Round wins are worth 1.5 times more at Indianapolis. With one race remaining in the regular season, what are your goals at this year’s Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals prior to the Countdown to the Championship?
“2013 was the last time I entered the Countdown leading in the points, so that is definitely my goal leaving Indianapolis. We’ve led the points most of the year and (Ron) Capps took over the lead after Brainerd. With points and a half at Indy, anything is attainable. Between knowing what we’re capable of and what we learned in testing on Monday, I feel very confident rolling into Indy. I know it could be hot, but I feel we still have a good hot-weather tune-up and a great cool-weather tune-up. Dickie (Venables – crew chief) has all the bases covered, so I am excited. I’m looking forward to getting into town early for the Dodge Drive Event and getting focused for the week. It’s the biggest race of the year. I’ve won it before, but it’s been a while, so it’s time to win it again. It would be nice to put two Indy trophies on the shelf. I want to enjoy the moment. Sometimes, we get so caught up in the points, but we also need to enjoy the ride. We work hard during the week and I’m confident in my driving ability. Sometimes, you can build up so much anticipation and miss out on the enjoyment of it. I want to take it in stride and enjoy the weekend coming up.”
What do you look forward to the most about the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals?
“I enjoy everything we get to do outside of the track. I’ll get to participate in the Riley Children’s Hospital car show and autograph session on Friday. That really puts things into perspective and it’s incredible how blessed we are to have healthy children. We’re very competitive on the track, but it reminds us it’s not always a bad thing to lose a drag race. Your kids and family are everything. We’ll also have a lot of support at the track from Dodge, so we’re going to enjoy the week.”
- The Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals Sept. 1-4 at Indianapolis Raceway Park is the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ regular season finale. The Big Go marks the 15th race on the 21-race calendar before the Countdown to the Championship begins Sept. 14-17 with the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennsylvania. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) brings its two fulltime entries to Indianapolis this Labor Day Weekend – one in Top Fuel for 11-time event winner Leah Pruett and one in Funny Car for 47-time Funny Car winner and three-time champion Matt Hagan.
- At the conclusion of the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals, the top-10 drivers in the standings in each of the four professional categories of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – qualify for the Countdown to the Championship. The top-10 drivers in each class then compete in the final, six-race playoffs to vie for the title. Coming into Indianapolis, Pruett is fifth in the Top Fuel championship standings, 262 points behind leader Justin Ashley. Hagan, meanwhile, is second in the Funny Car championship standings, 21 points behind leader Ron Capps. Both drivers have secured their position in the Countdown to the Championship.
- The Big Go is always a big deal, and the points that can be earned in the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals reflect the magnitude of the event. Round wins are worth 1.5 times more at Indianapolis (30 points per round). Pruett and Hagan will also participate in five qualifying rounds, versus the standard three or four rounds at all other events. At the conclusion of the weekend, points will be adjusted for the start of the Countdown to the Championship. First and second place will be separated by 20 points, while the remaining top-10 drivers are separated in 10-point increments. Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge points from the season will be added on top of the points reset. Each Challenge win is worth three bonus points, runner-ups earn two points, and the quickest losing semifinalist earns one point. Hagan has earned 10 points in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge this season. Pruett has earned three points thus far, with the possibility of earning more points in Indianapolis.
- The Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals is a marquee weekend for TSR and team partner Dodge. Direct Connection adorn Pruett’s Top Fuel dragster and Hagan’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. With muscle car enthusiasts looking for “ready to run” parts, Direct Connection serves as the source for high-performance parts and technical expertise straight from the factory. The Top Fuel Dragster and Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car are featured in Sublime green. Sublime was first introduced during the 1970 model year. The Dodge Charger and Challenger, in current form, are coming to an end after this year. Dodge is bringing back the iconic color for consumers to bring nostalgia to the highways and purchase their own commemorative last call vehicle.
