- The Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals near Charlotte, North Carolina, is the fifth event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 21-race calendar in 2023. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) brings its two fulltime entries – one in Top Fuel for 10-time Top Fuel winner Leah Pruett and one in Funny Car for three-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan. Hagan delivered TSR’s third victory of the season in the prior event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, driving his Haas Automation Dodge SRT Hellcat Funny Car to his 46th career victory in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
- Coming into Charlotte, Pruett is sixth in the Top Fuel standings, 71 points behind leader Steve Torrence. Hagan leads the Funny Car standings with a 105-point advantage over Ron Capps.
- With his win at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Hagan is 19th in all-time NHRA tour victories and fourth among Funny Car drivers behind only John Force (155), Ron Capps (67) and Robert Hight (54).
- Pruett enters Charlotte representing Rush Truck Centers on her red Top Fuel dragster. Hagan, meanwhile, sports the red, white, blue and black colors of Operation Healing Forces (OHF) and Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage (JHG) on his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car.
- Rush Truck Centers is the largest network of commercial vehicle dealerships in North America with 140 locations in 23 states and 15 locations in Canada and takes pride in its integrated approach to customer needs – from vehicle sales to aftermarket parts, service and body shop operations, plus financing, insurance, leasing and rental, as well as alternate fuel systems and other vehicle technologies. Rush Truck Centers proudly employs 3,000 talented service technicians and they are the heartbeat of its dealerships. The company is always looking to add the best and brightest technicians to its team. Service technicians interested in looking for the next step in their careers can find additional information and listings of open positions on the Rush Enterprises Technician Careers page.
- Operation Healing Forces was formed in 2011 with the goal of strengthening human bonds amongst the Special Operation Forces (SOF) community. OHF’s programs are specifically designed and tailored to enable war-torn men and women to break through the silence and openly discuss their battlefield and personal hardships and provide needed support. OHF believes in reintegration, rehabilitation and resiliency.
- Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage was formed in 2021 by Jason Johnson and brings a passion and flare to the automotive realm. They aim to inspire, drive and celebrate progress. JHG spans across Johnson’s car collection featuring more than 200 sought after vehicles from classics, to hot rods and supercars. JHG’s mission is to preserve and showcase the automotive industry. The vehicles are driven to and displayed at events by Johnson and his team with the goal of growing interest and keeping car culture thriving.
- The Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals will mark Pruett’s 198th career Top Fuel start. It’ll be her 18th overall start at Charlotte and her 10th in the Four-Wide Nationals. For Hagan, the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals will be his 320th career Funny Car start. It’ll be his 24th overall start at Charlotte and his 12th in the Four-Wide Nationals.
- Pruett is eyeing her first victory at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. In 2017 and 2019, she advanced to the final quad at Charlotte. In 2015, Pruett raced to a semifinal appearance at the Carolina Nationals. Pruett is seeking her first No. 1 qualifier at the event. She did hoist the winner’s trophy in Pro Modified at the fall race in both 2011 and 2012 and was the No. 1 qualifier in Factory Stock in the spring event in 2018.
- Hagan has three career wins at Charlotte. Two of his victories came in 2011 and 2014 during the Carolina Nationals. Hagan won the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals on April 21, 2013 (4.071 ET at 315.34 mph) when he defeated Blake Alexander (4.156 ET at 294.56 mph), Tim Wilkerson (5.141 ET at 153.39 mph) and Chad Head (10.525 ET at 67.05 mph). Hagan has raced in five final quads at Charlotte (2010, 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019). He is seeking his first No. 1 qualifier at the event.
- Hagan was the first Funny Car driver to break the four-second barrier when he completed a run of 3.995 seconds in 2011 at Charlotte. His milestone run was commemorated with a sign on the retaining wall near the starting line.
- The Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals will be a family affair for TSR as team owner Tony Stewart will host people from Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the NASCAR team he co-owns with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas. SHR is just nine miles north of the track in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
After a strong weekend at the last Four-Wide Nationals event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, how much confidence does that give you heading into another four-wide event?
“What brings me the most confidence is that we’ve identified why we were continuing to lose power, real horsepower, throughout the weekend in Vegas. With that fox in place, we should be right back to peak performance in our Rush Truck Centers dragster. I’m looking forward to having them back onboard.”
How special is it having husband Tony Stewart also compete in the NHRA and being able to share in him earning his first Wally in the Top Alcohol dragster at Las Vegas?
“I’ve never experienced as much joy than I did being there for Tony and the McPhillips Racing’s team win. My heart was about to explode on the line being so full of happiness for him. When it is something you work hard at and dedicate a great deal of time to and you watch someone do the same and have a contributing role in it, the enjoyment factor achieves a new height. Most specifically, Tony is a racer and that tiger was very much starving for a win since getting out of the seat of the sprint car and NASCAR Cup cars.”
You and your crew have earned three wins out of the first four events this season. Even though it’s early in the year, does that already get you thinking about the Countdown to the Championship?
“Having three wins at the beginning of the season like this is huge. Just to get one win in a Funny Car is incredible. I remember the days I wanted to just win one round. It speaks volumes about this team and what we are capable of. It shows what we can accomplish when we’re motived and driven and firing on eight cylinders. You still have to stay humble. These cars are a handful. They’re a handful to drive and they’re a handful for the tuner. There is nothing easy about it. You can win a race and then roll to the next one and unload the car and not even go down the track. I’ve been there and done that, so as much as you think you have it figured out, these Funny Cars are funny. I’m very confident with what we’re doing. We’re going to test our old backup car on Tuesday, which will give us more confidence as well in case we need to pull it out. I can’t say enough about my guys and team. It shows how important it is to keep a group together. We are a well-oiled machine and things are really clicking off. It was so special being able to win with Tony (Stewart) in Las Vegas and seeing him pull out his first NHRA Wally. He’s genuinely happy and excited about the sport and his part in it.”
What does it mean to represent Operation Healing Forces and Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage on your Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car at Charlotte?
“It is going to be big having Operation Healing Forces and Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage on the car this weekend. I’ve been wanting to get JHG on the car and get them a trophy, so I’d like to make good on my word. It’s great to have their group back on the nitro side of things, since they’re heavily involved in Pro Stock. Operation Healing Forces is doing great things for our veterans. Our veterans deserve all the glory and love because they put their lives on the line for us. We can’t say or do enough for them. They’re so brave to sacrifice everything for us, which allows us to do what we do. When you put your hand over your heart for the National Anthem, it means something. I respect Operation Healing Forces a lot.”
Tony Stewart Racing PR