John Harper poses with family after his Aug. 23 victory at New England Dragway. Courtesy Photo

John Harper is back on top.

The Wiscasset native won the New England Super Street Championship at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire this summer — his second title in three years.

In April, Harper wasn’t sure if there would even be a season at all because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“When you consider what has been happening, we were afraid that there might not be any racing at all this season. This one feels extra special,” said Harper. “This season was special, and it meant a lot to me given the circumstances surrounding everything.”

The dragracing season typically gets rolling in May, but it was delayed about a month because of the pandemic.

“It was a really strange season. Every week I was wondering if this could be the last race,” said Harper, who is originally from South Paris and graduated from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

Despite the uncertainty, Harper did what he could to stick to a routine. He drove his 1955 Chevrolet — powered with a 565 cubic inch motor with 1,000 horsepower — in state to stay race-ready.

The New England Dragway is the biggest race of its kind in the region. Drivers from across New England, as well as some from New York, travel to Epping to compete in the races.

The Super Street class averaged about 20-25 drivers per race, Harper said. Standings are kept all season, with drivers earning points based on their finishes. Harper said he tries not to focus on the standings until later in the season.

“I’ve seen so many guys over the years self destruct when paying too close attention to the standings,” said Harper, who has worked at Bath Subaru in Woolwich for the last 48 years. “I just take a race-by-race approach, and let the points fall where they may.”

The Super Street division usually holds 20 races a season. However, the pandemic forced the season to be cut in half, with just 10 races. Harper, who finished atop the standings after 1o races to win the title, credited his son, Matt, for helping him get the car ready each week.

“I really have to give most of the credit to my son,” Harper explained.

Matt Harper — a mechanic — also maintains the car and keeps it in working condition, John Harper said.

John Harper has been racing since 1988, when he said a friend introduced him to the sport to him. Harper said he fell in love with it from the get-go. He has been racing at the New England Dragway for several years. When the dragway became a part of the National Hot Rod Association, it opened up opportunities for drivers — as well as more challenges.

“We decided to take a step up in division when the dragway became a part of the NHRA,” Harper said.

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