- Pruett and Hagan will participate in a Dodge Drive Event Aug. 28-29 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The Dodge Drive Event is presented by Dodge and Radford Racing School. With help from Pruett and Hagan, as well as Radford Racing School and Dodge Thrill Ride instructors, fans have a unique opportunity to experience the driving capabilities of five high-performance Dodge models: Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody, Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye Widebody, Durango SRT Hellcat, Durango SRT 392 and Charger Scat Pack 392. Pruett and Hagan will also participate in a Dodge autograph session on Friday from 5:45-6:15 p.m. EDT and again on Saturday from 2:15-2:45 p.m. EDT. Both sessions take place in the pits at the Dodge display.
- The Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals will serve as Pruett’s 201st career Top Fuel start and her ninth in the event. It will mark her 12th overall start at Indianapolis, which includes three special-event starts in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For Hagan, this will be his 326th career Funny Car start and his 15th in the U.S. Nationals. It will mark his 18th overall start at Indianapolis, which includes three pandemic-related special-event starts in 2020.
- Pruett is seeking her first victory in the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals. However, she has been in the winners’ circle at Indianapolis when she defeated Mark Pawuk in an all-Dodge Factory Stock Showdown event in 2018. Pruett was also the No. 1 qualifier at that event at 8.022 seconds. In Top Fuel, her best result came in 2020 when she beat Tony Schumacher and Steve Torrence in the second and third rounds, respectively, before losing to Shawn Langdon. Pruett is seeking her first No. 1 qualifier at the event.
- Hagan won the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals in 2016. His run of 3.964 ET at 327.43 mph defeated Del Worsham (3.958 ET at 324.20 mph). Hagan also has five No. 1 qualifiers at Indianapolis, which came in 2010 (4.039 ET at 299.86 mph), 2013 (4.007 ET at 319.22 mph), 2014 (3.998 ET at 318.99 mph), 2016 (3.858 ET at 330.80 mph) and 2017 (3.799 ET at 338.77 mph). Hagan enters the U.S. Nationals three round wins shy of 500.
- Hagan is the track record holder at Indianapolis in both time and speed (3.799 seconds, 338.77 mph), which he set on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. The 3.799-second mark is a personal best and it made Hagan just the second Funny Car driver to break the 3.800 second barrier. In addition to his 2016 victory in the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals, Hagan won two of the three special events contested at Indianapolis in 2020 during the COVID-19 shortened season. On July 12, he beat Tommy Johnson Jr., to win the E3 Spark Plugs Nationals and on July 19 he beat Jack Beckman to win the Summernationals.
- Hagan and seven of his Funny Car counterparts have a race within the race at Indianapolis. On Sunday, the Pep Boys NHRA Funny Car All-Star Callout pits the top-eight Funny Car drivers against one another in a winner-take-all event worth $80,000 and televised live on FOX. Hagan tied with Bob Tasca III for the third seed in the specialty race by way of qualifying points since last year’s specialty race (Tasca III won the tiebreaker with a better average qualifying position). Hagan is joined in the Callout by reigning Funny Car champion Ron Capps and fellow Funny Car drivers Robert Hight, Bob Tasca III, John Force, Alexis DeJoria, Cruz Pedregon and Tim Wilkerson. The Callout is exactly what it sounds like. Prior to the second round of qualifying on Saturday, drivers will “call out” who they want to go up against on Sunday. The first to make a call out is Hight, who earned the No. 1 seed. He gets to pick from the seven drivers who he wants as his opening-round opponent. Capps would get the next pick, provided he is not called out by Hight. Tasca III and Hagan would follow until all the first-round matchups are set. The first round of the Callout will take place at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Sunday with the semifinals set to follow at 3:20 p.m. FOX comes on the air at 4 p.m. to recap the action from the first round and semifinals before showing the final round live at 5:15 p.m. where the last two drivers standing in the bracket-style elimination go head-to-head for bragging rights and the $80,000 payday.
- Hagan, Pruett and Stewart will participate in Tony Stewart Store merchandise trailer signings. Hagan and Pruett will be signing Friday from 4:30-5:50 p.m. EDT. Stewart will be signing Friday from 5:15-5:45 p.m. EDT. Hagan and Pruett will have a second signing Saturday from 1:00-1:20 p.m. EDT. Stewart will have a second signing on Saturday from 6:00-6:30 p.m. EDT.