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TSR’s Tony Stewart, Matt Hagan Hunting for Solid Showing at NHRA New England Nationals

Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) is set to compete at the NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire, the seventh event on the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series’ 20-race calendar for 2024. TSR will feature two full-time entries, with Tony Stewart driving the Top Fuel dragster and Matt Hagan competing in the Funny Car category.

Tony Stewart, making his seventh career Top Fuel start, will drive the red, white, gray, and black Rinnai tankless water heaters dragster. Entering the event eighth in the Top Fuel standings, 236 points behind leader Justin Ashley, Stewart aims to climb the rankings and secure his first victory and No. 1 qualifier at the New England Nationals. Stewart brings significant experience from his NASCAR career, including three wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH.

““Epping is a new track to me so I’m going to have to just learn the facility first,” said Stewart. “Neal (Strausbaugh – crew chief) and Mike (Domagala – co-crew chief) and the team have been there multiple times, so it’s just me getting caught up to the racetrack and learning the nuances of it that are different than any of the other tracks we go to.”

In the Funny Car category, 51-time winner and four-time champion Matt Hagan will race his Dodge//SRT Hellcat Funny Car adorned in the red colors of Rush Truck Centers. Leading the Funny Car standings with a 14-point advantage over Austin Prock, Hagan seeks to continue his winning streak, having secured back-to-back victories in the last two events, including the recent NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Chicago.

“Coming off of back-to-back wins is big momentum for Epping,” said Hagan. “Every race is so different though when it comes to track conditions and weather. What’s nice is that I’ve been with Dickie (Venables – crew chief) for so long now, I think we’re coming up on 15 years. Epping has been very kind to me, having won four races there. I think I’ll grow the handlebar mustache again and try to bring that juju back. It’s so tough to win one race in a nitro Funny Car. To win back-to-back races is a massive feat, so to be able to win three in a row would be pretty awesome. We’re rolling into the weekend with a lot of data to go off of and positive vibes.”

The NHRA New England Nationals marks Stewart’s first appearance at Epping, while Hagan makes his 339th career Funny Car start and 11th at Epping. Hagan, the all-time leader in New England Nationals victories, has won four of the last six events and secured three No. 1 qualifiers at Epping. Hagan aims to achieve a third consecutive win for the first time in his career.

There will be four qualifying sessions at the NHRA New England Nationals and its something that both drivers are looking to capitalize on.

“I think having a fourth qualifying run will definitely be a much larger deal for me as a driver,” added Stewart. “There’s a lot of pressure when there’s only three sessions to get that solid running. I’m looking forward to getting to Epping and representing Rinnai for their first race of the season.”

Hagan shared, “Having four qualifying sessions is always good. Anytime we only have three, it’s always tricky because sometimes weather plays a part in it and you end up only getting two sessions. There have been some races where we weren’t able to get any qualifying runs in and the ladder was set off of points. Four sessions make it nice to gather more data and have more information to go off of. As the season gets into the summer months, we’ll be racing on warmer tracks. I think Dickie did a great job last weekend in Chicago, since he was able to get a handle on a hot-weather racetrack in a lane we didn’t have the most competitive advantage in. We had to dig out of a hole a little bit last weekend. So, the confidence is big. Dickie is a great racer on Sunday. I’m excited anytime we get more runs. I like getting to play in my racecar and burn nitro, but the biggest thing is more data acquisition. There are a lot of heavy-hitters in the class, so every race is very competitive. We have to stay aggressive. It’s nice to have the points lead right now, but as fast as that comes, it can go. We have to stay on top of things.”

Special Events

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  • Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge: Hagan will participate in the fourth challenge appearance this season, featuring a rematch against Blake Alexander in Round 1.
  • Autograph Session: Hagan will join the Mission #2Fast2Tasty autograph session on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT at the Mission Foods Display.
  • Mopar CAP Partnership: TSR will collaborate with the Mopar Career Automotive Program (CAP) on Friday, supporting technical education for future Stellantis technicians.

This story was originally published on May 30, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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