Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan picked up the victory for Tony Stewart Racing at the final NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series race at Bandimere Speedway, powering past Alexis DeJoria in the final round on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd at the 43rd Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals.
Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all won the 10th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. It was also the third straight sellout crowd to close out racing at Bandimere Speedway.
After winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge specialty race on Saturday, Hagan made it a memorable clean sweep on Thunder Mountain, going 4.135-seconds at 304.25 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Direct Connections Charger SRT Hellcat to defeat DeJoria. It is Hagan’s fourth victory this season and 47th in his career, as well as his second career win at Bandimere Speedway.
Hagan knocked off Chris King and defending world champ Ron Capps to reach the final round, getting past DeJoria – which was the same string of opponents he beat in Denver in 2021 – to finish off a truly incredible weekend for the points leader. At his sponsor’s race, Hagan picked up his 50th No. 1 qualifier, won the specialty race on Saturday and made the final winning run down Thunder Mountain on Sunday.
“I guess I need to go buy a lottery ticket honestly, it’s one of those weekends that’s just magical,” said Hagan, whose points lead grew to 45 over Capps. “I’ve been up here close to 15 years racing a fuel Funny Car, and to think that you’re not going to come back here – and then walk away with the Wally and the extra special trophy from the Bandimere family, to have the #2Fast2Tasty check, my 50th No. 1 qualifier. Just so many milestones and things to remember.
“It’s amazing and such an emotional weekend. Just being here and seeing all these fans every time we make a run, it’s something I’ll never forget. It’s just a super special weekend and just incredible. I’m very, very blessed to be here.”
DeJoria reached her third final in 2023 and 15th in her career by defeating Chad Green, Cruz Pedregon and J.R. Todd.
In Top Fuel, Millican held off Doug Kalitta in the final round, earning his second victory of the season in his 11,000-horsepower Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing dragster with a run of 3.872 at 299.60 in the final round. Sunday was only the second time Millican advanced out of the first round this season, but the veteran has won both races he’s done so, picking up his first win earlier this season in Chicago. He replicated that in Denver in front of a massive crowd during eliminations, starting the Western Swing off with his first career victory at Bandimere Speedway.
Millican got past Tony Schumacher, Mike Salinas and Shawn Langdon to reach the final round, scoring his fifth career victory and one that will stand with him for a long time. He also moved to 10th in points.
“When you race Doug Kalitta, you can’t leave anything on the table,” Millican said. “Man oh man, what this group has done. We had not won a single round until Chicago. What do we do, we win the race. So when we won first round here, I’m like, we’re winning the race.
“It’s pretty amazing what (crew chief Jim Oberhofer) has done. When he gets it, he just does it over and over and over. I just can’t believe how good this was. It was exactly like Chicago – the only way for me to lose this race was for me to do something wrong. Thank the man upstairs, I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just incredible what happens when the first-round win light comes on. You hold a Wally.”
Kalitta, who was seeking his 50th career win, reached his first final round of the year thanks to round wins against Terry Totten, Josh Hart and Steve Torrence. Justin Ashley stayed in the points lead with a 54-point advantage over Torrence.
Like Hagan, Coughlin also swept the final weekend in Pro Stock at Bandimere Speedway, thrilling the capacity crowd on Sunday and defeating points leader Dallas Glenn in the final round with a pass of 6.933 at 196.64 in his JEGS.com Chevrolet Camaro. Coughlin won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday, following it up with a dynamic performance in eliminations, defeating Aaron Stanfield, Greg Anderson and reigning world champ Erica Enders to reach the finals.
He posted an impressive .015 reaction time against Glenn, slipping past him for his second win this season and fourth in Coughlin’s career.
“What an exciting day to come out here and get a win,” Coughlin said. “You just take it one run at a time. We’ve got the best people in the industry at Elite Motorsports. They all work together and we have excellent power. I just had to stay focused. This is one of my favorite facilities and it’s an absolute honor just to be here.
“The fun part of NHRA championship drag racing is the excitement level like that final, that’s what packs the stands and makes you come back. You hope for situations like that and you practice all the time and it’s an obsession, you love it and you can’t stop.”
Glenn reached his sixth final round this year by driving past Chris McGaha, Kyle Koretsky and Camrie Caruso. His points lead stands at 202 over Matt Hartford.
Herrera returned to form on Sunday in Pro Stock Motorcycle, picking up his fourth win of the year on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki with a run of 7.103 at 187.73 to beat Angie Smith in the championship round. After struggling on Friday, Herrera performed at a high level the rest of the weekend, beating Chris Bostick, defending world champ Matt Smith and rookie Chase Van Sant to reach the final round. A. Smith went red in the finals, but Herrera would have been difficult to beat with his second straight run of 7.10 on Sunday.
After a dominant start to the season, the points leader struggled – at least by his standards – in back-to-back races. But Herrera made another strong statement in his first race ever at a packed Bandimere Speedway.
“I’m glad we bounced back here, especially in front of all these fans at Bandimere Speedway,” said Herrera, who now leads Arana Jr. by 219 points. “These fans are incredible and this whole weekend has been amazing. I’m glad I’m able to add my name to the list of people from Vance & Hines who have won here. It was an adjustment for sure, but the bike was running good all weekend. It makes my job a little easier when you have a bike like that.
“To be able to bounce back from (the last two races) here, of all places, it’s an amazing feeling. It’s a shame to see it go but I’m just glad to put my name as part of the last to ever win here in Pro Stock Motorcycle.”
A. Smith reached the finals for the second time this year and seventh overall by defeating Jianna Evaristo, Eddie Krawiec and No. 1 qualifier Hector Arana Jr.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action July 21-23 with the second race of the famed Western Swing, the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Seattle.