Leaving Las Vegas a winner isn’t always in the cards, but Matt Hagan came close as he drove his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Funny Car to a runner-up finish in the four-wide final elimination round of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Hagan came into the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals event looking for a similar outcome to his previous Vegas outing when he drove his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye to a big win last November at the Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil to earn the 2020 NHRA Funny Car World Championship. This weekend, however, there was the added challenge presented by the unique four-lane race format that drivers haven’t seen in almost two years. Hagan’s efforts through three qualifying runs on Friday and Saturday rewarded him a seventh place on the eliminations ladder.
Hagan’s first elimination run, clocked at 3.932 seconds and 329.42 mph, was his quickest of the weekend and good enough to beat Blake Alexander and Chris Morel and move him on to the next stage along with round winner John Force. The DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye was the quickest off the start and gave Hagan the win in the second quad elimination round with a 3.927-second pass (325.06 mph) over Tim Wilkerson, John Force, and Alexis DeJoria to advance to the final.
Facing off against his DSR teammate Ron Capps, Bob Tasca III, and Wilkerson in the final quad, Hagan once again beat everyone off the start line with his quick reaction time (0.056 seconds) but saw a slightly faster Tasca edge him at the stripe for a runner-up finish to move him up into the fifth spot in the Funny Car standings behind his DSR teammate Capps.
Capps, for his part, had a tough start to his Vegas weekend after finding himself close to the edge of the ladder after two qualifying runs. However, the HEMI-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver put it all on the line with a solid 3.919-second final qualifying lap at 329.89 mph to make a big move up to the fourth spot from which to start his race day.
Capps’ first saw (eventual event winner) Tasca in the opening quad along with Bobby Bode and Jim Campbell, where he drove to the round win and advanced to the next stanza. Capps added a holeshot win in the second round over Tasca, to eliminate Robert Hight, and J.R. Todd and move on to the final.
For the third time in a row, Capps found himself in a battle against Tasca, as the pair were joined by teammate Hagan and Wilkerson. This time, however, a dropped cylinder hampered his run, permitting Tasca and Hagan to battle for the finish line. Capps semifinal result puts him fourth in the point standings as the top Dodge SRT Charger in the Funny Car category after just two events into the 2021 NHRA season.
A third competitive Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, driven by Cruz Pedregon, is in this year’s Funny Car field. Looking to build on his Snap-on Tools team’s semifinal finish at the season-opening Gatornationals, Pedregon qualified his No. 8 for the Four-Wide Nationals with a 3.960 seconds pass at 323.50 mph. Unfortunately, his race day ended prematurely with a loss in the first elimination round to J.R. Todd and Robert Hight.
In Top Fuel competition, DSR pilot Leah Pruett qualified her Mopar Dodge//SRT dragster in the top half of the field for a fifth consecutive event (dating back to Oct. 2020 at Dallas) but not without a bit of drama after an issue in qualifying saw the team play it safe by bringing out a backup car. Pruett rose to the occasion by qualifying seventh and then using a quick start in the opening round against her competitors to run a respectable 3.808-second elapsed time pass and advance to the next set against Torrence, Doug Kalitta, and Shawn Langdon. Pruett’s run and day was cut short in the second round by a loss of traction soon after the launch.
The next event on the 2021 schedule for the Mopar Dodge//SRT contingent is the NHRA Southern Nationals, set to take place in Atlanta, Georgia from April 30th to May 2nd.
NHRA Camping World Championship Points Standings:
Following the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Bob Tasca III – 187 (1)
2. J.R. Todd – 166 (1)
3. Robert Hight – 152
4. Ron Capps (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 139
5. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 129
5. Tim Wilkerson – 129
7.John Force – 118
8. Alexis DeJoria – 117
9. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) – 106
10. Chad Green – 66
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Steve Torrance – 184 (1)
2. Shawn Langdon – 149
3. Antron Brown – 145
4. Doug Kalitta – 128
5. Billy Torrence – 118
6. Josh Hart – 113 (1)
7. Leah Pruett (Mopar Dodge//SRT) – 105
7. Clay Millican – 105
9. Justin Ashley – 104
10. Brittany Force – 99