After finishing runner-up in an exciting National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) All-Star Callout specialty race final during qualifying at the 68th annual Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals, Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Matt Hagan found himself in another tremendous battle in the quarterfinals of the world’s biggest and best known drag race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Hagan, whose quicker 3.900-second elapsed time run in Sunday’s Callout race-within-a race was just 0.004-seconds short of beating Ron Capps’ holeshot effort, had another tremendous drag race in the elimination rounds of the “Big Go” against points leader Robert Hight.
Prior to facing Hight, the Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat set the tone by recording the top speed of the event (at that point) with Hagan’s 3.881-second winning run at 334.07 mph against No. 10 seed Alexis DeJoria in the opening round. Once staged for the quarterfinal showdown, Hagan hit the throttle just 0.004-seconds behind Hight as the two adversaries battled side-by-side the entire length of the legendary dragstrip. While Hagan took his HEMI-powered ride for his quickest run of the weekend at 3.867 sec./ 334.65 mph it was 0.006-seconds short of turning on the win lights ahead of Hight’s 3.861 sec./ 331.77 mph lap.
The quarterfinal finish brought Hagan’s regular season to a close and, with three wins, three runner-up finishes, and five No. 1 qualifier awards, puts the TSR driver third in Funny Car standings (behind Hight and Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals winner Ron Capps) as the points reset for the upcoming NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” six-event playoff series.
TSR pilot Leah Pruett qualified tenth on the Top Fuel eliminations ladder and staged her Dodge Power Brokers dragster in the right lane next to seventh-seed Billy Torrence for the opening round. Pruett had the quicker launch but lost a cylinder early in the run, ending her hopes of advancing further. Pruett, who earned the TSR team’s first Top Fuel Wally at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Denver in July, closes out the regular season in seventh place.
Three-time Funny Car winner at the “Big Go”, Cruz Pedregon qualified in the No. 9 spot aboard his Snap-on Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat and had No. 8 seed J.R. Todd as his first round opponent. Both competitors had a good light, but when the Cruz Pedregon Racing machine began to drop cylinders, the driver/owner opted to abandon the run. Pedregon will head to the playoffs seeded eighth in the category.
The NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” begins with the first of six playoff events, the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania, Sept. 15-18. FS1 will air qualifying highlights on Friday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. ET and Sunday, Sept 18, at 11 a.m. ET, while FOX will have race day coverage beginning at 2 p.m. ET.