Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett recorded her strongest performance of the season to date aboard her Dodge Power Brokers dragster with a semifinal appearance at the 15th annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Summit Racing Equipment Nationals near Norwalk, Ohio, the tenth of 22 Camping World Drag Racing Series events this season.
After four qualifying runs put her 15th on the ladder, Pruett kicked off eliminations by upsetting No. 2 qualifier Justin Ashley with her quickest pass of the weekend. She lined up her Dodge Power Brokers dragster against Steve Torrence in the quarterfinals, was quicker on the launch, and put in another solid run to stay ahead of her competitor at the finish line with a 0.0172-second margin of victory to advance.
Pruett’s opponent for her first semifinal appearance of the season was No. 3 qualifier Mike Salinas who had the slight advantage off the start as she lost traction right at the hit of the throttle. While disappointed by the loss, her performance this weekend put her back into the top-ten in the Top Fuel standings and has her looking forward to getting her 11,000 horsepower Dodge//SRT HEMI®-powered machine back on track in July for the first of three western swing events that begin with the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
In Funny Car action, the category points leader heading into the weekend, TSR driver Matt Hagan, qualified his Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat among the top-five positions on the eliminations ladder for a ninth time this season. His lap of 3.917 seconds at 329.91 mph put him fifth on the qualifying timesheet and set up a first round match-up with No. 12 seed Tim Wilkerson.
Looking to repeat his 2018 winning performance at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park, Hagan staged his HEMI-powered Funny Car next to No. 12 seed Tim Wilkerson for the opening round and made a solid pass to advance while his opponent lost traction at the start.
The Dodge Power Broker Funny Car moved on to the quarterfinals where Hagan faced off against No. 4 qualifier Bob Tasca III, but saw his ride lose traction early in the run which brought the day to an earlier end than has been the case after advancing to the final round six times in ten events this season to date. The quarterfinal result, combined with Hagan’s closest championship rival Robert Hight’s eventual event win at Norwalk, meant a drop to second place in the standings but just 21 points behind the new points leader.
Winner of last year’s Funny Car Wally trophy at Norwalk, Cruz Pedregon was looking to defend that performance as he qualified in the top-half of the Funny Car eliminations ladder for a tenth consecutive event this season by taking his Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for a 3.960 seconds lap to put him in the eighth spot. Pedregon also earned an extra bonus point in qualifying for recording the third quickest elapsed time lap in the first session of the weekend.
In his opening elimination round pairing with No. 9 seed Chad Green, Pedregon hit the throttle first and never looked back with a 3.972-second lap that wasn’t far off his qualifying time. That set up a quarterfinal battle against No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps in which Pedregon’s 3.982 sec./323.50 mph run wasn’t quite enough to beat his opponents 3.974/327.59 winning effort. The team’s eighth quarterfinal performance of the season keeps Pedregon fifth in the Funny Car standings.
The NHRA returns to action July 15-18 near Denver, Colorado, where Dodge//SRT and Mopar will mark their 33rd season as title sponsors of the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, the longest continuous event sponsorship in motorsports history.
ADDITIONAL NOTES and QUOTES:
Leah Pruett, Dodge Power Brokers Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 15 Qualifier – 3.862 seconds at 313.58 mph)
Round 1: (0.058 -second reaction time, 3.776 seconds at 327.98 mph) defeats No. 2 Justin Ashley (0.050/3.852/317.49)
Round 2: (0.062/3.798/325.61) defeats to No. 7 Steve Torrence (0.075/3.802/327.51)
Round 3: (0.076/6.062/135.36) loss to No. 3 Mike Salinas (0.063/3.822/296.89)
“Advancing to the semifinal was a long time coming and it didn’t come easy. Even though we were consistent in qualifying with our 0.86’s, we kept trying to go faster and the car was going slower. This entire year, the car has been very conversational and very reactive to what we ask it to do. This whole weekend, it was not cooperating. We were trying to throw more at it and it kept slowing down. It hung on there through the first two rounds. I’m very proud of all of my guys bolting this Dodge HEMI together. They are quality men with quality parts and great decision making skills. I’m proud of myself for being up on the wheel.
“My takeaways are yes, we get excited about some round wins, but we didn’t get overzealous. We are highlighting how we got to this point and we will also be highlighting why we smoked the tires in the semifinal. We didn’t think we were too far over center, but we got a better handle on going rounds. Being in the top ten right now, we are good at clinching onto what we know and moving forward with momentum. We will do the same thing with the points. This was very needed on all parts – for morale, attitudes and performance of the car. It was an awesome weekend to do it in our Dodge Power Brokers dragster as we brokered it to the semifinal.”
Matt Hagan, Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 5 Qualifier – 3.917 seconds at 329.91 mph)
Round 1: (0.070-second reaction time, 3.948 seconds at 322.65 mph) defeats No. 12 Tim Wilkerson (0.058/8.509/104.92)
Round 2: (0.064/4.876/173.45) loss to No. 4 Bob Tasca III (0.046/3.941/327.27)
“Having qualified fifth this weekend, we had a good race car. We are just trying to gather more data in the heat. Dickie Venables (crew chief) always has a great handle on what he’s doing and the decisions to make next. I know he’s always got a great game plan. Once we get out to Denver, we’ll be doing the Dodge Drive Event on Wednesday and Thursday, so we’ll have a long and productive weekend to start the western swing.
We’ll be changing up our entire combination and use the one we had last year when we won at Bandimere. We will take what we learned here and tuck it away until we get to another hot race track with similar conditions and we can apply the knowledge we learned this weekend in the Dodge Power Brokers Funny Car. All in all, it’s tough when you’ve been on such a roll to go out in the second round a couple of times in a row, but that is drag racing. We will keep digging and growing and building our data to move forward.”
Cruz Pedregon, Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
(No. 8 Qualifier – 3.960 seconds at 281.30 mph)
Round 1: (0.063-second reaction time, 3.972 seconds at 316.75 mph) defeats No. 9 Chad Green (0.117/4.056/302.55)
Round 2: (0093/3.982/323.50) loss to No. 1 Ron Capps (0.038/3.974/327.59)
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Bristol Dragway
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Robert Hight 929 (4)
2. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 908 (3)
3. Ron Capps: 829 (2)
4. John Force: 655
5. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 561
6. Bob Tasca III: 517
7. J.R. Todd: 509
8. Alexis DeJoria: 490
9. Tim Wilkerson: 443
10. Chad Green: 408
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Mike Salinas: 821 (3)
2. Brittany Force: 809 (3)
3. Steve Torrence: 712
4. Justin Ashley: 711 (2)
5. Austin Prock: 513
6. Josh Hart: 509
7. Shawn Langdon: 467
8. Clay Millican: 462
9. Doug Kalitta: 459
10. Leah Pruett (Dodge Power Brokers): 417
Mopar Dodge//SRT Motorsports PR