Tony Stewart Racing Pomona Advance for the 63rd NHRA Winternationals

Tony Stewart Racing

  • The NHRA Winternationals at Pomona Dragstrip is the third event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 21-race calendar in 2023. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) brings its two full-time entries – one in Top Fuel for 10-time Top Fuel winner Leah Pruett and one in Funny Car for 44-time Funny Car winner and three-time champion Matt Hagan.
  • Coming into Pomona, Pruett is third in the Top Fuel standings, 13 points behind leader Steve Torrence (there was a points correction following Phoenix. Torrence received a 5-point deduction due to an oil-down). This is the highest Pruett has been in points since 2020. Hagan is second in the Funny Car standings, four points behind leader Robert Hight.
  • Pruett enters Pomona representing Rinnai tankless water heaters on her white, red, gray and black Top Fuel dragster. Hagan, meanwhile, sports those same colors of Haas Automation on his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car.
  • Rinnai America Corporation, a subsidiary of Rinnai Corporation in Nagoya, Japan, was established in 1974 and is headquartered in Peachtree City, Ga. Rinnai Corporation manufactures gas appliances including tankless water heaters, a wide range of kitchen appliances and heating and air conditioning units. As the technology leader in its industry, Rinnai is the largest gas appliance manufacturer in Japan and is the number-one selling brand of tankless gas water heaters in the United States and Canada. With a global perspective to create 21st-century products for the home and business, Rinnai Corporation commits itself to safety and Creating A Healthier Way of Living©.
  • Haas Automation, founded by Gene Haas in 1983, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.
  • Pomona serves as a homecoming for Pruett as she grew up approximately 35 miles east of the track in Redlands, California.
  • The NHRA Winternationals will mark Pruett’s 196th career Top Fuel start. It’ll be her 17th overall start at Pomona and her 11th in the Winternationals. Pruett’s Top Fuel debut came at Pomona in the 2009 Finals. She has two victories at Pomona, winning the Winternationals in 2017 and 2021. In 2017, Pruett’s 3.711 ET, 324.98 mph run defeated Doug Kalitta’s 7.630 ET, 103.85 mph run. In 2021, Pruett’s 4.012 ET, 247.61 mph run defeated Justin Ashley, who was unable to make the run. Pruett has one No. 1 qualifier at the Winternationals, which came in 2017 with a 3.672 ET, 327.90 mph run.
  • Pruett’s career-best elapsed time of 3.631-seconds came at Pomona on November 10, 2018.
  • The NHRA Winternationals will be Hagan’s 318th career Funny Car start. It’ll be his 28th overall start at Pomona and his 15th in the Winternationals. He’s recorded three career wins at the Winternationals in 2015, 2017 and 2018. In 2015, he defeated Ron Capps with a 4.011 ET at 320.89 mph (compared to Capps’ 4.078 ET, 314.97 mph run). In 2017, Hagan’s 3.875 ET at 330.67 mph defeated Courtney Force (3.901 ET at 326.95 mph). In 2018, Hagan defeated Robert Hight with a 3.823 ET at 335.90 mph run (compared to Hight’s 3.866 ET, 336.99 mph run). Hagan has three No. 1 qualifiers at Pomona, which came in 2017 (3.822 ET at 335.57 mph), 2018 (3.822 ET at 336.32 mph) and 2020 (3.841 ET at 333.25 mph).
  • Hagan is the current track record holder at Pomona for elapsed time at 3.822-seconds, a mark he set on February 11, 2017.
  • By advancing to the Semifinals at the Arizona Nationals, Pruett qualified to participate in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge. The challenge brings competitive racing to the qualifying schedule at 12 regular-season events during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series campaign, pitting semifinalists from the previous race against each other in a pair of rematches, with the two winners then matching up in the final qualifying session. Pruett earned a rematch against Shawn Langdon in Round 1. There is a bonus purse and bonus points for the Countdown to the Championship on the line.
  • Pruett will participate in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty autograph session on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The session will take place at the Mission Foods Display.

