win the event, he also defeated his archrival Shannon Jenkins in the semi-finals with the national record run.

Pro Modified Run of the Decade: Carl Moyer, 6.59, 204.12; Northeast Nitrous Nationals; July 23, 1993. While there were other runs that set national records and were the quickest ever, no run had more potential than Moyer's 6.59 at the 1993 event that became known as the Carnage Nationals. A bad batch of pistons had left Pro Modified drivers killing engines left and right and Moyer's Corvette was not left out. On his Friday night qualifying lap, Moyer broke a connecting rod, which caused damage so severe it blew the starter off and dented the chassis. Moyer still coasted to a 6.59 on a run that all of the early numbers indicated it would have been the quickest in history.

Pro Modified Racer of the Decade: Scotty Cannon. Who could argue with the most dominant Pro Modified racer ever? Cannon won not only the 1992 and 1993 Northeast Nitrous Nationals, but also was in every final round of the North American Nationals he attended (1992, 1993 and 1998) culminating in a victory at the 1998 event. He also won the 1994 GMC Truck Spring Funny Car Classic, engaging in a staging duel with Ron Iannotti prior to a close 6.98 to 7.04 final.

Top Alcohol Funny Car

Top Alcohol Funny Car Race of the Decade: Dick Bell vs. Paul Johnson; Spring Funny Car Nationals; April 28, 1991. Bell and Johnson put on one of the most incredible match race final rounds ever in Top Alcohol Funny Car. Bell entered the final with a 6.08 best; Johnson a 6.17. Johnson's Trans Am improved to a 6.14, 227.56, but it was squeezed out by the Bell's 6.11, 225.56 in the Bell Boys Cutlass. Bell would defend his title a year later, his last victory before his untimely death to cancer in July, 1992.

Best Top Alcohol Funny Car Performance (event): Paul Gill; Nitro Cars Under the Stars; July 11, 1998. Gill took his Avenger to new track records of 5.87, 244.69 in round one, which set up a final round match with Bunny Burkett. Gill became the first driver in Epping to stay in the fives for an entire event with a 5.99, 240.06 final round pass.

Top Alcohol Funny Car Run of the Decade: Bob Sweet, 5.96; Snap-On Tools North American Nationals; September 12, 1992. Bar none, the most impressive run of the decade was Bob Sweet's barrier breaking pass in the New Boston Strangler. Sweet became the first driver ever at New England Dragway to traverse the quarter-mile in less than six seconds in a methanol-burning vehicle. He would repeat that feat two years later with a 5.99 at the 1994 Fall Funny Car Nationals. It wasn't until June 1998, when Paul Gill ran a 5.92 to finally break Sweet's track record that someone else ran in the fives.

Top Alcohol Funny Car Racer of the Decade: Craig Gleason. No other Top Alcohol Funny Car driver found the winner's circle more consistently than Gleason. Gleason won seven major events at New England Dragway during the '90s, and won the 1994 and 1995 Alcohol Funny Car Challenge title. The addition of Charlie Bell as crew chief added greatly to his cause. Gleason never set a track record, but still often found himself in the finals. Gleason's decade came to an abrupt end at the 1998 Parts Pro North American Nationals when the parachutes failed to deploy on the Maximum Overdrive Cutlass and the car was destroyed in the sand trap at the top end.

Super Slammer Challenge

Super Slammer Challenge Race of the Decade: Bob Losordo vs. Terry Hall; Fall Funny Car Nationals; September 7, 1997. The Super Slammer Challenge debuted in winning style at the 1997 Fall Funny Car Nationals. Losordo's nitrous Trans Am and Hall's blown BMW battled for honors in the category's first final, and did not disappoint. Losordo managed to eke out victory by .015 seconds, 7.05, 197.10 to 7.10, 196.50.

Best Super Slammer Challenge Performance (event): John Bartunek; New England Dodge Dealers Jet Cars Under the Stars; August 7, 1999. Bartunek's nitrous Corvette ended the decade with a dominating performance at the Jet Cars Under the Stars event. Bartunek reeled off consecutive 6.5s, including a track record 6.55, 213.70 en route to defeating Pat Doherty in the final.

Super Slammer Challenge Run of the Decade: Dave Sottile, 6.65; Foliage Classic; October 5, 1997. Sottile haunted the troops with a track record 6.65 at the Foliage Classic, a run that was over .3 seconds quickest than the next player. Sottile's ex-Fred Hahn blown Corvette dominated, then disappeared from the series. His performance would not be matched until the 1999 season.

Super Slammer Challenge Racer of the Decade: Mark Markow. Markow had a great 1998, winning two of the three New England Dragway events while qualifying number one. At the final event, he failed to qualify, but managed to set Top Speed. Markow was then responsible in the 1999 season for Pat Doherty's great runs.

