Courtesy NHRA Communications

Images John Charbonneau

Doug Kalitta, Austin Prock, and Erica Enders take the early lead during a thrilling Friday night qualifying session at the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H.

Reigning Top Fuel world champion Doug Kalitta made the quickest run of both sessions on Friday at New England Dragway, taking the provisional No. 1 spot at the 11th annual NHRA New England Nationals.

Austin Prock (Funny Car) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the seventh of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season.

Kalitta went 3.700-seconds at 332.84 mph under the lights in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster as part of a thrilling side-by-side run with Steve Torrence, maintaining his No. 1 spot from earlier in the day. It puts the veteran in position for his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 56th in his career. New England Dragway is also the only track on the NHRA tour where Kalitta hasn’t won, which is something the 53-time event winner would love to change this weekend.

“I was really confident and real hopeful,” Kalitta said. “The car left good and smooth and really happy once I figured we got the quick time. This track is on my radar [as the last one] to get to a final and finally get a win.

“This is last on the list and the history here is incredible and the area around this place is fantastic. Hats off to Alan Johnson and Mac Savage and all the guys working on this thing. The Toyota guys have been helping us with the track and I can’t thank them enough. All our cars ran well that session.”

Torrence took the second spot with a strong 3.702 at 335.23 and Brittany Force, who did not qualify at the most recent event in Chicago, jumped to third with a 3.715 at a track-record 335.57.

In Funny Car, Austin Prock continued to impress in qualifying on Friday, delivering a standout run of 3.837 at 336.23 in his 11,000-horsepower AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS. It puts Prock, who is second in points, on track for an impressive fifth No. 1 qualifier in the first seven races of the season as the former NHRA Rookie of the Year continues to show his talents in a new category. Prock has adjusted well in his first year in the loaded Funny Car ranks and made a pair of solid runs on Friday as he attempts to pick up his first career victory at New England Dragway.

“It’s surreal just holding on to the wheel,” Prock said. “Kudos to my dad [Jimmy] and brother [Thomas]. They’re making really smart decisions, and it’s really impressive watching them work. They’ve been in the right spot at right time and we’re getting the job done.
“I got a little John Force in me. I never know where I’m at. On the first run, I didn’t have it staged shallow and it cost me the top spot. I had to walk back to the trailer with my tail between legs. It was so bad, my dad could see it. As soon as I crossed the finish line I apologized on the radio but on the second run they bailed me out with a 3.83 with a really good mph.”

Prock’s boss, legendary Funny Car racer John Force, is in second with a run of 3.865 at 333.16 and J.R. Todd is in third after the first two qualifying sessions, going 3.865 at 327.74.

Blake Alexander behind the wheel of the Jim Head Pronto Service Center Mustang is currently in the #7 spot with a 3.945

A two-time Pro Stock winner at New England Dragway, defending world champ Erica Enders enjoyed a terrific start to her weekend, going a blistering 6.488 at 211.79 in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance/Scag Power Equipment car. Should that hold, Enders would pick up her third top spot of 2024, as Enders was the only driver to reach the 6.40s on Friday. The biggest thing for Enders is picking up her 50th career national event victory, something she’s been chasing for a handful of events now. After Friday’s terrific start, it could happen this weekend for Enders.
“Well, my guys have really been studying up and have been working hard this past week and put their heads together,” Enders said. “We’re running our race car just a little bit differently. Earlier in that session, the starting line wasn’t there but the air was. We thought we could go .49 then with the sun down and cooler track temps, we thought we could get after it a little bit more and we threw a .48 on the board. I love racing up here in Epping and I’m just really grateful and I’m having fun again.

“When I let go of clutch the wheels were up and that makes you think you’re on a run. Then you’ve just got to keep it in groove and hit all your shifts, and I was able to do that. I could tell it was good when my guys were excited on the radio.”
Troy Coughlin Jr. is currently second thanks to a run of 6.510 at 211.46 and points leader Dallas Glenn is third after going 6.529 at 210.57.
Qualifying continues at 12 p.m. on Saturday at the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.