Leah Pruett;

Pomona serves as a homecoming for you, with the track just 35 miles from where you grew up. How special is it coming back to Pomona each year? 

“Pomona brings all the nostalgic feels for me, from my first junior dragster rip, to spending sunrise to sundown as a fan in the stands with my blanket on the bleachers taped off to mark my spot. I locked up the Heritage Series Funny Car championship there and have earned multiple Top Fuel Winternationals wins. There are just so many peaks in my life that have taken place at Pomona, that you can’t help but feel special rolling in.”

You’ve advanced to four rounds throughout the first two events. You also had an opportunity to test following the Arizona Nationals. How valuable has all that track time been as we kick-off the 2023 season?

“We said all last year ‘We just need more runs, we need more runs! Can’t build baselines from the sidelines!’ So we are very thankful Tony (Stewart) let us test our guts out this off-season and it showed. We’re still far from where we want to be, so we will continue to push for new ways to go fast and that takes laps. I believe that what we continued to test with after Phoenix is a game-accelerator for us, just unsure if it’s consistently race ready yet. For now, we keep charging hard on two fronts – the program we run and the program we will run. That’s an extremely offensive mentality that I love.”

You’ll be representing Rinnai tankless water heaters on your Top Fuel dragster at Pomona. How special is it welcoming Rinnai as a new sponsor this season for their first primary race in the NHRA?

“Turning up the heat is one my favorite things to do, whether in life, on the track, on the thermostat, in the shower, you name it! We truly are a perfect match and I look forward to going so fast in our Rinnai dragster that people who suffer through inadequate showers and don’t have their tankless water heaters installed, wish they did. I love bringing new partners into our growing sport and helping make valuable connections with brands that improve our fans’ quality of life like Rinnai.”

Matt Hagan;

Weather in Pomona will be cooler for this year’s Winternationals. What effect will that play in setting up cars for trickier track conditions?

“The cooler weather plays into our favor and Dickie’s (Venables – crew chief) combination of being able to run hard and make a lot of power. He has a good handle on things when we roll into cool weather conditions. It could be where some of these guys don’t make enough power and the track is so tight and they shake the tires. You walk a fine line out there, so you may see some tire shake from other cars that don’t make the power that Dickie does.”

2023 marks 63 years the NHRA has been racing at Pomona. It’ll be the start of a new era with the newly-named In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip. While In-N-Out has had a presence in the sport in the past, how significant is it to the growth of the NHRA welcoming new track title sponsors?

“Pomona is such a special place. Up until this year, we started and finished the season there and crowned a champion there. There is a lot history and good memories there. To have In-N-Out come in and sponsor the race track is awesome and iconic. Their burgers are popular on the West Coast. My friend is a Twin Palms sponsor on my car and he always brings In-N-Out for my guys anytime we are in Pomona and I know they get excited about that. It’s great to have them back in the sport. Anytime we have new title sponsors, it is good for growth.”

You’ll be representing Haas Automation on your Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. How special is it getting an opportunity to display some of the same sponsors from Tony Stewart’s NASCAR program with co-owner Gene Haas?

“To be able to represent Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) with Tony Stewart and co-owner Gene Haas is awesome. I never would have dreamed of being a position of having a guy that is your team owner that is so famous and well-known in so many different aspects of motorsports. Tony has made good business decisions and created good partnerships. I am proud to be able to represent Haas Automation this weekend. In Charlotte, we bring a lot of people over from the SHR program and there is a lot of integration between us and the circle-track folks that may not be as familiar with what we do. We all tap into the same fan group and I feel like the same people like enjoy watching NASCAR are the same folks that enjoy watching us go over 300 miles an hour straight. I think it’s a good crossover, so hopefully we can get them a good finish. We have a good history of going rounds and winning races and championships in Pomona, so if I was a betting man, I’d bet on me.”  

Tony Stewart Racing  PR

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