Three-time Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan gave Tony Stewart Racing its first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series victory, racing to his first win at the historic and 53rd annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway on Sunday.
Tripp Tatum (Top Fuel), Dallas Glenn (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also picked up wins at the third of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
In his second final this season, Hagan powered his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers Dodge Charger Hellcat SRT to a run of 3.910-seconds at 330.96 mph to beat Blake Alexander in the final round. It gives Hagan his 40th career victory and just as importantly, his first-ever win at historic Gainesville Raceway. He reached the final round with wins against Dave Richards, Terry Haddock, and Chad Green. Hagan joined the first-year Tony Stewart Racing team in the off-season and posted a No. 1 qualifier and a runner-up for the team before the momentous win on Sunday in Gainesville.
“To get this first win at the Gatornationals and Tony Stewart’s first win in a drag car, it’s pretty awesome,” Hagan said. “He wants to be here, and it says a lot for our sport. It was a good weekend for Tony, a good weekend for NHRA and I’m just very blessed and humbled to be here. I want to make sure I’m showing up on the starting line and doing my part and I just know what this team is capable of. It’s a lot of tough competition, but as a driver that’s exciting.
“It just was a big weekend for me personally because I’ve been wanting to win this race and check it off on my career box, and I think this allows me to accomplish everything I’ve ever set out to do in NHRA.”
Added Stewart: “This is pretty badass, especially at the Gatornationals. We’ve got two awesome race teams that work their butts off. I’m really proud of all these guys.”
Making his first appearance of the 2022 season, Alexander advanced to his fifth career final round, knocking off J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon and Ron Capps.
A day after picking up his first career No. 1 qualifier, Tatum did one better, driving to his first career Top Fuel victory with a standout run of 3.700 at 330.31 in his 11,000-horsepower Tripp Tatum Racing dragster. Making just his 12th career start, Tatum delivered a truly magical weekend, beating Lex Joon, Billy Torrence, and points leader Mike Salinas to reach the final round, a day after qualifying No. 1 with a 3.674 at 331.53. He was just as good on Sunday during eliminations, streaking past Foley to earn an incredible victory.
“This is pretty neat,” Tatum said. “My dad was at the first Gatornationals and my first career race was at the Gatornationals. This is just surreal and it’s not even close to setting in. There’s a lot of excitement now and this was a gigantic step for this team. I never really thought about winning, it’s been overwhelming and that’s all because of the Capco family. For me, I’m a lucky guy to have this opportunity to do this with the way Top Fuel is and the competition level in this class, it’s pretty awesome.”
Foley advanced to his first career final round, as the veteran knocked off Spencer Massey, Clay Millican and Justin Ashley in what was his most successful day as a Top Fuel driver.
In Pro Stock, Glenn, the reigning NHRA Rookie of the Year, got the best of his KB Racing teammate in the final round, going 6.486 at 210.21 in his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro to knock off Kyle Koretsky. It gives Glenn his fourth career victory and first this season, also giving KB Racing its first win of the year after Elite Motorsports dominated the first two races. Gainesville, though, belonged to KB Racing, as Glenn knocked off Troy Coughlin Jr., points leader Aaron Stanfield and Rodger Brogdon to reach the final round. There, he tracked down Koretsky to pick up another major victory in his young career.
“The track felt great all weekend and we felt pretty good going into raceday,” Glenn said. “The car made an absolutely beautiful run in the final. The new car is working fantastic and to knock off a win really early in the season really gets me excited for the rest of the year. You get a season under your belt and then it’s a different pressure, but we ran great on raceday, and it should be a really fun season if we can continue to run like this. But this category is so tough and it’s really awesome right now.”
Koretsky advanced to the final round for the sixth time in his career, picking up round wins against Fernando Cuadra, Camrie Caruso, and Mason McGaha. In the opening-round, four-time world champ Erica Enders made the quickest pass in Pro Stock history, going 6.450 at 213.57 in a losing effort.
Stoffer wrapped up one of the most impressive weekends in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, finishing her record-breaking weekend by going 6.700 at 200.77 on her Big St. Charles/Ray Skillman Suzuki to beat Angie Smith in the final round. It proved to be a thrilling way for the category to open its 2022 season and the weekend belonged to Stoffer, who claimed her 11th career victory. To reach the final round for the fourth straight race, dating back to last season, Stoffer made the two quickest runs in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, going 6.682 at 198.70 in the opening round to initially set the record before she topped it with an astounding 6.665 at 200.71 a round later. Stoffer added a 6.721 at 200.08 to reach the final round, with her finals performance giving Stoffer the third-quickest run in class history.
“I knew the conditions were fantastic and out of the box, the bike was on fire,” said Stoffer, who now has three Gatornationals wins. “Gainesville is like my second home. I’ve spent a lot of time here; I feel really comfortable racing here and I’ve done well. When you look at that whole package, it means a lot and it’s definitely a dream come true to win and set a record at one of my favorite tracks. I love it here and it’s really nice to know we were able to cement something and say we were the first bike in the 6.60s.”
Smith had a strong weekend as well, advancing to her third career final round thanks to round wins against Chris Bostick, Steve Johnson, and Joey Gladstone.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action April 1-3 with the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.