Matt Hagan raced to victory in his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT at the 35th NHRA Arizona Nationals near Phoenix today, capturing the milestone first win for the Charger SRT HELLCAT body and his third victory at Wild Horse Motorsports Pass in the last five years.
Hagan and his Sandvik Coromant/Mopar crew led by crew chief Dickie Venables were on a mission in the second race of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello campaign. The Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) team earned the provisional pole Friday when conditions were extremely difficult and continued getting stronger with every run over the course of the weekend, including in his 55th career final appearance which resulted in the two-time NHRA Funny Car champion defeating reigning NHRA champion J.R. Todd.
Earning the historic triumph for the Charger SRT HELLCAT has been the goal for Hagan since first making laps using the new HELLCAT body last season. Two weeks ago in the season opener, Hagan qualified fourth and lost in the first round, but in Phoenix he wasn’t going to be denied. Hagan defeated Phil Burkart, Shawn Langdon and Bob Tasca III to reach his fourth career Phoenix final where he stormed down the track for the seventh consecutive time and his run of 3.890 ET was more than enough to defeat the tire-smoking Todd. The victory was the 30th of Hagan’s career.
Hagan wasn’t the only Dodge//SRT Mopar driver that made a run to the finals in Phoenix, as Leah Pritchett continued her success at the track. The driver of the Mopar Dodge Top Fuel dragster for DSR was seeking her third NHRA Arizona Nationals triumph in the last four years. After qualifying seventh, Pritchett was business-like early in eliminations, posting three consecutive runs in the 3.70s (seconds), taking out Cameron Ferre, Terry McMillen and Antron Brown to reach her 14th career final and first-ever matchup with Billy Torrence. Unfortunately, her shot at career win number eight went up in smoke when her machine lost traction just after launch and she coasted to the finish line.
Tommy Johnson, Jr. was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his NHRA nitro debut in Phoenix during the event. The driver of the Mopar-powered DSR Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT qualified fourth, but had trouble in both his first- and second-round appearances. His team overcame a broken axle in the first round, but Johnson lost a cylinder early in his second run and was knocked out by Todd.
Jack Beckman bounced back from a tough qualifying effort by racing the DSR Infinite Hero Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT to a first-round victory over Tim Wilkerson before coming up short against Bob Tasca III in the quarterfinals. Ron Capps narrowly lost his opening round match-up with John Force, despite making his second-best run of the weekend in the Pennzoil Synthetics/NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT.