Tony Stewart Racing: Bristol NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Advance

Tony Stewart Racing Photo

●  The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway hosts the ninth event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 22-race calendar. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) brings its two fulltime entries – one in Top Fuel for nine-time event winner Leah Pruett and one in Funny Car for three-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan.

●  Pruett and Hagan come into Bristol representing Mobil 1 and TruHarvest Farms, respectively. Pruett’s Top Fuel dragster carries the colors of Mobil 1, the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand. Meanwhile, Hagan’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car is emblazoned with TruHarvest Farms, Southwest Virginia’s largest producer of hemp-based products. TruHarvest Farms was founded in 2019 by Hagan. Sourced from its Christiansburg, Virginia location, TruHarvest Harms offers a comprehensive line of high-quality, hemp-derived CBD products that promote general health and wellness for individuals seeking an alternative to medications and supplements.

●  The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will mark Pruett’s 180th career Top Fuel start and her ninth at Bristol. For Hagan, the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will be his 302nd career Funny Car start and his 13th at Bristol. 

●  Pruett is looking for her first victory at the Thunder Valley Nationals. She has advanced to the finals once at Bristol in 2017, where her 3.881 ET at 307.09 mph run was bested by Clay Millican (3.825 ET at 316.38 mph). Pruett is seeking her first No. 1 qualifier at Bristol.

●  Hagan enters Bristol as Funny Car’s most recent winner. The Christiansburg, Virginia-native scored his 42nd career win June 5 in the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire. The victory was Hagan’s fourth win in the last five NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series events at Epping (2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022).

●  Hagan’s win at Epping expanded his lead in the Funny Car championship standing to 41 points over his nearest pursuer, Robert Hight.

●  Hagan has one career win at Bristol in 2015 (4.164 ET at 303.23 mph) when he defeated Ron Capps (4.186 ET at 307.02 mph). He also advanced to the finals in 2016, but his 4.030 ET at 317.57 mph run fell short of the one from Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.038 ET at 313.22 mph). Hagan is seeking his first No. 1 qualifier at the event.

●  Hagan is the current track record holder at Bristol for speed with a run of 330.34 mph, a mark he set on Oct. 16, 2021.

●  DYK? Bristol Dragway is a 30,000 capacity drag racing facility located next to Bristol Motor Speedway. It was originally built in 1965, making 2022 its 57th anniversary. It is often called “Thunder Valley” due to the acoustics created by its location between two mountains. This season marks the first time all four NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series classes – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – have appeared together at Thunder Valley during the same weekend.

Leah Pruett, Driver of the Mobil 1 Top Fuel Dragster 
 With Bristol Dragway being located between two mountains, is that what makes the track so special? “Experiencing a nitro race at Bristol is like none other. It might be a two-wide track, but it sounds and feels like a four-wide track with how intense the sounds of our Dodge HEMIs are firing off in the valley, echoing off the mountains. The pro pits are very close to the entire length of the track, with the main grandstands on the opposite side, so there’s not a time where you’re not feeling and hearing the action as if you’re on the line.” 

How critical is lane choice at Bristol Dragway? “Lane choice has been crucial in the past, for different reasons in different classes. A problematic area in one lane may give challenges to fuel cars, where pro stock sees challenges elsewhere. We know there have been some recent, great efforts to supply us with the smoothest surface possible, and I feel good about what we have to work with.”

 How does Bristol’s unique environment affect the car’s tuning and setup? “It’s no secret Bristol Dragway has some unique racing surface characteristics, which makes this even more of a tuner’s race when it comes to navigating where and when power is added in regard to the conditions.”

Matt Hagan, Driver of the TruHarvest Farms Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
 With Bristol Dragway being located between two mountains, is that what makes the track so special? “Rolling into Bristol is always a special weekend for me because it’s usually on Father’s Day weekend. A lot of family and friends come out to the track, so when you can win there, it’s a big race. The last time I won it, it was probably one of my most emotional races. I had my kids and my dad there for Father’s Day. I’d love to be able to do that again. It’s close to home, so I grew up with a lot of the same people watching at local drag strips. You want to be able to put on a show for everyone. I’m excited to get to Bristol. It’s only two hours away from my house, so hopefully we can keep the momentum going and get those win lights turned on again.” 

How critical is lane choice at Bristol Dragway? “Lane choice is very critical at Bristol Dragway. In the past, each lane has performed a little different from the other, so being able to run the faster time and pick your lane is important.” 

How does Bristol’s unique environment affect the car’s tuning and setup? “We’re at a little bit of altitude at Bristol with the elevation being almost 1,500 feet. It’s not near the altitude conditions that we’ll see soon in Denver. There will be a little more compression, but I don’t see the Bristol altitude being an issue. The biggest factor we’ve had there is hot temperatures, so when it gets really warm, those are the conditions we struggle with.”

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