Four-time 2023 NHRA Camping World Funny Car race winner Matt Hagan looked to be on a path to a fifth victory Sunday at Sonoma Raceway in the annual DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals driving his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Johnson Horsepower Garage Dodge//SRT HELLCAT Funny Car.
Hagan, the three-time NHRA Funny Car World Champion, took his Dodge//SRT HELLCAT to a semifinal finish and extended his current points lead to 19 markers as the NHRA Camping World drag racing series heads to Topeka, Kansas, for the Menards NHRA Nationals Presented by PetArmor on Aug. 11-13.
Hagan, who has captured the Gatornationals, Winternationals, Four-Wide Nationals, and Mile-High Nationals already this year, qualified fifth in the Funny Car field at Sonoma, defeating Jason Rupert with a 3.997 and Seattle winner Tim Wilkerson with a 3.955 for the quickest run of the second round.
However, in the semifinal battle against J.R. Todd, Hagan came up on the losing end with 3.999 to Todd’s 3.965. Todd went on to win the Funny Car class Sunday at Sonoma.
“The big takeaway from the weekend is that we were able to maintain number one in the point standings and extend the lead on (Ron) Capps,” said Hagan. “We had a good car and were making adjustments to it as it got hotter and hotter. Overall, I think the Western swing was still successful. The win in Denver was big for Dodge and us, and now making it to the semifinals here, we walk away with a good attitude, and the points lead.
“With three races to go before the Countdown, hopefully, everyone else is running out of races to catch us. We still need to add more of a cushion (in points). There are no easy draws nowadays. Everyone is so tough. You have to bring it every time and bring a little more than you think you have to. It takes that every time to turn on a win light.”
Hagan’s TSR teammate Leah Pruett drove her Rayce Rudeen Foundation Dodge//SRT dragster to a tough first-round loss with an extremely close finish to former NHRA World Champion Shawn Langdon, who won by a slim 0.0246 seconds holeshot advantage and a 3.755 to Pruett’s 3.746.
Pruett remains in the top five in the current NHRA Camping World Top Fuel points standings as she seeks a solid position with three races on the NHRA schedule before the “Countdown” for the Championship begins Sept. 14-17 in the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Reading, Pennsylvania.
“It stings losing on a holeshot,” said Pruett. “I gave it my absolute all and gave our Rayce Rudeen Foundation dragster the best chance it had. Both lanes are great. For my crew chiefs, they’re working really hard to get this car right, and I’m working hard at getting me right. A driver should have confidence in their crew chiefs, and Neal Strausbaugh (crew chief) and Mike Domagala (co-crew chief) have worked very hard. Conditions are tough in the heat on race day. They’ve done a phenomenal job. I’m blessed to be able to race for them. We’ll be ready for Topeka now.”
The Menards NHRA Nationals at Heartland Motorsports Park will have nitro qualifying beginning on Friday, Aug. 11, at 8 p.m. CDT followed by two qualifying rounds on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 3 p.m. CDT and 5:30 p.m. CDT. Sunday’s final eliminations start at 11 a.m. CDT.
The Menards NHRA Nationals will be televised on Fox Sports 1, with qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 12, at 7 p.m. EDT with final eliminations shown Sunday, Aug. 13, at 3 p.m. EDT.