Pro Comp

Pro Comp Race of the Decade: Russ Vernali vs. Paul Jannoni; New England Dodge Dealers Jet Cars Under the Stars; August 7, 1999. No other class matured quite as quickly as Pro Comp. By the time of their final race of the decade, fields were fairly close that driver reaction times became equally important as elapsed times. In round one of this event, Jannoni recorded a 7.05, 190.78, but lost out to Vernali's slower 7.13, 185.87.

Best Pro Comp Performance (event): Uno Ilvonen; New England Dodge Dealers Funny Cars Under the Stars; June 19, 1999. Ilvonen absolutely terrorized the class at the 1999 Funny Cars Under the Stars. Ilvonen ran several 6.5's, including an all-time best of 6.53, 207.69 pass. Ilvonen ended the day by beating Rick Macedo in the final, a race where both drivers coasted to the finish line.

Pro Comp Run of the Decade: Uno Ilvonen, 6.53, 207.69; New England Dodge Dealers Funny Cars Under the Stars; June 19, 1999. Ilvonen's supercharged silver dragster destroyed the track record with an all-time 6.53, 207.69 pass en route to winning the June Funny Car race.

Pro Comp Racer of the Decade: Russ Vernali. While other drivers were quicker, no one was more consistent in Pro Comp over the two years of the class than Vernali. His nitrous-assisted big block dragster suffered two heartbreaking final round losses before claiming the title at the 1999 New England Dodge Dealers Jet Cars Under the Stars.

Hot Rods from Hell

Hot Rods from Hell Race of the Decade: Scott Jezak vs. Carroll Hine; Colonial Classic; May 19, 1991. In the New England Dragway debut of Scott Jezak's brainchild known as the Hot Rods from Hell, Jezak and Hine put on a great race. The Hot Rods from Hell helped filled the void created when the Wild Bunch, a band of supercharged doorslammer match racers, disbanded at the end of the 1989 season. While the opening event was a far cry from the 6.4-second performances of today, the same centerline to guardrail mentality existed. In the class' first final at Epping, Jezak's Wild Thing '32 Bantam ran a 7.73, 168.35 to edge Hine's 7.75, 181.34.

Best Hot Rods from Hell Performance (event): Neal Parker; Foliage Classic; October 8, 1995. In winning his first Epping Hot Rods from Hell event, Parker's Excavator '48 Fiat established both ends of the track record, a trademark he would continue to use at four additional events in the decade.

Hot Rods from Hell Run of the Decade: Blair Smith, 6.60, 201.11; Snap-On Tools Jet Cars Under the Stars; August 17, 1991. Smith's pass in the Alteredmania '23-T was not only the first six-second Hot Rods from Hell pass at New England Dragway, but it lowered the track record by miles. Smith's pass came out of nowhere. It was ahead of its time; the Hot Rods from Hell weren't consistent six-second runners until the 1995 season. Smith's record lasted until Neal Parker blasted a 6.53 at the 1995 Foliage Classic. Smith converted his altered into an Alcohol Funny Car called The Searcher, and was relatively successful with it in 1993 and 1994.

Hot Rods from Hell Racer of the Decade: Neal Parker. Parker showed up at New England Dragway mid-decade with the Hot Rods from Hell, and promptly lowered track records. While Carroll Hine won more events overall, Parker was more consistently the quickest altered, even when he didn't win. While he didn't end the decade with the track marks in Hot Rods from Hell, he competed in IHRA's Super Eliminator, and recorded track records in that category, along with an IHRA World Speed Record.

Jet Dragster

Jet Dragster Race of the Decade: Jessica Willard vs. Lou Brookman; Jet Cars Under the Stars; August 8, 1998. The first event to introduce 300-mph Jet Dragsters at New England Dragway also was the race with the first side-by-side 300-mph pairing. Willard's Epping debut in the Hanna Motorsports' Queen of Diamonds was highlighted by a 5.15, 302.62 lap against Brookman. Brookman fouled, but not by much. His 5.22, 307.58 was right alongside. Willard left with the track e.t. mark; Brookman, the speed mark.

Best Jet Dragster Performance (event): Jack Dustman; New England Dodge Dealers Jet Cars Under the Stars; August 7, 1999. The Dustman Bros. Entry turned back all comers in the last jet race of the decade. The checkered-entry got quicker and faster as the night wore on. After a stunning 5.04, 314.97 in the second round, he came back to reset the track record to a 5.02, 316.45.

Jet Dragster Run of the Decade: Jessica Willard, 5.29, 301.40; Jet Cars Under the Stars; August 8, 1998. Willard made a dazzling debut in the Queen of Diamonds. On her first pass, she became the first Jet Dragster driver at New England Dragway to break the 300-mph barrier. While Lou Brookman would later run faster that weekend, Willard had already ensured her presence in the record books. It was only one year earlier at the same event that Toby Ehrmantraut just missed the first 300 in the same dragster.

