It was a third consecutive semifinal result for Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) driver Matt Hagan and his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) “Countdown to the Championship” at the 11th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway, the third of six playoff series events.
Hagan, last year’s Funny Car event winner at the St. Louis area dragstrip, collected three bonus points in qualifying by recording the third best time on Friday, and then was second quickest in the final session with a best lap of 3.867 seconds @ 335.48 mph to put the Baja Vida Snacks Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat fourth on the eliminations ladder.
An opening round win over No. 13 seed Jim Campbell set up a quarterfinal matchup with No. 5 qualifier Bob Tasca III, against whom Hagan earned his 20th round win at the NHRA Midwest Nationals, the most for any Funny Car at this event.
Hagan’s opponent for the important semifinal showdown was Funny Car points leader Robert Hight, against whom the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat had the advantage on the tree and maintained the lead to the halfway point, but while the two had a good side-by-side battle, Hagan (3.945 @ 330.31) saw his opponent (3.913 @ 327.59) slip past him to reach the stripe first.
Hagan’s third consecutive semifinal appearance in the Countdown keeps him third in the hunt for the Funny Car championship crown, within 103 markers of the category leader and event winner Hight, and 57 points behind second place, Ron Capps, with three events remaining in the season.
TSR driver Leah Pruett came into the race weekend sporting the Sparkling Ice +Caffeine livery on the Dodge//SRT dragster for her 190th career Top Fuel start and with a good track record at the Midwest Nationals event after having advanced to the semifinals in three of her last four appearances (2018, 2019 and 2021) at the St. Louis area dragstrip. The best qualifying lap of 3.729 seconds @ 329.18 mph put her 11th on the eliminations ladder and paired her with No. 6 seed Tony Schumacher for the opening round.
The two were nearly even on the launch and while Pruett battled next to Schumacher the length of the track and recorded her best pass of the weekend with a 3.716-second @ 327.03 mph run, it wasn’t enough to beat her competitor’s 3.701 sec. @ 332.02 mph lap to turn on win lights. While the team has shown steady improvement, it has not been reflected in their playoff results with three consecutive first-round exits that have Pruett sitting in eleventh place in the Top Fuel playoff standings, 179 points behind category leader Justin Ashley.
Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon debuted a new “Socket to Breast Cancer” livery for October on his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat in support of the Pink Fund® in the U.S. and the Kelly Shires Foundation in Canada. Pedregon’s best qualifying run of 3.897 seconds @ 331.36 mph, the team’s top speed of the season, put his HEMI®-powered machine in the top half of the eliminations ladder.
The sixth place qualifier had No. 11 seed Dale Creasy Jr. in the opposite lane for the opening round and while both battled tire smoke, Pedregon came out on top and advanced to his second quarterfinal elimination of the playoffs to meet up with No. 3 qualifier Capps. The pair had clean passes with Pedregon battling hard with a solid 3.938 sec. @ 322.81 mph effort that ultimately wasn’t quite enough to match his opponent’s 3.927 sec. @ 328.30 mph run. With the result, Pedregon maintains his ninth place standing in the Funny Car playoff rankings but sits 245 points behind the top spot.
After a one-week break from playoff action, the fourth of six NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” events, Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, will take place Oct. 13th through the 16th, near Dallas, Texas. FS1 will present qualifying highlights on Sunday, Oct. 16th, at 10:00 a.m. ET with race day coverage beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET.
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Robert Hight 2404 (8)
2. Ron Capps: 2358 (4)
3. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 2301 (3)
4. John Force: 2290 (1)
5. Bob Tasca III: 2234 (3)
6. Alexis DeJoria: 2187 (1)
7. J.R. Todd: 2185
8. Tim Wilkerson: 2175
9. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 2159
10. Jim Campbell: 2085
11. Blake Alexander: 2064
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Justin Ashley: 2305 (2)
2. Steve Torrence: 2291 (2)
3. Brittany Force: 2275 (4)
4. Mike Salinas: 2270 (4)
5. Antron Brown 2262 (3)
6. Josh Hart: 2241 (1)
7. Doug Kalitta: 2217
8. Clay Millican: 2179
9. Shawn Langdon: 2162
10. Austin Prock: 2161 (1)
11. Leah Pruett (Dodge//SRT): 2126 (1)
12. Tony Schumacher: 2118 (1)