July 31, 2022,
Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) pilot Leah Pruett closed out the National Hot Rod Association's (NHRA) three-event Western Swing by taking her Sparkling Ice +Caffeine Dodge//SRT Top Fuel dragster from the No. 12 seeded position to a semifinal appearance at the Northwest Nationals near Seattle, Washington.
Pruett drove to a 3.897-second elapsed time pass in the final qualifying session to secure the spot on the eliminations ladder that paired her with No. 5 qualifier Antron Brown for the opening round. She kicked off eliminations by beating Brown on the tree by 0.003 seconds, then battling it out the entire length of the track before the Dodge//SRT dragster turned on the win lights with Pruett’s quickest run of the weekend, a 3.781-second pass at 325.69 mph to defeat her opponent’s 3.796 sec./320.81 mph effort.
In the quarterfinals, Pruett had another close battle with No. 4 qualifier Doug Kalitta whom she chased down with a (0.080-second reaction time) 3.818 sec./322.42 mph run to better his (0.075-second RT) 3.827 sec./316.67 mph pass and take the round win with a 0.0041-second margin of victory. That set up a semifinal match-up with Brittany Force against whom a loss of traction at the start of the lap sent Pruett’s chances to challenge the current Top Fuel points leader up in smoke and ended what has been a solid three week campaign for her TSR team.
Pruett’s performance over the three-event Western Swing included a big win at the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals near Denver, a No. 1 qualifier position and quarterfinal appearance at the Sonoma Nationals, and with the addition of Sunday’s semifinal appearance at the Northwest Nationals she sits solidly sixth in the Top Fuel championship standings with three events remaining in the regular season.
TSR teammate Matt Hagan came into the Western Swing second in the Funny Car championship standings after a strong start to the year that included three wins aboard his Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat. After initially kicking off the series of three consecutive events with a No. 1 qualifier position at the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals, the team has since encountered a few challenges.
Following a pair of uncharacteristic first round exits at Denver and Sonoma, Hagan had hoped to drive from his 12th place qualifying position at Pacific Raceways to four quality elimination runs on Sunday beginning with a showdown against No. 3 qualifier John Force. The Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat launched first and took the early lead but started to lose power just as Force began to lose traction. By then it was too late for Hagan as his opponent pedaled it enough to make it to the finish ahead of him. Despite the third consecutive opening round loss, Hagan remains solidly in second place behind category points leader and eventual event winner Robert Hight.
Fellow Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver Cruz Pedregon put in another solid qualifying effort to put himself No. 4 on the eliminations ladder and set up for a first round pairing with No. 9 seed Tim Wilkerson. While his opponent had a quicker start, Pedregon’s Snap-on Tools HEMI®-powered Funny Car took over the lead in the first few feet until it began to haze the tires and drop cylinders. While Wilkerson also had traction issues, he was able to make his way to the finish first and brought Pedregon’s race day to a premature end. Despite the setback, Pedregon is seventh in Funny Car points and firmly among the top ten positions with expectations of making the “Countdown to the Championship” playoffs.
The NHRA will take a one week break before returning to competition for the 14th of 22 events on the 2022 schedule at the Menards NHRA Nationals Presented By PetArmor at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas.
ADDITIONAL NOTES and QUOTES:
Leah Pruett, Sparkling Ice +Caffeine Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 12 Qualifier – 3.897 seconds at 314.39 mph)
(0.090-second reaction time, 3.781 seconds at 325.69 mph) defeats No. 5 Antron Brown (0.093/3.796/320.81)
(0.080/3.818/322.42) defeats No. 4 Doug Kalitta (0.075/3.827/316.67)
(0.141/6.295/107.05) loss to No.1 Brittany Force (0.087/3.823/325.61)
“This was one of the largest learning curves that we’ve had in a long time. We came out on the good side of things. Qualifying No. 12 wasn’t ideal, but a problem kept arising that would happen every two or three races. Saturday night before eliminations, this Sparkling Ice team spent about four hours dedicated to finding our out of control shaft issue, with an outlier we couldn’t put our finger on. By 11 p.m., we found a very large issue, so we addressed it going into race day with things unknown. We were able to put down a solid .78 run with lane choice for the second round. We have a better performing race car than we’ve had all year even though we didn’t make it to the finals. There was a huge piece of the puzzle that was missing and we found it here in Seattle.
