As you’ve probably seen by now, the NHRA brought their rolling tour of mega horsepower to New England Dragway in Epping, NH for the New England Nationals last weekend. It was an action-packed event through and through, and in a New England rarity, the weather cooperated (mostly) all weekend.
For me, this event was a return to the drag racing scene, and a return to my old stomping grounds. Growing up as a gearhead in Massachusetts, New England Dragway right across the NH border was THE place to prove your car’s worth (legally, of course). On Wednesday and Friday nights, you could bring anything up there and race it on “Street Night” as long as it passed a simple tech inspection, and there, I got my first taste of the ol’ 1320 behind the wheel of my old 2002 Subaru WRX wagon. I’ll never forget how nervous I was pulling up to the line, with some punk in a modded, ratty early 90’s Honda Civic in the other lane, talking trash the whole time in the staging lanes. I’ll also never forget said punk obliterating a CV axle on that same starting line, eating his own words, and me sailing down the left lane to a blistering 16.6 ET! For a while, my gearhead friends and I were obsessed with going to New England Dragway. Hell, one of them even moved up to New Hampshire so he (and my friends by default) could be closer to the place and use his house as a base of operations. He made the decision to move back to MA a few years later. With that in mind, the last time I ever made it up there was in September of 2011, behind the wheel of my ratty 1979 Pontiac Trans Am, which has been off the road in Project Car Purgatory since 2012. My friends and I have been exploring other types of motorsports, like Autocross and low-buck, crapcan endurance racing. As a result, my interest (and attendance) at drag racing events had taken a hiatus of sorts.
That is, until last weekend’s New England Nationals.
I showed up to the event to take in a beautiful, sunny Saturday, looking to stir up some old memories of my friends and I blasting down the track, and perhaps make some new ones. Furthermore, this was my first “Nationals” event, and I had no idea what to expect. Our very own Brian Lohnes told me this: “This is your first time at the Nats? You are in for a treat!”
He wasn’t wrong, that’s for damn sure!
In true BangShift form, I’m going to post some shots I took during the day that will sum up my experiences at the New England Nationals. I’m just warning you now: this is a long one. Enjoy!
As I climbed back into my car and pointed it south at the end of the day, I just couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Even though I was tired, sunburnt, and smelled like I took a bath in race fuel, the New England Nationals ended up being one of the coolest racing events I’ve ever attended. This may sound funny, but even when I closed my eyes to sleep that night, all I could hear and see in my head was flame-throwing mega horsepower machines defying physics as they pounded their way down the track, much like that feeling when you go to the beach and “hear the waves” in your head later on. And it didn’t end there: I went on to annoy my poor wife, family, and friends in the coming days, telling them all how amazing this full-tilt “Nationals” event was and how everyone needed to see it for themselves. And all that talk must have triggered something: my friends are thinking about hitting up the upcoming Street Night events in the coming weeks.
Being away from the sport so long, I’ve never seen New England Dragway sell out; hell, I didn’t even know it COULD sell out! And every one of those sell-out fans that spent their weekend there probably felt just like I did. Most importantly, Drag Racing is alive and well, and everyone from small children to old guys are as into it as ever. As I’ve said over and over in this story, there’s no other event that I’ve been to that’s like this. Between the direct accessibility to the teams and crews, the intense action on the track, and hanging out with thousands of like-minded car people, this is one event that I will circle on the calendar every single year.