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Hagan Gets First No. 1 for Tony Stewart Racing, Kalitta and Koretsky Also Grab Top Spots at NHRA Arizona Nationals

Three-time world champion Matt Hagan made the quickest Funny Car run in four years on Saturday, giving the new Tony Stewart Racing NHRA team its first No. 1 qualifier and setting the track record to close out qualifying at the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

Doug Kalitta (Top Fuel) and Kyle Koretsky (Pro Stock) also claimed No. 1 qualifiers at the second of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

In front of a huge crowd on Saturday, Hagan powered to a stellar run of 3.823-seconds at 333.41 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers/Direct Connection Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, grabbing his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 44th in his career. It was also the quickest run since 2018 in the class, as Hagan surpassed Courtney Force for the quickest run ever at the facility. He’ll open eliminations against Terry Haddock looking for his first win of the year.

“It’s just super fun to drive. I knew if it stuck, it was going to run well but these cars are a handful to drive,” Hagan said. “They’re just so fun to drive. Tony Stewart did a heck of a job putting this organization together over the winter. We have a lot of new parts and pieces, but they’ve just done a phenomenal job of giving us the parts and pieces and the resources, and I see a lot of good things going for the Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car team. It was incredible seeing all the fans packed shoulder-to-shoulder. It was an awesome experience and an awesome thing to see.”

Robert Hight, who was the provisional No. 1 qualifier on Friday, took the second spot for the second straight week after his run of 3.838 at 332.18, while John Force is third with his pass of 3.851 at 332.02 on Friday.

Thanks to his career-best run of 3.656 at 329.58 on Friday in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster, Kalitta picked up his first No. 1 qualifier since 2019 and 51st in his career, and also secured his spot in the Pep Boys Top Fuel All-Star Callout, a specialty eight-car race that takes place at the next event in Gainesville.

His teammate Shawn Langdon also locked in a spot thanks to his run of 3.696 at 328.54 on Saturday. Joining the pair of Kalitta Motorsports teammates in the Pep Boys Top Fuel All-Star Callout are Steve Torrence, who secured the No. 1 spot and will get the first choice for his opening-round opponent, Brittany Force, Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley, Antron Brown and Leah Pruett. The eight-car specialty race will take place on Saturday, March 12 at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway and will be broadcast on the FOX broadcast network.

“During that last session the conditions were perfect and I knew everybody was going for it, including us,” Kalitta said. “We’re definitely looking forward to tomorrow. The guys are working their tails off on my car and we’re seeing some major strides in the performance on that thing. We’ve also been keeping an eye on (the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout) for a couple weeks now and I was really kind of concerned coming into Phoenix. I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to pull it off, but it’s going to be fun.”

This weekend, Kalitta will open eliminations against Rob Passey as the veteran looks for his 50th career win and first since 2020. Salinas moved up to close out the day, going to second after his run of 3.678 at 330.31. Four-time defending world champ Torrence, who also won the race in Phoenix in 2020, jumped up to third in the final qualifying session with a run of 3.680 at 328.30.

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With a standout pass in the final qualifying session, Pro Stock’s Kyle Koretsky moved to the top in the class, taking his second career No. 1 qualifier in his young career with an impressive run of 6.520 at 210.21 in his Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro. After Elite Motorsports had controlled most of qualifying the last two weeks, Koretsky and his KB Racing power sent a strong statement to close out qualifying. Koretsky, who is making his first appearance at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, will face off with John Cerbone to open eliminations on Sunday.

“I was super excited about that run. I knew the Lucas Oil Camaro had it in it, it left with the wheels up and I hit every shift point, and you get that No. 1 qualifier hat on the top end, it’s pretty cool,” Koretsky said. “It’s great for KB Racing and I feel like our guys have worked their butts off. I made a good run, it was a great day and a great track, and this place was packed all day.”

Aaron Stanfield stayed in the No. 2 position, but made an even better run on Saturday, going 6.521 at 210.11 to qualify second for the second consecutive week. Erica Enders, who was the provisional No. 1 qualifier and won last weekend in Pomona, got bumped to third after she went 6.526 at 210.24 to close out qualifying.

Eliminations for the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park begin at 11 a.m. MT on Sunday.

This story was originally published on February 27, 2022. Drag Illustrated

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