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Tony Stewart Racing Dodge//SRT Drag Racing Duo Pruett and Hagan Ready for Return to Track in Special PRO Superstar Shootout

With Tony Stewart Racing’s (TSR) Top Fuel and Funny Car squads returning to the track for the team’s 2024 debut, drivers Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan have the coveted $250,000 top prize in their minds for the inaugural SCAG Power Equipment PRO Super Shootout presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage this week (Feb. 8-10) in Bradenton, Fla.

The new season-opening event brings together the top professional drag racers for the largest single pro race payout in drag racing history and Pruett and Hagan come back to the drag strip after finishing the 2023 national tour in impressive fashion. Hagan captured his fourth NHRA World Funny Car championship in the TSR Direct Connection Dodge//SRT® Hellcat, and Pruett came within one round of winning the prestigious NHRA Top Fuel title in her TSR Dodge//SRT Direct Connection dragster.

For Pruett, the PRO Superstar Shootout will be her lone Top Fuel appearance in 2024 as she and her husband, Tony Stewart, plan to start a family this year. Pruett will continue to be an important element to the TSR operation, serving as driving coach and strategist throughout the drag racing season.

“We showed we have what it takes to perform at the highest level last year,” said Pruett. “That confidence is used as building blocks moving forward. I want to experience it all at the PRO event – being with the team, working on new projects, dusting driving cobwebs off, all while engaging with fans that feel it’s their last time to see me racing. But it’s not as if I won’t be around the track all year. It’s just going to be a lot to take in this week.”

With Pruett stepping away from the cockpit of the TSR Dodge//SRT Top Fueler, Stewart will move into Pruett’s machine and begin his Top Fuel career in the NHRA Mission Foods Pro Series season opener on March 7-10 in the TSR Dodge//SRT Direct Connection dragster in the Amalie Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. But Pruett is focused on winning this week’s special “All-Star” event and collecting the $250,000 top prize.

“I feel like a bear coming out of hibernation that has been surviving without a meal for months and is ready to eat,” Pruett said. “We’re hungry and a win this early in the season is great for our organization and the crew members. PRO is putting up big money and we want to capitalize on it this week.”

Stewart, a former NASCAR, IndyCar and USAC driving champion, admits he wasn’t sure if Leah and crew chief Neal Strausbaugh would want him to take over the driving chores for 2024, but they had confidence in his abilities earned in the Alcohol Dragster class, where he finished second in 2023 NHRA national points.

“To make a decision like this must be extremely hard for Leah,” said Stewart, a NASCAR Hall of Famer. “I’m very proud of her. We had discussed starting a family and this was her decision. I was very supportive as to whether she wanted to do it now or years from now. I’m very humbled that Leah and Neal felt I was the driver to fill in for her. I feel honored that I can drive the Top Fuel dragster for my wife and this team.”

Hagan is confident entering the PRO Superstar Shootout with his JHG Dodge//SRT Hellcat Funny Car after a sensational NHRA championship run in 2023. Hagan’s TSR crew is intact and back for the 2024 campaign with another title on their mind as well as the $250,000 first place cash this weekend.

“I’m moving into the new season as a defending champion, but at the end of the day, that was last year and this is this year, 2024,” Hagan explained. “We have to start fresh, and we plan to bring the package that was strong at the end of the year. We’ve never raced on this Bradenton facility, and everyone is gunning for you now after winning the championship.

“To race for $250,000 for each pro class is massive. Money motivates everyone and people want to see big-money races. It’s a new race structure to look at and an opportunity to do something big right out of the box. We still have to buckle down and work hard during this whole season to defend what we know we just accomplished in the past. Plus, this is Leah’s last race for a while and I want TSR to score another ‘Double Up.’”

Action gets underway this Thursday (Feb. 8) at Bradenton Motorsports Park with testing at 10 a.m. EST and Pro qualifying at 6:15 p.m. Pro qualifying on Friday (Feb. 9) is scheduled for 12 p.m. EST and 3:15 p.m. Saturday’s events begin at 1 p.m. with opening ceremonies followed by the first round of Pro eliminations set for 2 p.m.

This story was originally published on February 8, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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