Exciting final round showdowns for two Mopar Dodge//SRT Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) pilots, Matt Hagan in Funny Car and Leah Pruett in Top Fuel, at the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Sonoma Nationals resulted in runner-up finishes for both drivers with margins of victory in each race of just two-thousandths of a second.
Coming off his first event win of the 2021 NHRA Camping World series season last weekend at Denver’s Dodge//SRT Mile-High Nationals Presented by Pennzoil, Hagan began his race day from the No. 3 position on the Funny Car eliminations ladder and battled through a competitive field to advance to his second consecutive Sonoma Nationals final round appearance. Hagan drove his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye to wins against Jeff Diehl and Blake Alexander to advance to the semifinal round for a rematch of the Denver final versus Alexis DeJoria. Hagan powered his way to the win over DeJoria to send his Mopar machine to his second straight final round, a third this season, and the 68th of his career.
The final round showcased a meeting between two three-time Funny Car NHRA world champions with Hagan going toe-to-toe with Robert Hight for the Sonoma trophy. Hagan stepped on the throttle first and held the lead to the halfway mark before Hight was able to overtake and turn on the win lights just 0.0026-seconds ahead of him. The runner-up finish, Hagan’s second this season and 31st of his career, helped move him up to second place in the Funny Car points standings and within two round wins of reaching the current point leader.
DSR teammate Ron Capps, a four-time winner at Sonoma, began the day from the top rung of the Funny Car eliminations ladder for the 28th time in his career. Capps earned his third pole position in nine races with the quickest runs of Q1 and Q2 thus extending his streak of qualifying in the top-five at every event this season. For the opening round, the DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver lined up against No. 16 qualifier and rookie Tony Jurado and drove to a 3.924-second win. In his quarterfinal matchup with Paul Lee, Capps grabbed an early lead and wheeled his way to a 3.965-second run and another round win to advance to a semifinal battle against No. 4 seed Robert Hight.
While Capps hit the throttle first and gave it a good solid effort by posting a 3.979-second elapsed time run, it wasn’t quite enough to catch Hight after he took over the lead by the 60-foot marker. With the result, Capps and his team’s consistent performance has seen them advance to the semifinals or better at four out of the last five events, putting him fifth in the Funny Car standings.
For Cruz Pedregon, who is seeking a second win this season, his No. 15 qualifying position wasn’t indicative of the progress he felt his team has been making this season or even through the weekend with the Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. He just never got a nice clean run-in before lining up against his first-round opponent, No. 2 seed Alexis DeJoria. The Cruz Pedregon Racing machine had a good launch with its driver’s 0.057-second reaction time to DeJoria’s 0.115-second start, but Pedregon’s ride lost a cylinder early in the run and hampered any hopes on advancing further.
In Top Fuel action at the Sonoma dragstrip, Leah Pruett qualified her DSR Okuma Dodge//SRT dragster sixth for an opening-round pairing with No. 7 seed Justin Ashley. Pruett was quicker off the start and never looked back with a 3.739-second run @ 327.51 mph run to defeat her opponent’s 3.758 @ 323.04 mph pass and move on to battle Brittany Force in the quarterfinals for their first match-up since 2018.
Force had a slight starting advantage for the quarterfinal battle, but when mid-track traction issues affected them both, it was Pruett who pedaled it and recovered quickly to cross the finish line first and earn a bye-run. In that solo semifinal run the Dodge//SRT dragster recorded its best pass of the weekend with a 3.726 sec. @ 325.53 mph to see Pruett advance to her 17th career Top Fuel final round appearance to face the category’s points leader and five-time event winner this season Steve Torrence.
The Sonoma Raceway fans were treated to an exciting side-by-side final showdown that saw Pruett with the quick start and a solid 3.768-second pass @ 323.04 mph that was just two-thousands of a second (0.0027-seconds) behind Torrence 3.757 @ 327.98 mph at the finish line.
The runner-up finish is Pruett’s first of the season and the ninth of her Top Fuel career and with the result, she moves into fifth place in the standings with four national events remaining before points reset for the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship the seven-race playoff series that begins September 9th at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals Presented By Pennzoil in Reading, Pennsylvania, and concludes with the NHRA finals in November in Pomona, California.
The NHRA now heads to Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, for the final event of the three-race western swing that will wrap up three consecutive weeks of racing next weekend.