Just four races into the 2022 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series’ season, Matt Hagan has put the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team into the Funny Car championship points lead by driving his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to a runner-up finish at the Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After earning the team’s first nitro win and his first career Gatornationals victory last month, Hagan followed-up that performance this weekend by advancing to TSR’s third consecutive final round appearance in its first season of competition.
This weekend’s uniquely formatted competition, the first of two four-wide events this season, saw racers battle one another in four lanes instead of the usual two, and as such, they also had four qualifying sessions to make a pass in each lane. Hagan put his Dodge Power Brokers Direct Connection Funny Car in the No. 4 qualifying position for eliminations with the second quickest lap of the second session by posting a 3.920-second elapsed time run at 332.92 mph.
In eliminations, Hagan turned on the win light in the first of three rounds to beat No. 5 Bob Tasca III, No. 12 Chad Green, and No. 13 Jeff Diehl and advanced to the next round, along with Tasca, to face No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps and No. 9 seed J.R. Todd. In the second stanza, Hagan finished second to fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver and defending Funny Car champ Capps, with both moving on to the final quad to join No. 6 Robert Hight and No. 10 Alexis DeJoria and battle for the Four-Wide Nationals Wally trophy at Las Vegas.
The final round saw Hagan come off the start line with the Capps and Hight and in a close race from start to finish. The Dodge Power Broker Funny Car charged to the runner-up finish just behind the HEMI-powered machine of Capps, who earned his first national event win as an owner and driver. Hagan takes over the points lead by nine points over Hight, with Capps and Cruz Pedregon also among the top contenders in the class.
TSR Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett swapped her dragster’s usual Dodge Power Brokers paint scheme for a Code 3 Associates wrap for Las Vegas to bring attention to the non-profit organization that goes into disaster areas to rescue animals and help reunite them with their owners. She kicked off the weekend with two solid pulls on Friday to earn the provisional No. 1 qualifier position with a best run of 3.741 seconds at 326.79 mph.
She consistently posted qualifying lap times that kept her and her Dodge//SRT performance machine among the top-five in each of the four sessions, collected a total of five bonus points for her efforts, and earned the No. 3 spot on the eliminations ladder for Sunday’s four-wide battles.
Pruett powered her dragster straight down the lane to turn on her first win light of the season with quick 0.042-second reaction time and solid 3.740-second elapsed time run at 327.27 mph ahead of No. 11 Shawn Langdon (0.069/3.853/316.01), No. 10 Doug Kalitta (0.065/4.100/227.80) and No. 14 Rob Passey (0.098/13.101/63.28).
Pruett and Langdon both advanced to the second quad to face No. 2 qualifier Brittany Force and No. 7 Steve Torrence. Pruett launched and battled hard against her competition to cross the finish with a 3.745 sec./325.69 mph run, just a hair behind Torrence’s 3.744 sec./328.46 mph lap and Force’s round winning effort of 3.725 sec./329.58 mph, and ahead of Langdon’s 3.884 sec./294.32 mph.
Funny Car driver and team owner Cruz Pedregon took his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for a 3.926-second elapsed time run at 321.9 mph to record the quickest run of the third qualifying session, earn three bonus points, and put himself in the No. 7 position on the eliminations ladder for Sunday’s main event. Pedregon staged his HEMI-powered ride alongside No. 2 qualifier John Force, No. 10 Alexis DeJoria, and No. 15 Jim Campbell for the opening stanza and powered off the start to battle Force to the halfway mark until a loss of traction dropped him out of contention for advancement to the next round.
The Dodge//SRT Mopar-powered contingent will be back on track on April 2-24 at Houston Raceway Park in Texas for the 35th edition of the NHRA SpringNationals, the fifth of 22 NHRA national events this season.
ADDITIONAL NOTES and QUOTES:
Leah Pruett, Dodge Power Brokers Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.741 seconds at 326.79 mph)
Round 1: (0.042-second reaction time, 3.740 seconds at 327.27 mph) defeated No. 11 Shawn Langdon (0.069/3.853/316.01), No. 10 Doug Kalitta (0.065/4.100/227.80) and No. 14 Rob Passey (0.098/13.101/63.28)
Round 2: (0.068/3.745/325.69) loss to No. 2 Brittany Force (0.056/3.725/329.58) and No. 7 Steve Torrence (0.057/3.744/328.46), defeated No. 11 Shawn Langdon (0.052/3.884/294.32)
“What a monumental weekend for the Code 3 Associates [Dodge//SRT Mopar-powered] Top Fuel dragster. The points at the end of the Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals may not represent that, but anybody that was here, or watched the FS1 broadcast or looked at the times, and saw that we made six full clean healthy passes that where fast and qualified us No. 3, knows that we are coming. We just needed a little bit of momentum and we have found it. We are extremely happy with the way that our car is running. The attitude of these team members is great. They know that we knew in the off-season that we had the potential. We were the only ones that really knew and believed in our performance. This past weekend, our competition now knows that we’re coming and that’s exciting.
