As the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ three-week-long Western Swing culminates, all eyes are on Sonoma, California, for the DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals, taking place from July 28th to July 30th. This exciting event will feature top drivers Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan, representing Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) in Top Fuel and Funny Car, respectively.
Leah Pruett, the 11-time event winner in Top Fuel, enters Sonoma standing strong at the third position in the Top Fuel standings. She will be driving the Rayce Rudeen Foundation Top Fuel Dragster, with the organization’s noble mission to support a healthy and productive life free from addiction. The Rayce Rudeen Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, was established in honor of Rayce Rudeen, who tragically passed away from an accidental Fentanyl overdose. Pruett is humbled to represent this cause on and off the track and draws strength from the foundation’s efforts to empower communities to fight addiction.
On the other hand, Funny Car leader Matt Hagan, a three-time champion with an impressive 47 Funny Car victories, is determined to secure his first Wally from wine country. Hagan will be piloting the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car. Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage, known for its involvement in Pro Stock, brings a passion for automobiles and a supportive atmosphere to the racing community. Hagan is excited to welcome them as a primary sponsor for their first nitro-side race with Tony Stewart Racing.
The Sonoma Raceway is historically known for cooler air temperatures, but this year, the weather is forecasted to be warmer, similar to the conditions in Seattle. For Pruett, this means a continuation of the setup adjustments and strategies they employed in Seattle. She had a responsive race car that delivered a smooth run, and she hopes to continue picking up speed in the middle rounds of qualifying.
Pruett is no stranger to the Sonoma track, with this event being her 198th career Top Fuel start and her seventh at Sonoma. Although she has advanced to the final round before, her sights are set on claiming her first victory at the DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
“We had a very responsive race car to the changes we were asking it to make in Seattle come race day and it delivered us a smooth run, allowing us to return next to the offense of picking up speed in the middle,“ said Pruett. “We always say that we wish we had one more run and with Sonoma being similar conditions, the first round of qualifying will be the run we wanted to do next.”
Similarly, Matt Hagan has had three previous appearances in the finals at Sonoma but has yet to secure a win. With his points lead intact, Hagan is eager to change that this time around.
“The quest to win at wine country has always been there, since I’ve never won there before,“ Hagan said. “It’s always challenging and keeping the points lead is challenging. (Ron) Capps’ team is great. They’ve won back-to-back championships and he’s fighting hard to take over the lead, but we’re fighting hard to stay on top. This Dodge Charger SRT HELLCAT Funny Car is running good. We had a tough weekend in Seattle, but that’s drag racing and you’re going to have that. As much as you want to be on top all the time, it makes you appreciate the weekends when things do go well. Coming into Sonoma, we found some things we need to fix and the guys are working hard at it. Capps seems to always pull out a win in wine country, so now it’s his turn to watch us in the winner’s circle.”
The DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals will also see Pruett presenting the Juggers Annual Scholarship to William Baker-Johnson, who graduated from a nearby high school in June. This scholarship, awarded by the Juggers Racing Team, supports organized drag racing for high school students and aims to inspire and celebrate progress within the automotive industry.