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Tony Stewart and Matt Hagan Head to New England Nationals

Epping, NH – The NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, located just southeast of the state capital in Concord, hosts the seventh event on the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series’ 20-race calendar in 2024. Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) brings its two full-time entries – one in Top Fuel for Top Fuel rookie Tony Stewart and one in Funny Car for 51-time Funny Car winner and four-time champion Matt Hagan. Hagan earned back-to-back wins the last two events, having won the prior event at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Chicago.

Coming into Epping, Stewart is eighth in the Top Fuel standings, 236 points behind leader Justin Ashley. Hagan leads the Funny Car standings with a 14-point advantage over Austin Prock.

Stewart enters Epping representing Rinnai tankless water heaters on his red, white, gray and black Top Fuel Dragster. Hagan, meanwhile, sports the red colors of Rush Truck Centers on his Dodge//SRT Hellcat Funny Car.

Rinnai America Corporation, a subsidiary of Rinnai Corporation in Nagoya, Japan, was established in 1974 and is headquartered in Peachtree City, Ga. Rinnai Corporation manufactures gas appliances including tankless water heaters, a wide range of kitchen appliances and heating and air conditioning units. As the technology leader in its industry, Rinnai is the largest gas appliance manufacturer in Japan and is the number-one selling brand of tankless gas water heaters in the United States and Canada. With a global perspective to create 21st-century products for the home and business, Rinnai Corporation commits itself to safety and Creating A Healthier Way of Living©.

Rush Truck Centers is the largest network of commercial vehicle dealerships in North America with 140 locations coast to coast and takes pride in its integrated approach to customer needs – from vehicle sales to aftermarket parts, service and body shop operations, plus financing, insurance, leasing and rental, as well as alternate fuel systems and other vehicle technologies. Rush Truck Centers proudly employs more than 2,500 talented service technicians and they are the heartbeat of its dealerships. The company is always looking to add the best and brightest technicians to its team. Service technicians interested in looking for the next step in their careers can find additional information and listings of open positions on the Rush Enterprises Technician Careers page.

The NHRA New England Nationals will mark Stewart’s seventh career Top Fuel start and his first at Epping. For Hagan, the NHRA New England Nationals will be his 339th career Funny Car start and his 11th at Epping.

Stewart is looking for his first victory at the New England Nationals and his first No. 1 qualifier at the event. However, it is not his first competitive appearance in New Hampshire. During his NASCAR Cup Series career, Stewart won three times at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the 1-mile oval located 45 miles away in Loudon, New Hampshire (2000, 2005, 2011).

Hagan comes into New Hampshire as the Funny Car favorite, having four career New England National wins in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022. In 2017, he defeated Courtney Force with a 3.897 ET at 332.59 mph (compared to Force’s 3.927 ET at 332.34 mph). In 2018, Hagan’s 4.156 ET at 292.01 mph defeated Tim Wilkerson (4.181 ET at 287.35 mph). In 2019, Hagan defeated Shawn Langdon with a 4.014 ET at 322.81 mph run (compared to Langdon’s 4.046 ET at 317.49 mph). In 2022, he defeated Robert Hight with a 3.922 ET at 327.98 mph (compared to Hight’s 6.232 ET at 110.15 mph). Hagan has three No. 1 qualifiers at the event, which came in 2018 (3.932 ET at 322.03 mph), 2021 (3.891 ET at 331.53 mph) and 2022 (3.878 ET at 332.51 mph).

Hagan is the all-time leader in New England Nationals victories, having won four of the last six events. During that span, he has compiled an 18-2 record. Hagan has more No. 1 starts at Epping than any other Funny Car driver with three.

Hagan has won two consecutive races in a season nine times, but has never won three in succession. He did once win three in a row, but it was over two seasons – he won the World Finals at Pomona in 2014, then came back to win the first two races in 2015 (the Winternationals at Pomona and the Arizona Nationals at Phoenix).

By advancing to the Semifinals at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals, Hagan qualified to participate in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, which is his fourth challenge appearance this season. The challenge brings competitive racing to the qualifying schedule at 13 regular-season events during the NHRA Mission Foods 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. Hagan earned a rematch against Blake Alexander in Round 1. There is a bonus purse and bonus points for the Countdown to the Championship on the line.

Hagan will participate in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty autograph session on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. EDT. The session will take place at the Mission Foods Display.

The Mopar CAP (Career Automotive Program) will be partnering with TSR on Friday for the third of nine events this season. CAP consists of strategic alliances between Stellantis and over 100 colleges and trade schools teaching technical curriculum integrated into the school’s general automotive program, so that students can become certified Stellantis technicians.

DYK? Organized drag racing in the New England area began in 1950 at various public and military airports in the region. In the mid-1960s, a group of shareholders purchased land in Epping and New England Dragway opened for racing on Sept. 11, 1966.  The drag strip began hosting the NHRA New England Nationals in 2013.

Tony Stewart, Driver of Rinnai Dodge//SRT Top Fuel Dragster

What is your main strategy going into New Hampshire?

“Epping is a new track to me so I’m going to have to just learn the facility first. Neal (Strausbaugh – crew chief) and Mike (Domagala – co-crew chief) and the team have been there multiple times, so it’s just me getting caught up to the racetrack and learning the nuances of it that are different than any of the other tracks we go to.”

How valuable will the addition of a fourth qualifying session be?

“I think having a fourth qualifying run will definitely be a much larger deal for me as a driver. There’s a lot of pressure when there’s only three sessions to get that solid running. I’m looking forward to getting to Epping and representing Rinnai for their first race of the season.”

Matt Hagan, Driver of the Rush Truck Centers Dodge//SRT Hellcat Funny Car

What is your main strategy going into New Hampshire coming off of back-to-back wins?

“Coming off of back-to-back wins is big momentum for Epping. Every race is so different though when it comes to track conditions and weather. What’s nice is that I’ve been with Dickie (Venables – crew chief) for so long now, I think we’re coming up on 15 years. Epping has been very kind to me, having won four races there. I think I’ll grow the handlebar mustache again and try to bring that juju back. It’s so tough to win one race in a nitro Funny Car. To win back-to-back races is a massive feat, so to be able to win three in a row would be pretty awesome. We’re rolling into the weekend with a lot of data to go off of and positive vibes.”

How valuable will the addition of a fourth qualifying session be?

“Having four qualifying sessions is always good. Anytime we only have three, it’s always tricky because sometimes weather plays a part in it and you end up only getting two sessions. There have been some races where we weren’t able to get any qualifying runs in and the ladder was set off of points. Four sessions make it nice to gather more data and have more information to go off of. As the season gets into the summer months, we’ll be racing on warmer tracks. I think Dickie did a great job last weekend in Chicago, since he was able to get a handle on a hot-weather racetrack in a lane we didn’t have the most competitive advantage in. We had to dig out of a hole a little bit last weekend. So, the confidence is big. Dickie is a great racer on Sunday. I’m excited anytime we get more runs. I like getting to play in my racecar and burn nitro, but the biggest thing is more data acquisition. There are a lot of heavy-hitters in the class, so every race is very competitive. We have to stay aggressive. It’s nice to have the points lead right now, but as fast as that comes, it can go. We have to stay on top of things.”

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