“I have really worked hard on finding my love and passion again for drag racing, being eager to be at the line to cut down the Christmas tree, and actually race and enjoy racing. It’s been a long time since really enjoyed that. I attribute it to the positive-minded people that I have around me. I am more excited at this moment than I had been all season because our potential is showing itself. We’ve got one foot out that opening door right now and we’re going to take that other step and people will know that we’re coming.
“It was tough competition today. Four-wides are always interesting and require maximum focus on all parts. NHRA did a fantastic job of keeping all four lanes equal and prepped and primed for us to lay it down. We were within just a couple, one to two hundredths off the top competitors in our field and for the pace of our progress, which has been very fast, is inspiring. It’s encouraging. It’s what makes me more excited than I’ve ever been to get back in the race car and race at Houston coming up.”
Matt Hagan, Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 4 Qualifier – 3.920 seconds at 332.92 mph)
Round 1: (0.068-second reaction time, 3.929 seconds at 323.35 mph) defeated No. 5 Bob Tasca III (0.087/3.929/326.32), No. 12 Chad Green (0.081/3.937/312.35), and No. 13 Jeff Diehl (0.078/4.136/291.07)
Round 2: (0.060/3.919/320.43) finished second to No. 1 Ron Capps (0.073/3.902/329.91) and defeated No. 9 J.R. Todd (0.047/3.936/326.08) and No. 5 Bob Tasca III (0.073/3.949/323.12)
Round 3: (0.056/3.924/324.44) finished runner-up to No. 1 Ron Capps (0.053/3.914/331.20) and defeated No. 6 Robert Hight (0.052/3.943/328.94) and No. 10 Alexis DeJoria (0.088/3.954/321.35)
“What a crazy race. Anytime we go four-wide it’s always crazy, but we had a really solid weekend, finished number two, and took over to points lead. The [Dodge Power Brokers Funny Car] is running really good. It was a little tough as we’re up here on a hill a little bit with the altitude and trying to make power, but [Crew Chief] Dickie Venables is the man at we had a great race car this weekend and had three good rounds on Sunday after qualifying number four. I’m really proud of my guys.
“We’re going to test tomorrow here and try to make some more power up here on the hill because we’ll be back here in Vegas [for the Dodge//SRT Nationals] in October around Halloween time. I can’t wait to get back here. We’ve got a lot more racing to go.”
Cruz Pedregon, Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
(No. 7 Qualifier – 3.926 seconds at 321.96 mph)
Round 1: (0.112-second reaction time, 4.343 seconds at 206.16 mph) loss to quad winner No. 2 John Force (0.092/3.978/328.14), No. 10 Alexis DeJoria (0.177/3.932/327.43), and No. 15 Jim Campbell (0.112/4.066/313.00)
“Las Vegas Four-Wide started off being a really good event for us. Our Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat had the quickest run of Q3 at a 3.92 seconds at over 322 mph which was a solid run. It was very smooth and it was actually done during the hottest part of the weekend when the track temperature was 120 degrees. We felt good going into the race day with our quad consisting of John Force, Alexis DeJoria and Jim Campbell. We felt good and felt we had a good shot to win. We were actually leading the other three cars until we smoked the tires about half track and that was the end of our weekend, unfortunately.
“Overall a good a good weekend. We had been consistently qualifying in the top five and we got moved down to seventh, but if you look at the times, there was a lot of 3.92s. We were right there and everybody was really close. Obviously we didn’t accomplish our goals of winning the race, but it was still a good solid weekend for us and we’re going to set our sights on Houston now.”
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Las Vegas
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat)-394 (1)
2. Robert Hight-385 (1)
3. Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat)-354 (1)
4. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat)-224
5. John Force-217
6. Alexis DeJoria-207
7. Bob Tasca III-193
8. Tim Wilkerson-183
9. J.R. Todd-170
10. Chad Green-163
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Steve Torrence-304
2. Brittany Force-300
3. Mike Salinas- 297
4. Justin Ashley-270 (1)
5. Clay Millican-229
6. Austin Prock-198
7. Tony Schumacher-192
8. Josh Hart-189
9. Doug Kalitta-168
10. Antron Brown-164
14. Leah Pruett (Dodge Power Brokers)-137