Matt Hagan and his Tony Stewart Racing team earned their second straight win in Funny Car at the 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, as he drove past J.R. Todd in the final round on Sunday to kick off the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season at the Gainesville Raceway.
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won at the first of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Hagan powered to a run of 3.926-seconds at 329.34 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Direct Connection Charger SRT Hellcat, winning the Gatornationals for the second straight season. Both Hagan and Todd posted identical reaction times on the starting line, but Todd ran into trouble late in the run and Hagan claimed his 44th career win. He also defeated Tim Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III and Alexis DeJoria, making three straight runs in the 3.80s to reach the final round. After going his entire career without winning in Gainesville, Hagan, a three-time world champ, now has back-to-back wins at the historic race.
“For this team, we were just running strong, and to come out and win the first race of the season, it’s just amazing,” said Hagan, who is fourth all-time in Funny Car wins. “I’m just in awe of our team right now.
“I knew it was going to be a good race and honestly J.R. poked out there in front of me, and then something happened over there to him and we drove around him and turn on the win light. This car is just running strong. It’s just it’s an honor to just even be in that caliber of drivers is incredible. it’s a huge honor for me to be able to be fourth all the time.”
Todd, who won in Gainesville to open the 2021 campaign, also impressed on Sunday, beating Blake Alexander, Robert Hight and Chad Green to reach his 42nd career final round.
In Top Fuel, Salinas won for the first time in Gainesville and the eighth time in his career, slipping past Steve Torrence in the final round with a 3.700 at 330.31 in his 11,000-horsepower Valley Services dragster. After winning a career-best four races last year, Salinas was determined to improve upon that in 2023. He impressed throughout eliminations, too, beating Justin Ashley, defending world champ Brittany Force and Leah Pruett to reach the final round, running as quick as 3.669 on raceday.
“I think we’re going to be really good all year…
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