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 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
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
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 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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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 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
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 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