Matt Hagan and his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat funny car are currently in the second spot in the battle for the 2023 NHRA Camping World Funny Car Championship while Leah Pruett and her Dodge//SRT Direct Connection Top Fuel dragster are in the fourth spot in their championship race. There are really only two points in the NHRA season when it really matters where you a driver is positioned in the championship standings – at the end of the year, and right now.
If you are reading this article, you likely know that the NHRA big leagues end each season championship with a playoff system of sorts that the association calls the Countdown to the Championship. The Countdown portion of the schedule consists of the final six races of the season and leading up to those six races, the point totals for the top 10 drivers in each major class are “adjusted” to give them a massive lead over the drivers outside of the top 10. Also, the NHRA has come up with other qualifying factors for drivers to make it into the Countdown, such as competing in all of the events leading up to the playoff portion of the schedule. As a result of those additional factors, there are 11 cars in the end-of-season battle for the title in Funny Car while 12 drivers qualified for the Countdown in Top Fuel. The points charts below show the racers who are included in the Countdown to the Championship, along with one driver who is not, to show how the adjusted points set the contenders apart from the rest.
For Leah Pruett and her Dodge//SRT Direct Connection Top Fuel dragster, she will start the Countdown to the Championship portion of the schedule in fourth place, 58 points behind class leader Justin Ashley. That 58 point gap can easily erased with a quick event win, but Pruett has some tough competitors in front of her, including Steve Torrence and Antron Brown. Torrence won the Top Fuel Dragster title every year from 2018 through 2021 while Antron Brown won the championship in 2012, 2015 and 2016. In other words, Pruett has to beat a couple competitors with loads of championship-winning experience.
Every car in the NHRA Top Fuel Dragster class is running a supercharged Hemi.
As for Matt Hagan and his Dodge//SRT Direct Connection Charger SRT Hellcat funny car, he will start the Countown to the Championship in the second spot, just 24 points behind former teammate Ron Capps.
Capps won the Funny Car title with his (Hemi-powered) Toyota in 2021 and 2022, along with winning a title back in 2016 in a Dodge Charger. Hagan won the title in 2011, 2014 and 2020, so the two former teammates both have plenty of experience winning late in the season. However, they will also have to contend with a few other former champions, including Robert Hight, John Force, JR Todd and Cruz Pedregon.
Pedregon is one of the other two Dodge teams in the playoff race for the championship, starting in the 10th spot with his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Alex Laughlin of Jim Dunn Racing with start in the 11th and final spot in the championship race in his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.
Of the 11 cars in the 2023 NHRA Funny Car Championship chase, the three Dodge teams are joined by three Toyota Supra teams, two Chevrolet Camaro teams and three Ford Mustang teams, so it is a very balanced field in terms of manufacturer presence. However, while they might look like different brands of vehicles, they are all powered by a Chrysler Hemi, just like the Top Fuel Dragster category – so no matter what, the champions in the NHRA’s two fastest classes, as always, will be packing Hemi power. That being said, I am rooting for Matt Hagan and Leah Pruett.