The NHRA Winternationals at Pomona Dragstrip is set to kick off the third event of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 21-race calendar in 2023. Fans and drivers alike are gearing up for an exhilarating weekend of high-speed action and intense competition.
Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) is bringing its two full-time entries to the event, with Leah Pruett driving in Top Fuel and Matt Hagan in Funny Car. Pruett, a 10-time Top Fuel winner, is currently third in the Top Fuel standings, just 13 points behind leader Steve Torrence. Hagan, a three-time champion with 44 Funny Car wins to his name, is second in the Funny Car standings, just four points behind leader Robert Hight.
Both drivers will be sporting bold, eye-catching colors on their vehicles, with Pruett representing Rinnai tankless water heaters on her White, Red, Gray, and Black Top Fuel dragster, and Hagan sporting those same colors of Haas Automation on his Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car.
Pomona will be a special event for Pruett, as she grew up just 35 miles east of the track in Redlands, California. This will mark her 196th career Top Fuel start, with it being her 17th overall start at Pomona and her 11th in the Winternationals. Pruett made her Top Fuel debut at Pomona in the 2009 Finals and has since gone on to achieve two victories at the track, winning the Winternationals in both 2017 and 2021.
Pruett also holds a career-best elapsed time of 3.631 seconds at Pomona, which she achieved on November 10th, 2018. Hagan, on the other hand, is the current track record holder for an elapsed time of 3.822 seconds, which he set on February 11th, 2017.
In addition to the regular competition, Pruett has also qualified to participate in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge after advancing to the Semifinals at the Arizona Nationals. The challenge brings competitive racing to the qualifying schedule at 12 regular-season events during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series campaign, with semifinalists from the previous race facing off in a pair of rematches. The two winners then go head-to-head in the final qualifying session, with a bonus purse and bonus points for the Countdown to the Championship on the line.
“Pomona brings all the nostalgic feels for me, from my first junior dragster rip, to spending sunrise to sundown as a fan in the stands with my blanket on the bleachers taped off to mark my spot,“ stated Leah Pruett, Driver of the Rinnai Top Fuel Dragster. “I locked up the Heritage Series Funny Car championship there and have earned multiple Top Fuel Winternationals wins. There are just so many peaks in my life that have taken place at Pomona, that you can’t help but feel special rolling in.”
“The cooler weather plays into our favor and Dickie’s (Venables – crew chief) combination of being able to run hard and make a lot of power,“ exclaimed Matt Hagan, Driver of the Haas Automation Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car about the cooler weather in the forcast. “He has a good handle on things when we roll into cool weather conditions. It could be where some of these guys don’t make enough power and the track is so tight and they shake the tires. You walk a fine line out there, so you may see some tire shake from other cars that don’t make the power that Dickie does.”
Sunday, April 2 (Nitro Eliminations, streamed live on NHRA.TV)
• Round 1: 11 a.m. PDT/2 p.m. EDT
• Round 2: 12:50 p.m. PDT/3:50 p.m. EDT
• Semi-Finals: 2:25 p.m. PDT/5:25 p.m. EDT
• Finals: 3:50 p.m. PDT/6:50 p.m. EDT
TV coverage on FS1
• Saturday, April 1: Qualifying show, recapping all of Friday’s action (4 p.m. PDT/7 p.m. EDT)
• Sunday, April 2: Qualifying show, recapping all of Saturday’s action (9:30 a.m. PDT/12:30 p.m. EDT)
• Sunday, April 2: Finals show (4 p.m. PDT/7 p.m. EDT)
Source: TSR Nitro