May 15, 2022,
Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) made its fifth Funny Car final elimination round appearance in seven National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series events with pilot Matt Hagan driving his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat from the No. 1 qualifier position to a runner-up finish at the Virginia Nationals in his 300th career start.
After a three-year absence from Virginia Motorsports Park, the NHRA returned to Hagan’s home track, located 190 miles from his stomping grounds in Christiansburg, Virginia, where the Dodge//SRT Funny Car driver wasted no time in setting the track speed record at 335.82 mph with his first lap, eclipsing the previous mark set in 2019 (John Force/326.32 mph) by nearly 10 mph.
The Smithfield Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat continued to improve with every run as Hagan laid down solid passes of 3.914, 3.890, and a track record elapsed time run of 3.853 seconds to secure the No. 1 qualifier position, his second of the season and 45th of his career, and was rewarded with a first-round bye to kick off eliminations.
The three-time world champion worked his way past No. 9 seed Chad Green in the quarterfinals and then watched No. 12 qualifier John Force double-step and foul out of their semifinal match-up to advance to his fifth final round appearance of the year.
Looking to add to the Wally trophies already earned this year at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, and Springnationals in Houston, Texas, the Funny Car points leader lined up for the final against No. 10 seed Robert Hight, who also has two wins under his belt and is stalking Hagan from second spot in the championship standings.
Hagan’s Dodge//SRT machine had the starting line advantage then battled side-by-side with his opponent until mid-track when Hight edged ahead to turn on the win light. Hagan’s third runner-up finish of the year, and 35th of his career, keeps him atop the Funny Car championship standings ahead of the race winner.
Fellow HEMI-powered Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon put his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car No. 4 on the eliminations ladder on the strength of his final qualifying pass at 3.905 seconds at 323.27 mph. It was the Cruz Pedregon Racing team’s sixth top-five qualifying performance in seven national events.
Pedregon kicked off his race day against No. 13 seed Phil Burkart by driving straight down the grove with a respectable pass for the warm track conditions to take the round win. He was paired against Force for a quarterfinal battle, but when Pedregon’s car immediately lost traction at the launch, his race day came to a quicker end than anticipated.
TSR Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett recorded two solid qualifying passes to put her Mobile 1 Dodge//SRT dragster No. 10 on the eliminations ladder for Sunday’s Virginia Nationals with a best lap of 3.754 seconds at 318.92 mph, and set up a first round pairing against No. 7 seed Doug Kalitta.
A quick 0.042-second reaction time gave Pruett the advantage on her opponent’s 0.057-second start but almost immediately both began to smoke the tires. Similar to what happened to her in the opening round at Houston’s Springnationals, she found herself in a pedal-fest against Kalitta. Hoping to regain traction, Pruett hit the throttle several times, even sending her ride sideways, as her opponent did the same, but unfortunately she was unable to get to the finish first.
The NHRA’s next event, the New England Nationals, will take place June 3-5 at New England Dragway near Epping, New Hampshire, the eighth of 22 national events on the schedule this season.
ADDITIONAL NOTES and QUOTES:
Leah Pruett, Dodge Power Brokers Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 10 Qualifier – 3.754 seconds at 318.92 mph)
(0.042-second reaction time, 7.253 seconds at 129.35 mph) loss to No. 7 Doug Kalitta (0.057/5.995/234.33)
“Once I got off the line, I knew I hit [the throttle] good but we smoked the tires, and thinking back to the last race when I smoked [the tires], I had a different strategy of coming back off and feathering it and feathering it, but I couldn’t regain traction. I’ve got to say, for Mobil 1, Dodge, Tony (Stewart), GEARWRENCH and everyone that’s backing us right now, clearly we are going to get it. That run is frustrating, for sure, but not every run is going to be a record-breaking run. The fans are out here to watch a show. That’s a different type of show, but we’re going to take another deep breath, digest it and keep working on it. I’m happy I’m doing my job and my team is doing their job. Once it comes together, it’s going to be lethal, I guarantee you that.”
Matt Hagan, Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.853 seconds at 331.45 mph)
(0.072-second reaction time, 3.964 seconds at 328.38 mph) bye run
(0.090/3.965/322.65) defeats No. 9 Chad Green (0.096/4.021/317.05)
(-0.036/3.955/327.03) defeats No. 12 John Force (-0.323/17.817/60.67)
(0.070/3.948/327.59) loss to No. 10 Robert Hight (0.075/3.907/328.86)
“It was another amazing weekend in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. We had a new sponsor on the car with Smithfield and got those folks crossed over from NASCAR a little bit. We went to the finals again and got to race Robert Hight. It’s going to be a fun season throwing down against him. It was special since it was my 300th career start in Virginia. Our car is running great and we’ve been to so many finals already and won two races, so I know there is more to come. We obviously wanted to win this weekend, but we’re going to be back in the Dodge Power Brokers Funny Car soon and be applying that power. I just want to say thank you to the fans for coming out and supporting us. The stands were packed. Thank you all for the love and we’re going to keep working hard to turn on those win lights.”
Cruz Pedregon, Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
(No. 4 Qualifier – 3.905 seconds at 323.27 mph)
(0.092-second reaction time, 4.038 seconds at 317.57 mph) defeats No. 13 Phil Burkart (0.117/11.252/72.81)
(0.051/10.719/75.87) loss to No. 12 John Force (0.008/3.992/329.91)
"We did a good job of qualifying the Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in the No. 4 spot and went onto the quarter finals where we lost to John Force. We spun the tires on that run at the hit of the throttle, which was unusual for us, but we were pressing. We were trying to be aggressive and the racetrack didn't hold the power we had. We'll go back and regroup and get ready for the next event. It was one of those races where the conditions went from cooler, rainy, high humidity to warmer on Sunday. Some teams adjusted well and we were good. We were just not quite where we needed to be.
"We'll learn from it, move on and, and get things ready to go for Epping which should be a good race for us. We're still maintaining that top five position in points. The great thing that I am most proud of is that the team continues to have that qualifying performance every week. It's top four, top three, top five nearly every race weekend and that's really tough to do in today's Funny Car competition with all the cars running so close. So we're going to hang our hat on that and we're going to keep digging and be ready for the next one.”
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the Virginia NHRA Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 673 (2)
2. Robert Hight: 658 (3)
3. Ron Capps: 561 (1)
4. John Force: 447
5. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 395
6. Bob Tasca III: 354
7. J.R. Todd: 331
8. Chad Green: 321
9. Alexis DeJoria: 310
10. Tim Wilkerson: 277
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Brittany Force: 605 (3)
2. Steve Torrence: 524
3. Mike Salinas: 521 (2)
4. Justin Ashley: 468 (1)
5. Austin Prock: 367
6. Clay Millican: 365
7. Josh Hart: 345
8. Doug Kalitta: 316
9. Tony Schumacher: 295
10. Shawn Langdon: 269
13. Leah Pruett (Dodge Power Brokers): 242
DodgeGarage: Digital Hub for Drag Racing News
Fans can follow all the NHRA action this season at DodgeGarage, the one-stop portal for Dodge//SRT and Mopar drag-racing news. The site includes daily updates and access to an online racing HQ, news, events, galleries, available downloads and merchandise. For more information, visit www.dodgegarage.com
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Instagram channel continues to share content capturing Dodge//SRT Mopar drivers on the track. Fans can see action from the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series and NHRA Sportsman grassroots racers, competing in classes such as Factory Stock Showdown, Stock and Super Stock, as well as additional motorsports series.
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