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Hagan Drives TSR Direct Connection Dodge//SRT Hellcat to Semifinals, Stewart Misses by Inches Early in NHRA Summit Racing Nationals

Auburn Hills, MI – Reigning NHRA Mission Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion Matt Hagan continued his road toward a fifth world title Sunday at the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, with a semifinals finish in his Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) Direct Connection Dodge//SRT Hellcat nitro-burning race car.

Hagan, who is one of only four drivers to ever win four NHRA Funny Car championships, produced another strong performance, along with his Dickie Venables-led TSR crew, with two round victories in eliminations over former World Champion Cruz Pedregon and defending Norwalk race winner Blake Alexander. Hagan, who qualified sixth in the 16-car Funny Car lineup, recorded times of 3.914 and 3.900 in those wins, including setting low elapsed time (ET) in the second round.

In the semifinals against another former champion, Ron Capps, Hagan’s 11,000-horsepower machine lost traction off the starting line and Capps advanced to the Funny Car final round. Despite the semifinals loss, Hagan continues to pile up valuable points and ranks third, just three points out of second as the Virginia driver now enters the “Western Swing” of the NHRA Mission Drag Racing Series with the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways on July 19-21.

“We’ve advanced to the semifinals the last three races in a row and have some momentum going into the ‘Western Swing’ in a few weeks,” said Hagan. “It will be nice to get a little break. And it was great to have a group from Dodge at the race this week. We get to represent Dodge again at Seattle in the next race. We have one win there and we are working hard to get back in the winner’s circle.”

Hagan and his TSR Dodge//SRT teammate Tony Stewart expressed missing Funny Car legend John Force this weekend at the track after Force’s crash at Richmond put the 16-time champion in the hospital.

“It was a tough weekend without John Force at the track and we’re praying for him after his Richmond crash,” Hagan said. “It’s not the same out here without that guy. But he is improving and that is great. He’s a big part of drag racing and we can’t wait to see him back at the track.”

Both Stewart and Force are members of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and the Top Fuel rookie had words for his longtime friend this weekend at Norwalk.

“It felt very weird this weekend not having the G.O.A.T. (John Force) with us,” said Stewart. “We are still thinking about John and their whole family. It’s a tough time for them. John’s team had the cars here and Austin (Prock) continued to race. I know John would want that. I’m glad John is plugging away. He’s a tough guy and doesn’t have any quit in him.”

Stewart, in just his tenth NHRA Top Fuel national event, continues to produce solid numbers in the TSR Direct Connection Dodge//SRT dragster after qualifying fifth in the 16-car field at Norwalk. However, despite having another quick reaction time off the starting line, the Indiana racer lost by inches in the first round Sunday at Norwalk.

Stewart clocked a 3.769 but was defeated by Jasmine Salinas’ 3.750 in the opening round of action.

“I was really proud of our TSR guys with weather (rain) expected on Saturday,” said Stewart. “On Saturday, we had two good runs. The track got better and faster, and we bumped ourselves back up to fifth at the end of the day. We’ve qualified inside the top-five the last two events (third in Richmond). We have the potential, and we just have to put it all together. We are looking forward to the ‘Western Swing’ in Seattle and Sonoma in July.”

The next Nitro competition for Hagan and Stewart at the NHRA Northwest Nationals is scheduled for Friday (July 19) with two rounds of qualifying set for 4:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. PDT. Saturday’s (July 20) qualifying sessions will take place at 2:30 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. PDT. Sunday’s (July 21) final eliminations will begin at 10:30 a.m. PDT. FOX Network will televise Sunday’s eliminations at 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday.

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