Funny Car driver Matt Hagan drove his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat from the No. 2 qualifier position to his second straight semifinal performance in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) “Countdown to the Championship” at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, the second of six playoff series events.
Sporting the colors of Shelor Motor Mile, his family-owned car dealership, Hagan, a two-time winner (2011,2014) at the Carolina Nationals, earned the second spot on the eliminations ladder with a 3.861-second elapsed time run @ 329.99 mph and earned two valuable bonus points for his efforts. He drove his HEMI®-powered Dodge to a first-round win against No. 13 seed John Smith and then had a second-round bye-run to advance to a semifinal match-up against No. 9 seed Alexis DeJoria.
Hagan had the quicker launch with a 0.068-second reaction time to DeJoria’s 0.072-second start and the lead past the 330-foot mark before seeing his opponent next to him at the 600-foot marker. While Hagan drove his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to a solid 3.893 sec. @ 334.07 mph run, DeJoria was able to edge him at the stripe recording a 3.887 @ 332.02 pass to steal the round win with a margin of victory of 0.0028 seconds.
The pair of semifinal performances to start the playoffs put Hagan within 60 points of the category leader Robert Hight, and while he drops to third place in the standings behind Carolina Nationals winner Ron Capps, only 33 markers separate them as the battle for the top spot tightens up with four events remaining in the fight for the Funny Car crown.
TSR Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett had her Dodge//SRT dragster dressed up in the Code 3 Associates paint scheme in support of the organization specializing in animal rescue and recovery in disaster areas and started off the Carolina Nationals weekend with a good run at 3.758 seconds @ 316.82 mph, the eighth quickest pass of Friday’s qualifying session. That elapsed time run ultimately put her 13th on the eliminations ladder and paired her with No. 4 seed Mike Salinas for Sunday’s opening round.
Pruett’s 11,000 horsepower Dodge//SRT dragster had a clean elapsed time run at 3.796-second, but @ 314 mph, she didn’t quite have the speed to beat Salinas’ 3.696 sec. @ 331.20 mph pass. With back-to-back first-round exits, Pruett drops two positions in the Top Fuel championship standings to find herself battling for the championship from tenth place, 178 points behind leader Justin Ashley.
Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon, qualified his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat 10th for Sunday’s eliminations with a best run of 3.903 seconds @ 326.00 mph to draw No. 5 seed Bob Tasca III for his first-round opponent. Pedregon made a good pass with a 3.945-second @ 320.05 mph effort but it wasn’t quite enough to challenge Tasca’s 3.882 @ 330.80 mph pass and advance further. Unfortunately, the first-round loss drops Pedregon to ninth place in the Funny Car playoff rankings, 178 markers behind the category leader.
The NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” moves on to the Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis, Sept. 30th through Oct. 2nd, for the third of six playoff series events. FS1 will present qualifying highlights on Sunday, Oct. 2nd, at 12:30 p.m. ET with race day coverage beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET.
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Robert Hight 2283 (7)
2. Ron Capps: 2256 (4)
3. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 2223 (3)
4. John Force: 2209 (1)
5. Bob Tasca III: 2179 (3)
6. Alexis DeJoria: 2154
7. J.R. Todd: 2133
8. Tim Wilkerson: 2121
9. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 2105
10. Jim Campbell: 2054
11. Blake Alexander: 2032
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Justin Ashley: 2272 (2)
2. Antron Brown 2229 (3)
3. Brittany Force: 2200 (4)
4. Mike Salinas: 2218(4)
5. Steve Torrence: 2167 (1)
6. Doug Kalitta: 2140
7. Josh Hart: 2139 (1)
8. Austin Prock: 2129 (1)
9. Clay Millican: 2125
10. Leah Pruett (Dodge Power Brokers): 2094 (1)
11. Shawn Langdon: 2084
12. Tony Schumacher: 2064 (1)