Six events into the 2022 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series’ season and the new Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) nitro team continues to demonstrate consistency and steady improvement with both Dodge//SRT® and Mopar®-supported entries in Funny Car and Top Fuel as drivers Matt Hagan and Leah Pruett both qualified their 11,000 horsepower machines No. 2 in their respective categories for the elimination rounds of the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway on Sunday.
This weekend’s uniquely formatted competition, the second of the two national events this season in which competitors battle across four lanes instead of the usual two, kicked off with four qualifying attempts to set the field for Sunday’s event. Hagan, who arrived at the Charlotte area dragstrip with two wins and three consecutive final round appearance aboard the Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat, set his quickest qualifying lap in the second session with a 3.867 second elapsed time at 330.55 mph to earn the provisional No. 2 spot and two bonus points. He added another bonus point with his final qualifying effort of 3.921 seconds at 328.70 mph which was third quickest of the session.
From the No. 2 spot on the Funny Car eliminations ladder, Hagan’s Shelor Motor Mile Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was quickest off the start line and turned on the opening round win light with a 0.086-second reaction time, 3.895-second pass at 331.69 mph ahead of No. 15 seed Mike McIntire Jr. (0.100/3.966/316.01), No.7 seed Blake Alexander (0.097/5.652/127.04) and No. 10 Paul Lee (0.101/13.325/62.51).
The three-time Funny Car world champ advanced to the second stanza along with McIntire to meet up with No. 3 qualifier Ron Capps and No. 6 seed J. R Todd. While Hagan had a quick 0.045-second reaction time, after losing traction early was able to recover (8.168 sec./ 91.59 mph) to beat Todd to the finish but not enough to catch Capps (0.035/3.954/323.89) and McIntire Jr. (0.184/4.031/312.64) to advance further. Hagan’s performance was enough to stay in the Funny Car championship lead with a 22-point advantage over second place contender Robert Hight.
In Top Fuel qualifying, Pruett improved on her first pass of 3.730 seconds at 319.29 mph by taking her Dodge Power Brokers dragster for a stout 3.686-second drive at 327.51 mph with her second lap to earn the No. 2 spot for Sunday’s elimination and collect two bonus points.
Two more solid qualifying laps of 3.773 sec./326.40 mph and 3.734 sec./ 329.10 mph demonstrated consistent performance by the TSR team and driver on their way to race day.
The last time she started eliminations for the No. 2 position, Pruett won the Pomona national event in July 2021. With the hope of repeating that success, the Dodge Power Brokers Direct Connection driver staged her HEMI®-powered dragster for Top Fuel’s opening round against No. 7 qualifier Brittany Force, No. 10 seed Spencer Massey and No. 15 seed Tony Schumacher.
Pruett and Force left the line with identical 0.079-second reaction times, but while her adversary recorded the quickest run of the quad (3.732 sec./329.67 mph) and the TSR driver’s run (3.741/323.89) was second quickest, Massey’s slower 3.749/323.27 pass beat Pruett to the finish with the help of a hole shot (0.035 sec. reaction time) to eliminate her from advancing further.
Additionally, in Funny Car action, the Cruz Pedregon Racing team continued their string of consistent qualifying performances by qualifying the Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in the top-five for a fifth time in the first six national events of the season. Team owner and driver, Cruz Pedregon set the second quickest laps in both Q1 and Q3 session aboard his HEMI-powered machine to earn a total of four bonus points and put himself fifth on the eliminations ladder.
A quick 0.037-second reaction time by Pedregon gave his Hellcat Funny Car the advantage on the start over No. 4 qualifier Robert Hight, No. 12 seed Tim Wilkerson and No. 13 seed Jim Campbell. His 3.921 seconds/ 328.46 mph run helped him finish second to quad winner Hight’s (0.057 sec. reaction time) 3.880/332.67 pass and beat Wilkerson and Campbell to advance.
The second round didn’t go as the Cruz Pedregon team has hoped when a loss of traction at the hit of the throttle ended his hopes of advancing to the final quad in his battle against Hight, No. 1 qualifier John Force and No. 8 seed Bob Tasca III.
Following a weekend off, the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series will return to action May 13-15 at Virginia Motorsports Park for the Virginia NHRA Nationals, the seventh of 22 NHRA national events this season.