Matt Hagan, Driver of the Haas Automation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
After starting the season with three car-to-car battles down the strip, how different will The Four-Wide Nationals be?
“The Four-Wide Nationals are always different. Everything we do is repetition and doing the same thing every time. Burning out the same, taking care of the clutch, backing up the same, staging the car, how much fuel we burn on the burnout and getting up to the line to run. Four-wide changes all of that. You have three other cars you have to deal with. I think everyone does a good job of hustling up there and getting the crew chiefs to raise a hand and turn the knob to stage. Sometimes, you can have cars that throw the timing off for everyone. Sometimes you have to put extra fuel in the car to be on the safe side of things. Four-wide is also different as far as the racing goes. I don’t know if the other two cars left the starting line. Sometimes, if your car is beat up or on fire, you lift. On race day, not knowing where those other two cars are, you have to go to the end. If you hope to advance, you have to get to the end since only two out of the four move on and it’s tough when you can’t see the other two cars. You have to be mindful of parts and pieces and ask yourself as a driver whether it’s worth going down all the way.”
Explain the difference in the staging process for a four-wide event.
“The staging at a four-wide event is challenging. I have not staged a car, I’ve red-lit there, I’ve done about everything you can do in a car there. I rely on my crew chief and myself. Dickie (Venables – crew chief) puts his foot in the bulb, even though I know which lane I’m in. It is another indicator of where I’m at. He’ll blink the bulb a couple times so I can see it. It’s easy to get confused up there, so you really have to pay attention during the staging process.”
You’re returning to the Haas Automation Funny Car after pulling it into winner’s circle at Pomona. How special would it be to earn them back-to-back wins?
“The Haas Automation car was special for me to run. To be able to put a win on the board for them for the first time in the NHRA was pretty incredible. I thought it was super special. It would be really cool to pull down another win in that car in Vegas. Your odds are pretty good if you have a fast car. We always seem to do well in Vegas in the Fall, so we have good data to go off of. We’re still learning this new car a bit, but I feel like we have great momentum winning the first two of three races. We’ll have good races and bad races and that’s just the way of the sport. Our guys are doing a great job of putting the car together. Dickie is really doing a great job making the calls on Sunday. I feel like I’m driving my butt off, so all of that is a great combination for Sunday and try to put this Haas Automation car back in the winner’s circle.”
What do you want to get out of this race weekend?
“The four-wide races are so different, so I try not to put a lot of weight on them. Other than the four-wide event at Charlotte, they’re so different from the rest of our season. I want to go out there and have fun. I want to stay focused and be ready for anything that can happen. It’ll be good to get back out there and lay some numbers down. I think we have a good chance at winning this thing, so we’ll see what we can do.”
Notes of Interest:
- The NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the fourth event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 21-race calendar in 2023. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) brings its two full-time entries – one in Top Fuel for 10-time Top Fuel winner Leah Pruett and one in Funny Car for three-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan. Hagan delivered TSR’s second victory of the season in the prior event at Pomona Dragstrip, driving his Haas Automation Dodge SRT Hellcat Funny Car to his 45th career victory in the 63rd NHRA Winternationals.
- Coming into Las Vegas, Pruett is sixth in the Top Fuel standings, 73 points behind leader Justin Ashley. Hagan leads the Funny Car standings with a 26-point advantage over Ron Capps.
- Hagan has now won multiple events in 11 consecutive seasons. That’s the longest active streak in the series and it ties him with Robert Hight and retired Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson for the third-longest in NHRA history. The only drivers who have earned multiple victories in more consecutive seasons are John Force (18 seasons from 1990-2007) and Greg Anderson (12 seasons from 2001-2012).
- Pruett enters Las Vegas representing Code 3 Associates on her blue Top Fuel dragster. Hagan, meanwhile, sports the white, red, gray and black colors of Haas Automation on his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car.