Drag Racing Action Online

Images Dave DeAngelis, Steve Embling, and John Charbonneau


The Pros weren’t the only stars at the recent New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping N.H., seven classes were up for grabs in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.


It was a battle of Division One’s two best drivers as Joe Lisa from Vernon N.J. was up against former Lucas World champ Joe Santangelo racing out of Marlborough Conn.

Lisa, driving his ’87 Camaro GT/IA had defeated Lennie Williams and Marc Labrecque in earlier rounds and Santangelo beat Phil Lankford and Eric Merryfield to get to the finals.

Santangelo, in his GT/GA Camaro tried to cut the tree down, but left 0.001 too soon giving Lisa his third national event win. On his winning pass, Lisa had a 0.013 light coupled with a breaking out 9.874 on his 9.89 dial but it didn’t matter with Santangelo’s foul start.


Taking his fourth NHRA National event win was Don Pires from Sommerset Mass. Pires driving his G/SA Nova took the win over Ralph Porpora from Washingtonville NY. Pires beat Tim Stickles and Canadian Mathieu Beriault on his way to the finals as Porpora who qualified his E/SA Camaro in the #1 spot got by long time racer Jim Boudreau and Matt Lisa on his way to the Epping finals.

The race was essentially over at the green as Porpora, who had been good on the lights throughout eliminations, had a terrible 0.127 RT to Pires 0.036. Porpora logged a losing but better 10.621 on a 10.59 dial as Pires took the win with a 11.341 on a 11.29 dial.

“Around the 1000’ mark I looked around to see where Ralph was, and I didn’t see him so I started killing ET because I knew I was going a few under the number and took the stripe in front of him.” Pires said. “I won here in 2015 and was runner up last year to Joey Santangelo so it was nice to finish the deal this year.”


Brooklyn NY. racer Michael Handras is on a tear in recent weeks. After winning the Memorial Day Lucas Divisional at Maple Grove, Handras struck gold again with a win in Epping.

Handras’ final round opponent, home track racer Stephen Logan from Weymouth MA. was second off the line with a 0.049 RT to Handras’ 0.036 and he pushed his dragster a little to far breaking out with a 8.882 to Handras’ winning 8.912. The win at Epping was Handras’ second career national win.

“This weekend was huge after winning at Maple Grove last week and then to come to Epping to win my second National Event in Super Comp was great,” Handras said after his win.  “I’ve been to the semis here at Epping a couple of times and have always wanted a Wally from New England Dragway. This Wally goes to my dad as I was able to win on his birthday making this win extra special.”

Handras, near lane,  had to get around fellow Right Trailers racer  Kelly Kundratic in the quarter finals 

“The races were tough and I got away with one round one against Mr. Gallucci when I missed the tree. He has a great running car that I actually help tune so I know he is capable of running good. The semis was a big round as well against Jason Kenny. We have been friends since my start 10 years ago in Super Comp.

“Thanks to Duane Shields, my Dad, John Ausherman,Kyle and Kristen Tavares, Jessica Eastburn, Gary Pritchett, Jacob Biron and Maddox Mason and Jackson Waters.”


Winning his first ever NHRA national event was Hank Smith racing out of Leesport PA. Smith took his unique ’15 Camaro roadster to a win over the always tough Jason Kenny in the finals at Epping. Kenny, who calls Kutztown PA. home, was second off the line with a 0.032 to Smith’s better 0.016 and at the stripe it was Smith’s 9.926 taking the win over a better but later 9.914 of Kenny.

“We had a great weekend,” said Smith after his win.  “Our first national event win, everything came together. The car was working well, and I was driving good. It was a great final round against Jason Kenny. It was a close race .004 thousand at the stripe.”

“Couldn’t do it without the help of my wife Lorrie and Mac Starks. Mac was my co crew chief for the weekend. I would like to thank RoadRunner Race Fuels, Fuel Factory, C2 Competition Engines, Ken’s Kustom Chassis, A1 Towing and Recovery for all their friendship and support.”


The name Sawyer and New England Dragway are practically synonymous. Between dad Ray, and sons Brian and Mike, the family has made a career of winning at the New England track. This time it was Brian’s turn to hold the Wally as he defeated Ray Butler from Enfield Conn. in the finals. Sawyer from Luneburg Mass. was second off the line as Butler had a great 0.012 reation time in his ’80 Malibu to Sawyer’s  0.022 but Butler gave it up at the stripe allowing Sawyer to sneak by for his 4th NHRA National event win at Epping.

After his win Sawyer said, “It was awesome winning Epping because my whole family was there, and my kids Parker and Miller are old enough now to really enjoy it with me. They were cheering me on in the stands every round along with my niece Emma and nephew Colton and it felt awesome to click on the win light each round for them.”

“My wife Stacey, mom Denise and sister in law Kari were there helping with the kids and keeping everyone fed and happy, my Dad was helping with the car and he did so much in the off season to get everything ready I can’t even begin to thank him not to mention watching him race with great success all these years has certainly had a big impact on me.  My brother Mike was helping with the dial all weekend. To me, he’s the best in the game at that.

“As far as the race goes this was my first event after a two year hiatus from racing. I took some time off to watch my kids grow up as I only get one shot at that… I didn’t have any expectations for the race other than to have fun, and man it was fun! I felt like I was seeing the finish line well and making good decisions down there. I probably ran too much delay for the whole event, but I kept it green and gave myself a chance. Somehow it all came together.”

“My dad has been running that Camaro at Epping since 1984 and that car, man, that car is special. Shout out to Ray Butler for his runner up. He’s a very tough racer and I have no doubt he’ll be back in the finals soon.”


Matt Harper from Wiscasset Maine drove his beautiful ’55 Chevy to a win at Epping beating the ’94 Baretta of Richard Lachapelle from nearby Marlboro Mass. Harper had the better llight with a 0.025 and never looked back running a 7.646 on a 7.60 dial to defeat the 7.58 on a 7.53 of Lachapelle.

The victory at NED was Harper’s third NHRA Wally.


Douglas, near lane, during an early qualifying run in his winning dragster

The finals Right Trailers Top Dragster was so close that a mere two inches separated the finalists at the stripe. Paul Neal from Everett Mass. had a great 0.019 light to his competition, Scott Douglas from nearby Wolfeboro NH 0.039. Douglas who had his Miller chassis dragster dialed in with a 6.80 crossed the finish line ahead of Neal running near dead on 6.808 as Neal took the loss with a 6.578 on his 6.55 dial. The win was Douglas’ first ever NHRA win.

“It was unbelievable to take home my first national event win and to do it at my home track In front of all Our family and friends just made it that much more enjoyable,” said Douglas after the victory at Epping. “To have to go through three world champions and end up .0004 in the finals just shows you how tough Top Dragster really is there is no easy rounds In this class.”