"It’s very difficult to do something like that one the Western Swing, but we did, so we have more confidence than ever going into finalizing our spot in the top 10 and keeping the points going. I did not do my best job in the semifinal. We put on a different blower and the car ended up being better than we thought it was, so we were overpowered. We didn’t finish the best way we wanted to, but everyone on the team has a great mindset. We had a great Western Swing and we only missed running in three rounds. Our parts attrition has been fantastic and attitudes are great. I personally learned a lot of dynamics of doing a great job on the tree. I didn’t get to fully use some of the apparatuses I have in the toolbox to practice on the road, so I’ll be spending these next two weeks dialing myself back in. We have a race car that’s performing better than ever now and will be more consistent. It makes the drive home for the team even better when you’ve had a successful Swing like this.”
Matt Hagan, Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car
(No. 10 Qualifier – 4.031 seconds at 311.20 mph)
(0.062-second reaction time, 4.633 seconds at 186.00 mph) loss to No. 3 John Force (0.073/4.277/277.66)
“The Western Swing wasn’t very kind to us. It was tough having three first-round losses in a row. I think we have some problems with our fuel management system, where we are dropping cylinders. That’s something that is uncommon for us, so we have to use this next week off to take a look at some things. We’ll look at what we’ve changed from the beginning of the season to now and go back to where the car is running on all eight cylinders again. We have to get back on top of where we were and how we were doing it. Our Dodge Power Brokers crew wants to perform well in qualifying to set us up for a great day on Sunday. The car had a cylinder out at the step and it was one of those rounds that could have gone either way and today, things didn’t go our way. I always love racing John (Force). He’s a character and I like getting up on the wheel for him because I get excited to race him. He’s one of those guys you just want to beat because he’s John Force. I’m looking forward to the week off to see my family and get back to the farm. The week off will allow us to hit the reset button and get focused to race in Topeka.”
Cruz Pedregon, Pedregon Racing Snap-on® Tools Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
(No. 4 Qualifier – 4.002 seconds at 315.56 mph)
(0113-second reaction time, 4.622 seconds at 181.64 mph) loss to No. 9 Tim Wilkerson (0.087/4.459/214.83)
“We qualified in the No. 4 spot with a four flat and we felt good going into race day against Tim Wilkerson. We had some solid qualifying runs at 4.07 [seconds], 4.05 and a 4.0, so heading into race day in the early morning we felt like the track was going to be good. Unfortunately, we went out there, spun the tires, and it really ended our weekend prematurely. We're disappointed that that was our end result, but we'll go back and regroup. We're going to debut a new car this coming weekend at the ‘Night under Fire’ special match race in Norwalk (Ohio) next Saturday. It’s a completely new car so we look forward to getting that dialed in with some test runs to get it ready for Topeka. We're optimistic with a lot of big races coming up. We're looking forward to continuing our qualifying efforts and carrying that through the next few race days.”
NHRA CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS:
Following the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways
FUNNY CAR (season wins in parentheses)
1. Robert Hight 1250 (6)
2. Matt Hagan (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 1022 (3)
3. Ron Capps: 956 (2)
4. John Force: 904
5. Bob Tasca III: 797 (1)
6. J.R. Todd: 708
7. Cruz Pedregon (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat): 686
8. Alexis DeJoria: 659
9. Tim Wilkerson: 574
10. Jim Campbell: 457
TOP FUEL (season wins in parentheses)
1. Brittany Force: 1083 (5)
2. Mike Salinas: 1008 (3)
3. Justin Ashley: 910 (2)
4. Steve Torrence: 862
5. Josh Hart: 689
6. Leah Pruett (Dodge Power Brokers): 673 (1)
7. Shawn Langdon: 657
8. Doug Kalitta: 624
9. Austin Prock: 602
10. Clay Millican: 583
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