- The Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals near Charlotte, North Carolina, is the 17th race on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 21-race schedule and it serves as the second race in the six-race Countdown to the Championship. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) drivers Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan are eyeing a title run in their respective Top Fuel and Funny Car divisions. This year’s Countdown marks Pruett’s seventh appearance in the NHRA postseason and Hagan’s 12th.
- Pruett is currently fourth in the Top Fuel standings heading into the second round of Countdown, 54 points behind leader Steve Torrence. Hagan is fourth in the Funny Car standings, 51 points behind leader Robert Hight.
- Pruett comes into Charlotte representing Rinnai America Corporation on her red, white, gray and black Top Fuel dragster. Hagan, meanwhile, sports red on his Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage 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©.
- Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage (JHG) was formed in 2021 and brings a passion and flare to the automotive world. They aim to inspire, drive and celebrate progress. JHG spans across Jason Johnson’s car collection featuring more than 200 sought after vehicles from classics, to hot rods and supercars. Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage’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. Johnson’s history in the industry began with Mather Auto Dismantler, Mather Mini Trucks and U-Pull It in Northern California. He later held an instrumental role in the growth and success of Copart, Inc., a global provider of online vehicle auction and remarketing services. JHG also serves as a primary sponsor of Elite Motorsports in the NHRA Pro Stock series.
- Pruett and Hagan competed at Charlotte April 28-30 in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Pruett secured the No. 3 qualifying position after four qualifying sessions, and advanced to the Finals on Sunday, where she finished runner-up to Austin Prock. Hagan secured the No. 4 qualifying position at the Four-Wide Nationals, but was eliminated following Round 1 on Sunday.
- The Carolina Nationals will serve as Pruett’s 203rd career Top Fuel start. It’ll be her 20th overall start at Charlotte and her 10th in the Carolina Nationals. For Hagan, the Carolina Nationals will be his 328th career Funny Car start. It’ll be his 28th overall start at Charlotte and his 15th in the Carolina Nationals.
- Pruett is seeking her first victory in the Carolina Nationals, as well as her first No. 1 qualifier at the event. Pruett earned two of her four career wins in Pro Modified at this event in 2011 and 2012. Her two best Top Fuel effort was a semifinal loss to J.R. Todd in 2015.
- Hagan has three career wins at Charlotte – two in the Carolina Nationals and one in the Four-Wide Nationals. His Carolina Nationals wins came in 2011 and 2014 while his Four-Wide triumph was earned in 2013. In his first Carolina Nationals win on Sept. 18, 2011, Hagan’s 4.130 ET at 301.06 mph defeated Mike Neff’s 4.431 ET at 202.79 mph. Hagan scored his second Carolina Nationals win on Sept. 20, 2014 when he defeated John Force. Hagan ran a 4.212 ET at 297.81 mph while Force fouled at the start, negating his run of 4.140 ET at 309.77 mph.
- Hagan has one No. 1 qualifier at the Carolina Nationals, which came on Sept. 17, 2011 (3.995 ET at 316.23 mph).
- 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 Carolina Nationals will be homecoming for team owner Tony Stewart, where his NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing, is just nine miles north of the track in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
- Pruett and Hagan will participate in a Dodge autograph session on Friday from 5:45-6:15 p.m. EDT and again on Saturday from 12:45-1:15 p.m. EDT. Both sessions take place in the pits at the Dodge display.
You were runner up a zMAX Dragway in the Spring. Build upon that success with your second visit to this track this season.
“The Spring race was a turning-point in performance for us as we committed to running a new system on the car, which rings similar to our last race in Reading where we made our second-biggest move of the year. We implemented phase two of that tune-up strategy that showed impressive results once dialed in. We most definitely will be using the Spring race’s data to build upon for this race with what we’ve learned since then.”
You’ll be representing Rinnai in Charlotte. Talk about the significance of their corporate executives from Japan attending the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals in Reading and being able to carry their colors into the next race.
“The connection between Rinnai tankless water heaters and professional drag racing immensely makes sense because we both focus on instant results, hot water at the speed of our fast cars. That is something that translates from customers, to installers, to suppliers, to corporate executives from Japan that visited us in Reading last week to support our TSR teams. I was thoroughly impressed with them, their interest in our sport, and of course the entire Rinnai team that has harnessed the motorsport platform. I look forward to meeting customers this week, and hearing from the fans weekly at the ropes how much they love their Rinnai tankless water heaters.”
Even though you lost one of the closest side-by side-races in Reading, how does that make you feel about your car and your team going into the second race in the Countdown at Charlotte?
“That battle in Reading could have gone either way when you’re talking about a .0001 margin. It’s pretty incredible actually at over 300 miles per hour. We know we’re making power and running well. We’re making good strides with what Dickie (Venables – crew chief) is wanting to do with the engine combination and the clutch. We have five races left, so we’re ready to get after it.”
How special is it returning to Charlotte, with that track being considered one of your home races?
“It’s neat having so many friends and family come out in Charlotte because we have a lot of support. There’d be nothing better than to win in front of them. I’m looking forward to getting back in the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Funny Car. Hopefully we can lay down some good numbers and keep moving forward with our good consistency.”
Tony Stewart Racing PR