Tony Stewart Racing: Las Vegas Advance for the NHRA Nevada Nationals

Tony Stewart Racing

●  The NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the penultimate race on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 22-race schedule and it is the fifth round in the six-race Countdown to the Championship. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) drivers Leah Pruett (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) are both in the Countdown, with 2022 marking Pruett’s sixth appearance in the NHRA postseason and Hagan’s 11th.

●  Pruett is 11th in the Top Fuel standings heading into Las Vegas, 243 points behind championship leader Justin Ashley. Hagan is third in the Funny Car standings, 78 points behind leader Robert Hight. Pruett’s best career points finish is fourth, earned three times (2018, 2019 and 2020). Hagan is a three-time champion (2011, 2014 and 2020).

●  Dodge Power Brokers and Direct Connection return to Pruett’s Top Fuel dragster and Hagan’s Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car this weekend at Las Vegas. The Dodge Power Brokers program serves as the exclusive source for Direct Connection, Dodge’s factory-backed performance parts program, which is equipped with staff trained to deliver a performance-focused customer service experience. 

●  Pruett and Hagan competed at Las Vegas earlier this year (April 1-3) during the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Pruett secured the No. 3 qualifying position and advanced to Round 2 on Sunday. Hagan secured the No. 4 qualifying position and advanced to the Finals on Sunday, where his run of 3.924 ET at 324.44 mph fell short of Ron Capps’s race-winning run of 3.914 ET at 331.20 mph.

●  The NHRA Nevada Nationals will be Pruett’s 192nd career Top Fuel start. It’ll be her 15th overall start at Las Vegas and her ninth in the NHRA Nevada Nationals. For Hagan, the NHRA Nevada Nationals will be his 314th career Funny Car start. It’ll be his 27th overall start at Las Vegas and his 14th in the NHRA Nevada Nationals.  

●  Pruett earned the No. 1 qualifier at the 2019 NHRA Nevada Nationals with an ET of 3.654 seconds at 330.47 mph, which set a new track record. She is seeking her first Top Fuel victory at Las Vegas, with her best result coming in the 2018 NHRA Nevada Nationals when she finished runner-up to event winner Steve Torrence. Pruett, however, has proven victorious at Las Vegas. She won the Pro Mod title in the 2011 NHRA Nevada Nationals.

●  Hagan has three career wins at the NHRA Nevada Nationals (2017, 2019 and 2020). For his first victory in 2017, Hagan ran a 3.942 ET at 329.42 mph to defeat Courtney Force (4.020 ET at 320.00 mph). In 2019, Hagan ran a 3.876 ET at 331.36 mph to defeat Jonnie Lindberg (3.945 ET at 321.12 mph). And in 2020, Hagan clocked a 3.914 ET at 326.40 mph to defeat Ron Capps (4.463 ET at 173.70 mph).

●  Hagan has two No. 1 qualifiers at the NRHA Nevada Nationals, which came in 2009 (4.030 ET at 313.88 mph) and 2014 (3.983 ET at 322.42 mph).

●  After the NHRA Nevada Nationals are over, Pruett will return to Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 3 and head to Nellis Air Force Base to fly with the Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds perform for people all around the world to display the pride, precision and professionalism the U.S. Air Force represents. Through air shows and flyovers, they aim to excite and inspire. In addition to showcasing the elite skills all pilots must possess, the Thunderbirds demonstrate the incredible capabilities of the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter jet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Leah Pruett, Driver of the Dodge Power Brokers Top Fuel Dragster

In the series’ last event at Dallas, you and your team made significant improvements to your dragster, and you continue to be competitive each time you hit the track. What’s your confidence level heading into Las Vegas?  

“It’s the type of confidence that’s stronger than just knowing that we can do it and more so the confidence of knowing we’ve finally unlocked the initial findings of what it takes to be throw-down fast. I’m looking forward to bringing our Dodge Power Brokers dragster to Las Vegas and giving it all we have.”

You’ll be testing at Las Vegas after the NHRA Nevada Nationals. How valuable will that track day be as you start to prepare for 2023?  

“This test day will most likely be as valuable as the first time we hit the track, as this particular test session will have implications of what wholesale changes we move forward with next year. Our potential changes require strategy and time, which is why we have to start now and not wait for the standard pre-season test.”

Following the NHRA Nevada Nationals, you’ll get the unique opportunity to fly with the Thunderbirds. What are your expectations? 

“I often get asked what it feels like to drive a Top Fuel dragster and whether we pass out from the g-forces. I always hit them back with an explanation of our sudden g-swings compared to the sustained g-forces that the Thunderbirds pilots experience. I look forward to not only experiencing the physical rush of the ride, but being in the presence of the Air Force servicemen and women while learning about their skills and how they’re used to keep America safe. I’m extremely appreciative of this opportunity, as it’s one I’m getting ready to cherish for my entire life. I’m also doing everything that’s recommended to prevent getting sick up there and seeing how long I can sustain eight to nine g-forces before experiencing tunnel vision.”

Matt Hagan, Driver of the Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car

You’ve won the NHRA Nevada Nationals three times in the last five years. What makes you so successful in this event? 

“Just like we’ve done well in races at the beginning of the season, I think we always do well in races at the end of the season. It’s favorable conditions as far as what Dickie (Venables, crew chief) is comfortable with and being able to push hard. Our Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car is making a lot of power and as those tracks cool down, our car is able to maintain that power. Here at the end of the year, these obviously count a lot. We’re 78 points out and have a lot of ground to make up. (Robert) Hight and (Ron) Capps have to have two bad races and we have to have two good races. We’re going to go into Las Vegas and work hard and do our best to race our racecar.”

By advancing to the finals at Dallas, you were able to chip away at the gap to Funny Car leader Robert Hight. With only 78 points separating you and him, what is your outlook heading into Las Vegas?

“Being 78 points back, we have to have two good races. We kind of backed ourselves into a corner and have to come out swinging and win these next two races to have a shot at the championship. We have to be aggressive. We still have a shot at this, but things have to line up a bit. We have to scoop up those little points and turn win lights on.”

You’ll be testing at Las Vegas after the NHRA Nevada Nationals. How valuable will that track day be as you start to prepare for 2023?  

“Testing will be very valuable for next year. We won’t be making wholesale changes for the last race, but it’ll allow us the opportunity to gear up for the following season. As a driver, I always learn something by being in the car, and it’ll help the team by also learning some things for next year.”


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