Jet Dragster Racer of the Decade: Fill Smith. Long before the Willards, Brookmans, Ehrmantrauts, and Dustmans of the world were breaking track records, Fill Smith was setting them up and knocking them down. The Flashback driver posted a 5.26 in 1992 that erased prior track records and remained the track record in Epping for numerous years. Smith also won three major events in the '90s, including the 1991 Jet Cars Under the Stars.

Jet Funny Car

Jet Funny Car Race of the Decade: Al Hanna vs. Dick Rosberg; Jet Cars Under the Stars; August 14, 1993. For most of the 1993 season, Al Hanna and Dick Rosberg were chasing each other around the country in search of track records. They were undoubtedly the two quickest Jet Funny Cars at the time, and anytime they paired up, it was more than just an exhibition race. Rosberg had stolen low E.T. at the 1993 GMC Truck Spring Funny Car Classic from Hanna, setting up a big showdown at the Jet Cars Under the Stars later in the year. When the smoke and fire cleared, it was Hanna's Auto Palace Eastern Raider sneaking out a 5.72, 276.75 to 5.73, 268.73 victory over Rosberg in Bob Van Sciver's Kendall Warrior.

Best Jet Funny Car Performance (event): Rich Hanna; Foliage Classic; October 6, 1996. In the best conditions jet cars had ever seen at New England Dragway, Rich Hanna's First Strike not only had Low E.T. of every round, but also set the all-time Jet Funny Car record of 5.52, 290.04. The time still stands at the end of the decade as the official quickest and fastest Jet Funny Car pass in history.

Jet Funny Car Run of the Decade: Pat Davidson, 5.55, 246.44; GMC Truck Spring Funny Car Classic; April 24, 1994. While Rich Hanna's all-timer was impressive, no run struck fear in the hearts of Jet Funny Car competitors everywhere than Davidson's in Art Gallant's all-new Spitfire. Davidson clicked it at 1000' and still set the then 5.55 track record at a measly 246 mph. 

Gallant's new machine included small airplane tires for front wheels, as commonly used in Top Fuel. Fortunately for the competitors, Gallant didn't remain in the class. It was rumored that the small front wheels caused handling problems in the top end and they were outlawed. Either way, Gallant went onto a successful career in Alcohol Dragster; his Dan Page-built A/FD won the 1999 Pennzoil Nationals in Virginia.

Jet Funny Car Racer of the Decade: Rich Hanna. Hanna didn't debut until the end of 1993, and by the next year, he became the most dominant Jet Funny Car driver in the class. Besides the aforementioned world records, Hanna dominated every race he entered. Rarely was he ever out E.T.-ed. Hanna ended the decade with six wins at the premiere jet event at New England Dragway, the Jet Cars Under the Stars.

Wheelstander

Wheelstander Race of the Decade: Danny O'Day vs. Danny Burmer; Foliage Classic; October 8, 1995. Arguably the two best Wheelstander drivers of the decade, O'Day and Burmer, put on a classic battle at the Foliage Classic. Rarely is O'Day ever at a performance disadvantage, but in this race, O'Day was the slower of the two. And like Warren Johnson, he always finds a way to win. O'Day used a .512 R.T. and a 9.24 to edge the .646-initiated 9.14 from the Legendary Chuckwagon driver. O'Day's margin of victory was merely .03 seconds; rare in modern-day Wheelstander exhibitions.

Best Wheelstander Performance (event): Danny O'Day; goracing.com Night of Fire; July 17, 1999. Danny O'Day's ride before entering the Wheelstander wars in 1987 was a bracket car known as the Pie Wagon. O'Day did not forget his bracket days at the 1999 goracing.com Night of Fire when he unleashed a series of low 9-teen elapsed times. Included in that was a new track record of 9.10, eclipsing a mark he had set almost four years earlier.

Wheelstander Run of the Decade: Danny O'Day, 9.11; Fall Funny Car Nationals; September 10, 1995. O'Day's long standing track record of a 9.11 was set at the 1995 Fall Funny Car Nationals. The Superwinch Lumina planted the rear wheels and never looked back. O'Day managed to fight off Danny Burmer for the record, as both racers were gunning for it throughout the season. O'Day lowered it so much, even he didn't reset it until 1999.

Wheelstander Racer of the Decade: Danny O'Day. O'Day entered the decade with the Heartbeat High S-10 Wheelstander. He then decided to shoot for track records and built the Controlled Insanity T-Bird and Lumina. O'Day did just that, ending the decade as arguably the best Wheelstander driver in the country.

Billy Anderson

 

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