Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan gave Tony Stewart Racing its first-ever nitro sweep in Top Fuel and Funny Car on Sunday at the Texas Motorplex, while Pro Stock’s Erica Enders became the winningest female in NHRA history with her 47th career national event victory to close out a historic and record-breaking 38th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals.
Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Gaige Herrera also won at the 19th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, and the fourth of six races in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
Enders, the reigning and five-time world champion, won in her home state for the second straight year to set the new all-time mark for NHRA national event wins by a female, going 6.469-seconds at 211.15 mph in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet Camaro to get past Dallas Glenn’s 6.493 at 210.40. Enders’ third victory this year also helped extend her lead to an impressive 85 points over Greg Anderson with two races remaining, also picking up her first playoff win of 2023.
After qualifying third as part of the quickest field in Pro Stock history, Enders delivered four straight runs in the 6.40s, knocking off Eric Latino, Cristian Cuadra and Troy Coughlin Jr. to reach the finals. Enders led wire-to-wire against Glenn, surpassing Angelle Sampey for most wins by a female and adding another legacy-defining victory to remarkable career.
“We have a lot of wins that mean an awful lot to us, but as a little girl with big dreams to be a professional driver one day, this one will sit proudly alongside some other ones,” Enders said. “This has been quite the journey and it hasn’t been easy. (Team owner) Richard Freeman gave me this opportunity 10 years ago and I’ll always be grateful. My team has been awesome and we’ve never looked back. This was quite the weekend.
“We came in here on a mission. It’s such a tight field and you see how everyone qualified, and it’s absolutely crazy. It’s cutthroat competition, but I love racing at the (Texas) Motorplex. I’m so thankful for the Meyer family and we’re so blessed to race in Texas. It was a great day and my guys are amazing. I’m really grateful for this group. I’m so thrilled to be here and we’ve got the points lead going to Vegas.”
Glenn took down Bo Butner, Camrie Caruso and Aaron Stanfield to reach the finals for the ninth time in 2023.
In Top Fuel, Pruett finished off the sweep for Tony Stewart Racing, closing out the weekend in style with a holeshot victory, going 3.684 at 330.47 in her 11,000-horsepower Mobil 1 dragster to defeat Steve Torrence in the championship round. It gave Pruett the points lead in the Countdown to the Championship for the first time in her career as she rolled to her second victory this season and 12th in her career.
She defeated Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta, who entered the weekend with the points lead, and Clay Millican to reach the finals, making a trio of runs in the 3.60s. In the final, Pruett posted a .055 reaction time, which proved to be the difference in holding off Torrence’s run of 3.662 at 333.05. It led to a memorable celebration for the entire Tony Stewart Racing team, which enjoyed its first nitro sweep as Pruett now leads Kalitta by just four points with two races left in the season.
“We’re going to take this momentum on and keep trying to do the best we can,” Pruett said. “Beating Doug was huge. You can’t win a championship here, but you can lose one and we made sure we are deep in the hunt, and I couldn’t be prouder. I think we showed (today) what we can do in the Countdown.
“Matt and I had some time in the staging lanes (before the final round) and we just talked about what it takes to be there. He said the key is just focus. I just made sure I was focused on what I could do to get the best performance out of my car. (Now) we’re going to try to do what Tony Stewart Racing does best and that’s to keep winning.”
Torrence took down Buddy Hull, Antron Brown and his father, Billy, to pick up his sixth finals appearance this year and 87th in his career. He also remains in the thick of the championship hunt, trailing Pruett by only 13 points.
Hagan took command of the Funny Car class in impressive fashion over the past two races, winning his second straight event, this time defeating John Force in the final round on Sunday in Dallas with a run of 3.883 at 332.25 in his 11,000-horsepower American Rebel Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. It’s the sixth win this season and the 49th career victory for Hagan, who jumped from third to first in the points standings this weekend. He leads Bob Tasca III by 36 points and Robert Hight by 69 points after putting together a spectacular string of runs on Sunday at the Texas Motorplex.
While Ron Capps and Hight both lost in the first round, and Tasca fell a round later, Hagan knocked off Paul Lee, Terry Haddock and Tim Wilkerson to reach the finals, staying in the 3.80s throughout the day. Force smoked the tires early in the run as Hagan made another clean pass, sending him into the points lead and setting the stage for Pruett to deliver the nitro sweep for Tony Stewart Racing just a few minutes later.
“It’s a dogfight in Funny Car,” said Hagan, who is seeking his fourth career world championship. “It’s just that tough out there. My team put a great car under me and I’m just super proud of them. It takes tons of support to do what we’re doing and to win six races in a year, it’s incredible. It’s just so hard to do and it says a lot about what our team is doing and how great Tony Stewart is as a team owner.
“This was our opportunity to rise to the occasion and our team did that. The chances for Robert, Ron and Tasca going out early is pretty rare, so it was an unreal day for us. We did what we needed to do to turn on win lights. To double-up with this team at TSR, it’s just incredible. I’m really proud of the organization I drive for and there’s only more great things to come, I’m sure.”
Force advanced to the championship round for the second time this season and the 266th time overall thanks to victories against Jeff Diehl, Cruz Pedregon and J.R. Todd.
After a record-breaking weekend, it was only fitting that Gaige Herrera capped off his special weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a victory, knocking off teammate Eddie Krawiec in the final round with a run of 6.644 at 203.30 on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. It was Herrera’s seventh straight run in the 6.60s this weekend at the Texas Motorplex, a streak that included Saturday’s record-breaking blast of 6.627 at 204.16. He followed with his ninth win of his magnificent 2023 season on Sunday, strengthening his points lead in the process.
He knocked off Blaine Hale, Chris Bostick and Hector Arana Jr. to reach the final round and then put together his quickest run of the day in the final round to beat Krawiec for a second straight race, again denying the multi-time world champ his 50th career win. Herrera now holds a 156-point lead over Krawiec and will have a chance to clinch his first career world championship in Las Vegas.
“A year can make a world of difference. I’m just here living the dream,” Herrera said. “This bike has been flying all weekend and this whole weekend has been cool. This is a special one right here and one I’ll never forget. It’s been this incredible what this Vance & Hines team has given me. My bike has been flying and it’s crazy how fast it is and how easy it has been to ride. It’s on a string right now.
“It’s been an incredible experience this weekend in Dallas. Getting the national record (on Saturday) and then the win, and doing it in front of all these great fans all weekend, it’s been amazing.”
Krawiec advanced to his third final round this year and 84th in his career by getting past Cory Reed, Matt Smith and Joey Gladstone.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Oct. 26-29 with the NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.