Pre-Race NHRA Arizona Nationals

Matt Hagan, Driver of the Dodge Direct Connection Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car

After delivering TSR their first Wally of the season at the Gatornationals, what confidence does that give you heading into Phoenix knowing you already checked the win box?

“We have a lot of confidence heading into Phoenix after winning in Gainesville. However, every race is so different and the conditions are so different. It’s hard to get on a winning streak. It seems like you’ll win a race, go some rounds and then win some more. It’s always challenging and competitive. I do feel really good about the calls Dickie (Venables – crew chief) is making. The car is driving great and responding well, so I feel like we can take that into Phoenix with a great baseline to work off of. Hopefully we’re able to qualify well and lay down some numbers.”

You secured the No. 1 qualifying position at last year’s Arizona Nationals with TSR and you’ve gone to the Finals in five of your last nine starts at Phoenix. What makes the track so successful for you?

“We used to test at Phoenix a lot, so that that’s given us a lot of data to reference. It’s also pretty cool there this time of year, which the car responds well to. The track maintenance is also really good and you can apply a lot of power to it. Dickie likes to run in drier conditions like that.”

By advancing to the Semifinals at the Gatornationals, you qualified to participate in the new Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, where you’ll face off against Alexis DeJoria. How valuable will the bonus purse and bonus points be towards the Countdown to the Championship?

“Being able to do this #2Fast2Tasty Challenge is huge. It’s big for our guys because it’s extra money in their pocket if we can make it happen. My crew was already talking about it last week during the race. Once we made it to the semifinals at Gainesville, they knew they had a shot at that money. Everyone is driven and excited and we want to put on a great show for the fans. It’s really neat to be able to put on a race for the fans on both Saturday and Sunday now.”

With 2023 marking the final appearance for the NHRA at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, what is your favorite memory from the track?

“It saddens my heart to think we won’t be back to Phoenix. I really enjoy the whole area, plus the Radford Racing School is out there. I’ve always enjoyed Phoenix, so it’s tough it’ll be our last season racing at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. Let’s put our names in the history books and go win the last one in our Dodge Direct Connection Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car.”

Notes of Interest

  • The NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is the second 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 first victory of the season in the prior event at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway, driving his Dodge Direct Connection SRT Hellcat Funny Car to his 44th career victory in the 54th NHRA Gatornationals.
  • Direct Connection is the primary partner of Pruett and Hagan this weekend in Phoenix. 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.
  • The Arizona Nationals will mark Hagan’s 317th career Funny Car start and his 14th at Phoenix. He’s recorded three career wins at Phoenix in 2015, 2017 and 2019. In 2015, he defeated Del Worsham with a 3.975 ET at 324.83 mph (compared to Worsham’s 4.010 ET, 318.17 mph run). In 2017, Hagan’s 3.873 ET at 330.88 mph defeated Ron Capps (3.883 ET at 330.88 mph). In 2019, Hagan defeated J.R. Todd with a 3.890 ET at 325.06 mph run (Todd’s car broke on burnout, so he didn’t record a time). He has competed in the final round at Phoenix five times in his last nine starts (2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2022). Hagan has three No. 1 qualifiers at Phoenix, which came in 2015 (3.978 ET at 320.28 mph), 2020 (3.859 ET at 331.61 mph) and 2022 (3.823 ET at 333.41 mph).
  • Hagan is the track record holder for time at Phoenix at 3.823-seconds, a mark he established last year (February 26, 2022) while qualifying No. 1.
  • By advancing to the Semifinals at the Gatornationals, both Pruett and Hagan qualified to participate in the new Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge. The challenge brings competitive racing to the qualifying schedule at 12 regular-season events during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series campaign, pitting semifinalists from the previous race against each other in a pair of rematches, with the two winners then matching up in the final qualifying session. Pruett earned a rematch against Mike Salinas and Hagan will face-off against Alexis DeJoria in Round 1. There is a bonus purse and bonus points for the Countdown to the Championship on the line.
  • Pruett and Hagan will participate in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty autograph session on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The session will take place at the Mission Foods Display.
  • DYK? The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series is set to make its final appearance at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park. 2023 marks the 38th annual event held at the legendary track in Chandler and the track is approaching a sell-out status for the historic weekend.