Just two race days remain in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) “Countdown to the Championship” and Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) driver Matt Hagan showed he is determined to stay in the heat of the battle for the Funny Car crown by qualifying his Dodge Power Brokers charger SRT Hellcat No. 2 for the 22nd annual Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the penultimate event of the six-race playoff series.
The three-time world champion sits third in the Funny Car standings going into Sunday’s elimination rounds after finishing runner-up to Ron Capps (second in points) at the previous race in Texas to put himself within 78 markers of the category leader Robert HIght heading into the weekend.
Following a pair of qualifying passes on Friday, the Dodge Power Brokers Funny Car was provisionally fifth after setting the third-best run of the first session with a 3.898-second lap at 333.25 mph to earn a bonus point. But Hagan, who has three wins (2017, 2019 and 2020) in the last five fall editions of the Las Vegas event, pressed even harder on Saturday to record a strong 3.862 sec./330.23 mph final qualifying run and earn three additional bonus points for the quickest pass of Q4. More importantly, that also put his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in the No. 2 spot on the eliminations ladder behind Hight who leads Hagan by 83 points heading into race day. Hagan’s opening round opponent will be No. 15 seed Steven Densham.
TSR Top Fuel pilot Leah Pruett and her Dodge Power Brokers dragster were provisionally ninth after two Friday qualifying laps with a best run of 3.746 sec./329.18 mph, then improved their performance in the third session with a strong 3.716 second pass at 331.69 mph in a competitive field. That run put Pruett 11th on the eliminations ladder and paired her with No. 6 seed Mike Salinas for Sunday’s first round. Pruett is focused on going rounds on Sunday to help her break back into the Top Fuel top-ten as the team’s first season nears an end.
Last year’s Nevada Nationals Funny Car event winner Cruz Pedregon comes into the weekend ninth in points and while his team may not be in the championship hunt the way they were last season coming into Las Vegas, the team continues to make performance gains with the Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and is ready to play spoiler. Pedregon qualified 13th with the 3.945 sec./ 318.77 mph pass he made on his first qualifying pass and will battle No. 4 seed J.R. Todd in the first round.
Two shows with qualifying highlights from the NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will air on FS1 on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 9:30 a.m. ET (Q1 and Q2) and 12:30 p.m. ET(Q3 and Q4). Race day coverage on FS1 will begin at 5 p.m. ET.