EPPING, N.H. — The NHRA New England Nationals will mark the first time that NHRA has held a national event at New England Dragway. It will also be a personal first for rookie Funny Car driver Dave Richards as he makes his professional debut at the inaugural event.
Richards had intended to race in Atlanta earlier this year and was in the staging lanes ready to go when a massive and relentless storm rolled through, mandating a delay of the event by one week.
When another driver stepped up with the funding to pilot the family Funny Car at the weather-delayed event, Richards put his debut on hold.
Although he was rightfully disappointed to have come so close and then been shut down by Mother Nature in his initial attempt, Richards soon realized that the situation allowed for something very special: a debut in the Northeast, where his father, Gary Richards, was a regular match racer in the 1960s and 70s.
“We’ve always considered ourselves an East Coast team,” said Richards, who will drive the family’s Paul Richards Racing Chevrolet in Epping. “So when we looked at the schedule and thought about where we wanted to make this happen, the race at New England Dragway was obviously, for us, the one that made sense.
“When I was trying to make my debut in Atlanta, my family couldn’t be there — my wife, Serena, is a big supporter and she knows this is my passion and is so cool about letting me do this. She’ll be there this weekend, and so will my parents, Gary and Peggy, along with my brothers Paul, Brian and Michael. Paul does such a great job running this team, and I really appreciate that he is allowing me the opportunity to drive. There are quite a few other drivers he could put in the seat, but he’s giving me a chance to do this, and I’m very grateful”
Richards’ experience with nitro Funny Cars goes back to his childhood, and he says that although his dad retired from match racing when he was just a baby, there was always a race car in the garage.
“People say I’m crazy to want to drive a Funny Car, but once I set my mind to it, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do,” said the 35-year-old second-generation racer, who first licensed in a Super Comp dragster at the urging of big brother to be sure that drag racing was truly where he wanted to be. “The first time I drove the Funny Car, I’ll admit that I was nervous. My dad told me that as soon as the motor starts and they lower the body, that’s when you calm down. He was right. The sound is so calming inside the car, and once everybody is out of the way, you can’t wait to hit the gas.”