In the series’ last event at Dallas, you and your team earned a double-up victory with teammate Leah Pruett and took over the points lead. What’s your confidence level heading into Las Vegas?
“Having back-to-back wins rolling into Vegas gives us a lot of confidence. Funny Car racing is very humbling, so you never know what you’re going to get. When we’re in Vegas, we’re halfway to Denver’s altitude as far as making power goes. You have to change a lot on the car. I have faith in my crew and my job is to drive the wheels off of it. We have a lot of momentum, so we just have to keep it going. I’m proud of my team. They’re turning the car around really quick and that’s all you can ask for. I’ve won two of my championships with Dickie (Venables – crew chief), so we know what we need to do and what we’re capable of.”
You’ll be testing at Las Vegas after the NHRA Nevada Nationals. How valuable will that track day be as you start to prepare for the season finale in Pomona?
“Testing will be productive because it’s great any time we get to make runs in the car. I’m not sure how much of it will carry over to Pomona because of the altitude difference. But sometimes, crew chiefs want to try out different parts that will put us in a better position at the start of next year. The last test session of the year is always important because it can help dictate how you roll into the first test session of next year. Sometimes you run well enough at Vegas, so you don’t want to hurt parts and pieces in testing and decide not to test. I’m excited to get to Vegas because it’s really neat to watch the jets from nearby Nellis Air Force Base fly over throughout the weekend. Let’s go get another win.”
- The NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the second-to-last race on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series’ 21-race schedule and it is the fifth round in the six-race Countdown to the Championship. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) drivers Leah Pruett (Top Fuel) and Matt Hagan (Funny Car) are both in the Countdown, with 2023 marking Pruett’s seventh appearance in the NHRA postseason and Hagan’s 12th.
- Pruett and Hagan earned TSR’s first double-up win at the previous event, the Texas NHRA FallNationals. Pruett is leading the Top Fuel standings heading into Las Vegas, 4 points ahead of Doug Kalitta. Hagan is leading the Funny Car standings, 36 points ahead of Bob Tasca III. Pruett’s best career points finish is fourth, earned three times (2018, 2019 and 2020). Hagan is a three-time champion (2011, 2014 and 2020).
- Direct Connection is the primary partner of Pruett and Hagan this weekend in Las Vegas. 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 competed at Las Vegas earlier this year (April 14-16) during the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. Pruett secured the No. 5 qualifying position and advanced to Round 2 on Sunday. Hagan secured the No. 3 qualifying position and won the event, where his run of 3.943 ET at 326.79 mph defeated Tim Wilkerson ((3.969 ET at 319.45 mph), John Force (4.005 ET at 321.81 mph) and Chad Green (4.222 ET at 250.74 mph). Hagan is trying to complete a 2023 sweep of the races at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
- The NHRA Nevada Nationals will be Pruett’s 206th career Top Fuel start. It’ll be her 17th overall start at Las Vegas and her 10th in the NHRA Nevada Nationals. For Hagan, the NHRA Nevada Nationals will be his 331st career Funny Car start. It’ll be his 29th overall start at Las Vegas and his 15th in the NHRA Nevada Nationals.
- Pruett earned the No. 1 qualifier at the 2019 NHRA Nevada Nationals with an ET of 3.654 seconds at 330.47 mph, which set a new track record. She is seeking her first Top Fuel victory at Las Vegas, with her best result coming in the 2018 NHRA Nevada Nationals when she finished runner-up to event winner Steve Torrence. Pruett, however, has proven victorious at Las Vegas. She won the Pro Mod title in the 2011 NHRA Nevada Nationals.
- Hagan has four career wins at the NHRA Nevada Nationals (2017, 2019, 2020 and 2022). For his first victory in 2017, Hagan ran a 3.942 ET at 329.42 mph to defeat Courtney Force (4.020 ET at 320.00 mph). In 2019, Hagan ran a 3.876 ET at 331.36 mph to defeat Jonnie Lindberg (3.945 ET at 321.12 mph). In 2020, Hagan clocked a 3.914 ET at 326.40 mph to defeat Ron Capps (4.463 ET at 173.70 mph). And in 2022, Hagan ran a 3.896 ET at 330.23 mph to defeat Robert Hight (6.157 ET at 111.12 mph). Hagan has raced in 10 final rounds at the Las Vegas track, more than any other venue.
- The Nevada Nationals is one of three events Hagan has won four times (along with the Winternationals and the New England Nationals). He has gone to the finals in five of his last six appearances.
- Hagan has two No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Nevada Nationals, which came in 2009 (4.030 ET at 313.88 mph) and 2014 (3.983 ET at 322.42 mph).