Just four races into the 2022 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series’ season, Matt Hagan has put the Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team into the Funny Car championship points lead by driving his Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat to a runner-up finish at the Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. After earning the team’s first nitro win and his first career Gatornationals victory last month, Hagan followed-up that performance this weekend by advancing to TSR’s third consecutive final round appearance in its first season of competition.
This weekend’s uniquely formatted competition, the first of two four-wide events this season, saw racers battle one another in four lanes instead of the usual two, and as such, they also had four qualifying sessions to make a pass in each lane. Hagan put his Dodge Power Brokers Direct Connection Funny Car in the No. 4 qualifying position for eliminations with the second quickest lap of the second session by posting a 3.920-second elapsed time run at 332.92 mph.
In eliminations, Hagan turned on the win light in the first of three rounds to beat No. 5 Bob Tasca III, No. 12 Chad Green, and No. 13 Jeff Diehl and advanced to the next round, along with Tasca, to face No. 1 qualifier Ron Capps and No. 9 seed J.R. Todd. In the second stanza, Hagan finished second to fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver and defending Funny Car champ Capps, with both moving on to the final quad to join No. 6 Robert Hight and No. 10 Alexis DeJoria and battle for the Four-Wide Nationals Wally trophy at Las Vegas.
The final round saw Hagan come off the start line with the Capps and Hight and in a close race from start to finish. The Dodge Power Broker Funny Car charged to the runner-up finish just behind the HEMI®-powered machine of Capps, who earned his first national event win as an owner and driver. Hagan takes over the points lead by nine points over Hight, with Capps and Cruz Pedregon also among the top contenders in the class.
TSR Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett swapped her dragster’s usual Dodge Power Brokers paint scheme for a Code 3 Associates wrap for Las Vegas to bring attention to the non-profit organization that goes into disaster areas to rescue animals and help reunite them with their owners. She kicked off the weekend with two solid pulls on Friday to earn the provisional No. 1 qualifier position with a best run of 3.741 seconds at 326.79 mph.
She consistently posted qualifying lap times that kept her and her Dodge//SRT performance machine among the top-five in each of the four sessions, collected a total of five bonus points for her efforts, and earned the No. 3 spot on the eliminations ladder for Sunday’s four-wide battles.
Pruett powered her dragster straight down the lane to turn on her first win light of the season with quick 0.042-second reaction time and solid 3.740-second elapsed time run at 327.27 mph ahead of No. 11 Shawn Langdon (0.069/3.853/316.01), No. 10 Doug Kalitta (0.065/4.100/227.80) and No. 14 Rob Passey (0.098/13.101/63.28).
Pruett and Langdon both advanced to the second quad to face No. 2 qualifier Brittany Force and No. 7 Steve Torrence. Pruett launched and battled hard against her competition to cross the finish with a 3.745 sec./325.69 mph run, just a hair behind Torrence’s 3.744 sec./328.46 mph lap and Force’s round winning effort of 3.725 sec./329.58 mph, and ahead of Langdon’s 3.884 sec./294.32 mph.
Funny Car driver and team owner Cruz Pedregon took his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for a 3.926-second elapsed time run at 321.9 mph to record the quickest run of the third qualifying session, earn three bonus points, and put himself in the No. 7 position on the eliminations ladder for Sunday’s main event. Pedregon staged his HEMI-powered ride alongside No. 2 qualifier John Force, No. 10 Alexis DeJoria, and No. 15 Jim Campbell for the opening stanza and powered off the start to battle Force to the halfway mark until a loss of traction dropped him out of contention for advancement to the next round.
The Dodge//SRT Mopar®-powered contingent will be back on track on April 2-24 at Houston Raceway Park in Texas for the 35th edition of the NHRA SpringNationals, the fifth of 22 NHRA national events this season.