To celebrate Mopar’s 85th anniversary, Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Top Fuel and Funny Car HEMI®-powered racecars donned new paint schemes to honor the legendary performance brand at this weekend’s 33rd edition of the Menards National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals presented by PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park near Topeka, Kansas.
Matt Hagan took his Mopar 85th Anniversary Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat for the best qualifying run of 3.943 @ 320.58 mph at the track known as the “House of Speed,” where he holds both ends of the track record for time (3.802 seconds) and speed (338.85 mph) set in May 2017. While this year’s August heat kept the track temperatures between 110°F and 140°F throughout the weekend and his career-best speed safe from any challenge, Hagan’s qualifying effort was good enough to put him fourth on the eliminations ladder. He also clinched his spot in the NHRA’s “Countdown to the Championship” with two more regular season events left after this weekend’s contest, including the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Hagan, who took home the Wally trophy from Heartland Motorsports Park in 2017, began his race day against No. 11 seed Chad Green with a quicker start and 3.944-second elapsed time run @ 316.52 mph to turn on the win light and advance to the next round, ending a drought that occurred on a difficult three-event NHRA Western Swing.
Hagan had another good performance in his quarterfinal matchup against No. 10 seed Paul Lee with the Mopar 85th Anniversary Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat once again recording a solid lap at 3.999 sec. @ 312.71 mph. That sent Hagan’s Mopar to the semifinals to meet up with No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III, where both launched with nearly identical reaction times but as cylinders began to drop and his ride began to push toward the wall, Hagan opted to click it off.
Hagan’s semifinal appearance, along with his three wins and three runner-up finishes this season, keeps him solidly second in the Funny Car championship standings behind points leader Robert Hight.
In Top Fuel competition, TSR pilot Leah Pruett was seeking a good result aboard her Mopar 85th Anniversary dragster to follow up a string of solid performances on the Western Swing that included a win at the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals in Denver, a No. 1 Qualifier award in Sonoma, and a semifinal appearance in Seattle.
Pruett’s best qualifying lap of 3.804 seconds @ 316.97 mph put her seventh on the eliminations ladder and next to No. 10 seed Doug Foley for the opening round. Pruett took the lead early in the run while her opponent began to smoke his tires. Then she had to pedal her dragster at half-track but was able to regain control and get the round win.
In the quarterfinals, Pruett’s Mopar had the starting line advantage over No. 2 qualifier Justin Ashley but when her dragster began to lose traction Pruett ceded the round win to her opponent. Pruett, who sits sixth in the Top Fuel championship with two regular season events remaining, is now eyeing a position in the top-five ahead of the upcoming Countdown.
Four-time Topeka Funny Car winner Cruz Pedregon qualified his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat 12th for eliminations with a best lap of 4.043 seconds @ 284.62 mph to set up a first-round pairing with No. 3 seed John Force. The longtime rivals both deep-staged their racecars, with Force going in so far that he flickered the bottom bulb of the tree. That flicker prompted a reaction from Pedregon who hit the throttle prematurely and turned on the red light. Despite the abrupt end to their race day, the Cruz Pedregon Racing team remains seventh in the Funny Car category.
The next stop on the NHRA circuit is the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the penultimate event of the regular season, set for Aug. 18th through the 21st in Brainerd, Minnesota.
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the Menards NHRA Nationals Presented By PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Robert Hight 1334 (6)
2. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 1097 (3)
3. Ron Capps: 1008 (2)
4. John Force: 1002 (1)
5. Bob Tasca III: 921 (2)
6. J.R. Todd: 741
7. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 718
8. Alexis DeJoria: 712
9. Tim Wilkerson: 611
10. Jim Campbell: 488
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Brittany Force: 1122 (4)
2. Mike Salinas: 1091 (4)
3. Justin Ashley: 989 (2)
4. Steve Torrence: 960
5. Josh Hart: 736
6. Leah Pruett (Dodge Power Brokers): 726 (1)
7. Shawn Langdon: 709
8. Doug Kalitta: 659
9. Tony Schumacher: 625 (1)
10. Antron Brown 613 (1)