Story By: NHRA – CONCORD, NC – After putting together an impressive start to the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, Matt Hagan’s year has a chance to get even better when he heads to zMAX Dragway for this weekend’s Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
The Funny Car points leader and three-time world champ has won two of the past three events this season, including Sunday in Houston, handing the first-year Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) team its first two victories in the process. It’s been a dominant stretch for Hagan in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Power Brokers Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, advancing to final rounds in four of the first five races in 2022.
Trying to keep this hot streak going, Hagan will look to solve the unique and thrilling challenge of four-wide drag racing at the “Bellagio of drag strips.”
“I’ve done everything from red light to not stage the car to win the race to ‘what just happened,’ and that’s four-wide racing for you,” Hagan said. “The mentality of it all, there’s just a lot going on. It changes the dynamic of everything, and it changes it up, but it makes you a better driver. It certainly makes things different, but you have to adapt, and you have to rise the occasion. The mindset you need to have with four-wide racing is different and we’re here to put on a great show for our fans.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), John Force (Funny Car) and Steve Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) picked up wins last year in Charlotte and this year’s race will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1). It is the sixth of 22 races during the 2022 NHRA season and the signature event at zMAX Dragway, giving fans the spectacular chance to watch four 11,000-horsepower nitro-burning machines blast down the track.
Hagan understands the challenges of the four-wide setup, but he’s also embraced it, winning the race in Charlotte in 2013. To get a third win this season, Hagan will have to get past a huge list of star drivers, including defending event winner Force, Robert Hight, who also has two wins this season, defending world champ Ron Capps, J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria, and Bob Tasca III.
But Hagan has also thoroughly enjoyed every bit of his new venture racing with Stewart and TSR. The longtime star couldn’t have asked for a better start, and he said that goes back to the leadership Stewart brings to the table, as well as his veteran team.
“Tony has been great and we’re just having fun racing,” Hagan said. “He’s been a great boss and it’s been a great environment, and that’s been a reflection of what we’ve done on the track. He just wants to win and having that mentality where everyone’s on the same page, it just drives everything to the next level. He wants to win, and he wants to be on top, and we’re going to try to do everything to make it happen. It’s just a good feeling right now and this team is in a good headspace. (Crew chief) Dickie has (Venables) has always put a fast car under me and we’ve always been able to throw down. It’s like a slugfest out there and it’s been epic.”
In Top Fuel, Torrence has been a dominant force in the four-wide setup, especially at Charlotte. He’s won the last four spring races at zMAX Dragway in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors dragster, showing an impressive ability to thrive at the unique race. Of course, Torrence has been incredible over the past several seasons just about everywhere, winning four straight championships heading into 2022.
This year has started differently, with Torrence going winless through the first five races. He’s been to the semifinals or better at every race and is second in points behind Brittany Force, who has won back-to-back races, so Torrence has remained consistent as he seeks a fifth straight title. The only thing missing in 2022 has been a win and the Texan will try to do that this weekend against the likes of Pomona winner Justin Ashley, Mike Salinas, who won in Phoenix, Leah Pruett, Doug Kalitta, Austin Prock, Force, Tony Schumacher, and Antron Brown.
“Like I’ve been saying, it’s harder to win out here than I think it’s probably ever been. There’s no way we were going to continue to win at the pace we’ve won the last five years,” Torrence said. “There are too many good teams and too many smart crew chiefs but, on the other hand, we’re not going away either. These Capco Boys definitely have given me a car that can win. We just haven’t put all the pieces together yet – but it’s a long season.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle put on a show last spring in Charlotte as ideal conditions led to record speeds and spectacular runs throughout the weekend. Johnson picked up his first win in seven years and he’ll look to keep rolling after his win on Sunday in Houston. To get a repeat four-wide win, Johnson will have to get past Gainesville winner Karen Stoffer, reigning world champ Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, three-time world champ Angelle Sampey, Joey Gladstone, Jerry Savoie, and Angie Smith.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which features some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by D-Wagon and Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown. Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Pro Mod and Factory Stock Showdown will all run the four-wide format, with the race marking the first-time ever in the four-wide set-up for drivers in Factory Stock Showdown. The race also marks the first NHRA Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League shootout, with eight young drivers competing for the win. The final round will take place on Sunday and will be featured during the FS1 broadcast.
Racers in the Southeast Nostalgia Pro Stock Association will also be making exhibition passes during the weekend. On Saturday, Toyota-sponsored drivers will be signing autographs at 10:45 a.m. at the Toyota Midway Display, while fans can attend Nitro School on Saturday with Rahn Tobler in the pits of Top Fuel’s Austin Prock to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds.
Fans at zMAX Dragway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan-favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Charlotte. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4 and 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, April 29 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 30 at 1 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, April 24. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, and then eliminations action at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.