This weekend the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) arrives at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas for the fourteenth event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series calendar.
Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) looks to make some headway in the points as this will be the third-to-last race of the regular season before the Countdown to the Championship begins (September 15th to 18th) at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennsylvania.
Coming into Topeka, Leah Pruett is sixth in the Top Fuel championship standings (410 points behind leader Brittany Force). Three-time Funny Car Champion, Matt Hagan, meanwhile is second in the Funny Car standings (228 points behind leader Robert Hight).
Both Pruett and Hagan will have new looks on their car for the Topeka event to celebrate the Mopar brand’s 85th Anniversary. The paint schemes will also be featured at next weekend’s NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway.
A simple combination of the words MOtor and PARts, Mopar offers exceptional service, parts, and customer care. Born in 1937 as the name of a line of antifreeze products, Mopar has evolved over 85 years to represent both complete vehicle care and authentic performance for owners and enthusiasts worldwide. Mopar made its mark in the 1960s during the muscle-car era with performance parts to enhance speed and handling for both on-road and racing use. Later, Mopar expanded to include technical service and customer support and, today, integrates service, parts, and customer-care operations in order to enhance customer and dealer support worldwide.
Pruett first joined forces with Dodge//SRT and Mopar in 2016, while Dodge//SRT and Mopar have supported Hagan since his rookie season in 2009. However, TSR’s ties to Mopar go back even further. Its roots are in sprint car racing, with Mopar powering multiple TSR entries in USAC and the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series from 2001 through 2007. Seven of TSR’s 27 open-wheel championships were won with Mopar.
The Menards NHRA Nationals will serve as Pruett’s 185th career Top Fuel start and her eighth at Topeka. For Hagan, this will be his 307th career Funny Car start and his 13th at Topeka.
.Pruett is eyeing her first victory in the Menards NHRA Nationals while also seeking her first No. 1 qualifier at the event. Pruett’s best result came in 2017 when she qualified second and lost to Antron Brown in the semifinals. In 2021, Pruett drove a Dodge Challenger Drag Pak to the final round in the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown before losing to John Cerbone.
Hagan won the Menards NHRA Nationals in 2016. His 5.724 ET @ 179.04 mph run defeated Jack Beckman (6.560 ET @ 146.75 mph). Hagan also has two No. 1 qualifiers at the event, which came in 2016 (3.862 ET @ 335.57 mph) and 2017 (3.802 ET @ 338.85 mph). Hagan is the track record holder at Topeka for both time (3.802 seconds) and speed (338.85 mph), each of which was set on May 20th, 2017. It is Hagan’s fastest recorded speed and the fourth-fastest in Funny Car history.
Leah Pruett, Driver of the Mopar 85th Anniversary Top Fuel Dragster –
“The confidence really comes from the situational improvements we were able to identify and act on during the Western Swing, from preparation of going rounds to a strong revaluation in our clutch program to my driving style as the long days progressed,” stated Pruett. ”We’ve said all along that we need more runs to learn more, to gain stride, and we were able to do that through the Western Swing.”
“Our focus is heavier toward qualifying position than it has been all year because we’re operating in a space where we can confidently work to improve our times, as opposed to making A-to-B runs. Strengthening our position in the points to the top-five is high on our priority list,” said Leah.
Pruett also had a lot to reflect on Mopar’s 85th Anniversary. “Eighty-five years is a long time, especially in the automotive space,“ she said. “For Mopar to continue their dedication toward increased performance for their customers for so many years, and only getting stronger, makes me extremely proud to carry on the Mopar legacy. It’s not like it is just another birthday of company existence, this year is truly a landmark in time for Mopar with the Power Brokers dealership program and the re-launch of Direct Connection. Happy Birthday, Mopar! We’ll be working hard to bring home the gold for you in Topeka!”
Matt Hagan, Driver of the Mopar 85th Anniversary Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car –
“I think Topeka will be our turning point after three first-round losses during the Western Swing and turn it into something positive,“ said Hagan. “Topeka has always been a fast track for me before. I’ve set world records there and done well there. I feel like if there’s any race we can turn the curve, it’s there. The three losses out west are very uncharacteristic for our team and what we can accomplish. We had some tough decisions to make out there and the car kept dropping cylinders. We’re going to go back to what we were doing last year as far as the fuel system goes. I believe in Dickie Venables (crew chief). I believe in Mike Knudsen (co-crew chief), Alex Conaway (car chief), and all of our guys. I know if anyone can turn this thing around, it’s them. They’re smart individuals who are very passionate about what they do. I’m going to go up there and do my job on the starting line and on the track and bring 100%. I know my team will bring 100%, too. When things come together and click, we’re unstoppable. I think Topeka will be our race to get things back on track for the Countdown.”
“I’ve been with Mopar for a long time,“ proclaimed Hagan. “To be able to carry their banner for so many years has been incredible. I’ve gained a lot of fans from Mopar, Dodge, and SRT. Being able to run this one-off scheme for Mopar’s 85th anniversary is amazing. It’s a huge milestone and a huge part of my career. They’ve been there to support me throughout three championships. I’m extremely proud to represent the special scheme these next two weekends. It’s always great showing Mopar and Dodge some love. These next two races are all about Mopar and we want to bring them two good finishes to get back on top of where we need to be before the Countdown.”