Superstar Pro Drag Racers Ready for Battle at Bradenton Motorsports Park!

Here we go, it’s 2024 and the start of another drag racing season. The race teams are ready to fire up their nitro-inhaling HEMI® engines to do battle on drag strips across the country and try to pummel their competition in the submission. The kick-off for this battle of drag strip dominance will be on the manicured starting line surface of Bradenton Motorsports Park located near Florida’s gulf. The event is the inaugural SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by Johnsons Horsepower Garage (JHG). The surrounding community around the track will shake and the windows will rattle as the 10,000-horsepower machines make their presence known for miles around starting this weekend. Being an invitation-only race, it will bring together the “cream of the crop” drivers in both the Pro and Sportsman categories. From Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, all the way down to Super Stock Eliminator, these drivers and teams and going all-in. 

For Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team driver and 2023 NHRA World Champion Matt Hagan, he’s ready. Hagan will climb back into his Dodge Charger SRT® Hellcat Funny Car and get back to doing what he does best, burying his competition, three seconds at a time. “I think it sounds great on paper that I’m moving into the new season as a defending champion, but at the end of the day, that was last year, and this is this year,” said Hagan, the defending Funny Car World Champion. “We have to start fresh. We’ve had a lot of changes over the off-season and different things in the shop that the guys are working on. You hopefully bring a package you ended up with at the end of the season, but things are always changing, and you never know what you’re going to get because tracks are different, and conditions are different. We’ve never raced on this facility down in Bradenton. It sounds good to be the champ, but at the end of the day, everybody’s gunning for you and it’s a fresh new start, so I kind of look at it like that’s that and this is this now, we still have to buckle down and work hard during this whole season to defend what we know we just accomplished in the past.”

“The PRO Superstar Shootout is definitely going to be the first of its kind. We’re going to stay down there and test for a few days and then get to race. Since it’s an invitation-only field, you’re going to have eight cars racing that are all heavy hitters. You have to roll out the gate with guns blazing. Your first round could be your hardest round. There are no easy draws, and you want a heavy hitter every time. If there’s anyone you’re scared to race against, you have no business being out there,” noted a cautious Hagan despite being a four-time Funny World Champion. Being a businessman, Hagan knows it takes a lot of “green” to move these machines and get them finely tuned to win races. “To race for $250,000 for each class is massive and it says a lot about what PRO can do to go out and round up that money for this event. Money motivates everyone and it motivates team owners to show up and it motivates people to come to the races. People want to see big-money races, so I think it’s a great opportunity for the sport of drag racing. This event will be nothing but good from here on out for the sport. It’s a new structure to look at and an opportunity to do something big.” 

Hagan’s TSR teammate is also ready to get back in the swing of things and plant her right foot on the accelerator and send her Top Fuel Dragster down the strip like a guided missile. Coming “oh-so-close” last year to claim her first Top Fuel Championship, Leah Pruett finished second overall. “We showed we had what it takes to perform at the highest level last year. That confidence is used as a building block moving forward. Instead of needing to right our ship, we have been able to focus on speeding it up,” said 12-time NHRA Top Fuel winner Leah Pruett. “As much as I’m looking forward to it, I can already feel some of the anxiety that comes with it, which I’m trying to block out. I’m going to want to experience it all – being with my team, working on new projects, dusting driving cobwebs off, all while engaging with fans who feel it’s their last time to see me, and it’s not. It’s just going to be a lot.”

As with her TSR teammate Matt Hagan, Pruett knows the massive purse is a major draw in bringing the best teams to this event before the start of the NHRA season. “It’s like a bear coming out of hibernation that’s all leaned out and has been surviving without a meal for months, and is ready to eat, that’s us,” smiled Pruett. “We’re hungry from before, but know a win like this, this early in the season is great for the overall financial health of the organization and crew members, given the constantly increasing inflation and costs of living. A huge purse like this shows that not only these racers and PRO see the vision, but that substantial companies do too, and they’re putting up the money where their mouth is, and that speaks volumes. These companies are partnered with teams, and involved in this sport for the value that is brought to their sales models, and I feel this is a great way of showcasing how valuable these teams are.”

To pull off an event like this, it takes the right connections that all share a passion for the growth of drag racing. This included the Professional Racers Organization (PRO), Drag Illustrated magazine, FloRacing and others. “This whole situation came on the heels of the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod in March of 2003. We announced the World Series of Pro Mod initially in 2017, and we held our first three events at Bandimere Speedway in 2017, ’18 and ’19. And we took a little bit of a break during COVID with event promotion, but we brought back the World Series of Pro Mod at Bradenton Motorsports Park in the spring of 2023 to much fanfare and anticipation in a successful event across the board,” said Wes Buck, Founder and Publisher of Drag Illustrated and Promoter of the PRO Superstar Shootout. 

“I wish I could take credit for it. But the best racers in the world, the best people in the world, and great weather, hard to screw it up. We had a tremendous fan turnout and people were buzzing. The industry was buzzing, and I made my annual pilgrimage to Charlotte, North Carolina, for the Four-Wide Nationals at ZMAX Dragway. And I wasn’t on the property for five minutes before I started getting some texts that some of these nitro guys wanted to talk. It was amazing the way the dominoes fell, the first domino was committing to this to do this a partnership between Drag Illustrated and the professional racers owner’s organization (PRO). That was kind of step one. We felt like at that moment, we had promotion, production, and racer base and a good amount of our sponsor support kind of under control with those two entities. Then we asked how are we going to get this in front of a lot of eyeballs. How are we going to make sure that recognizing and making go to big wedding, and small church situation that we’re only going to be able to house so many fans that Bradenton Motorsports Park we knew that we needed a world-class live streaming partner for me there was no question other than to work with FloRacing. They have shown up in a massive way for this event. They’re invested in a significant capacity, but they’ve also pulled out all the stops for the production and they have been an absolutely incredible partner. They’ve taken this deal. They’ve taken ownership of it. I like to see partners and people match my energy and enthusiasm and they answer the bell with that. They have been phenomenal across the board.”

So, if you’re ready to shake off those winter chills and take in some nitro, then a trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast and a stop a Bradenton Motorsports Park this weekend is just what you need. You’ll get a great tan while watching the best Top Fuel and Funny Car teams doing battle for the first time in 2024.