Pruett, Alexander, Hartford, And Arana Jr. Win Norwalk

Leah Pruett wrapped up her impressive weekend with her first Top Fuel victory of the season for Tony Stewart Racing, knocking off points leader Justin Ashley in the final round on Sunday at the 17th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

Blake Alexander (Funny Car) Matt Hartford (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won at the ninth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Pruett, who was also the No. 1 qualifier, powered to a run of 3.761-seconds at 326.79 mph in her 11,000-horsepower Dodge Direct Connection dragster in the finals, driving past Ashley to earn her 11th career win and first at Summit Motorsports Park. Pruett also jumped to third in points with the victory, snapping Ashley’s streak of 11 straight round wins. To get there, Pruett had to get past Kyle Wurtzel, defending event winner Mike Salinas and Austin Prock. She also jumped to third in points with the fantastic showing, giving her plenty of momentum heading out to the NHRA Western Swing.

“You always love coming into raceday from the No. 1 position, but we were coming off of a final qualifying day that wasn’t going super well for us. But we dug deep and put together what we thought was going to be a good program,” Pruett said. “The day started off stressful, we had some system malfunctions in the first round, but thankfully we got past that.

“Going into the final round, all of the systems we thought we had fixed, well different ones came up. Things we’d never seen before, and we only had 30 minutes. So it was, roll the dice, blow on them, and shoot. Neal Strasbaugh said, this round, you’re going to have a racecar that’s going to win.”

Ashley advanced to his fifth final round – and third in a row – by defeating Clay Millican, Steve Torrence and defending world champion Brittany Force. It’s also the 16th career final for the points leader.

Things came together at the perfect time for Alexander in Funny Car, as he defeated points leader Matt Hagan in the final round, going 3.935 at 321.96 in his 11,000-horsepower Pronto Ford Mustang. Not only was it Alexander’s first win since 2018, but he also earned his first career Funny Car victory. He picked up two victories in Top Fuel five years ago, including a 2018 triumph at Summit Motorsports Park, but had yet to find the winner’s circle in Funny Car.

That all changed on Sunday after he defeated Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria and No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III to reach the final round. He went 3.924 to defeat Tasca and then drove past Hagan with a stellar showing a round later, picking up his third career victory. He also becomes just the 18th driver in NHRA history to win in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

“I woke up today and I saw my wife and my son, and I knew I was in the right place and I was supposed to be here – I just didn’t know what was going to happen today,” Alexander said. “But everything went well, and I’m very blessed to work with the people I work with and have the sponsors I have. I put in a lot of work to get here, but you have to drive the car well and do everything else well once you show up. I could feel it today.

“I haven’t won one of these in five years. I try hard because the people I compete against have made it so that you have to be better. If you don’t want to get better, you’re going to get beat out here. I tried to get better and I needed to get better once I started racing Funny Car.”

Hagan knocked off Dale Creasy Jr., Robert Hight and J.R. Todd to reach the final round for the fourth time in 2023 and the 83rd time overall. Hagan jumped back in the points lead and he currently leads Ron Capps by four points.

In Pro Stock, Hartford broke through for his first victory of the season, beating points leader Dallas Glenn in the championship round with a pass of 6.624 at 207.02 in his Rottler/GETTRX/Total Seal Chevrolet Camaro. Hartford officially bounced back from consecutive first-round losses, rolling to a spectacular weekend in Norwalk. He qualified No. 1 and then performed at a high level on raceday, knocking off Fernando Cuadra, Deric Kramer and Aaron Stanfield to reach the final round.

After coming close all year, Hartford finished the job on Sunday, moving back to second in points in what has been the best year in the veteran’s career. He also picked up a win for the sixth straight year.

“It goes back to all those people back at the trailer and all the people who support us, from the engine program to the chassis builder,” Hartford said. “We just have such a great group. They’ve always said that if you surround yourself with people who work harder than you, who are smarter than you, more motivated than you, and you can be successful. That’s what I’ve tried to do, and I think it starts showing when you let everybody focus on their job and at the end of the day, let the box score be what it may.

“We’ve had a great car all year long, and the races we haven’t won, it’s been driver error. In the final at Pomona, I had Dallas covered, I just couldn’t learn how to drive. We gave up that race, and it’s been a thorn in my side, so I was really glad to get this one today.”

Glenn stayed in the points lead, advancing to his fifth final round this year and the 13th in his young career. He knocked off Bo Butner, defending event winner and reigning world champ Erica Enders and Troy Coughlin Jr. to advance to the finals.

Arana Jr. put together a consistent Sunday in Norwalk and ended it with his first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of the season, going 6.821 at 199.82 in the final round on his GETTRX Suzuki to get past Steve Johnson. It’s Arana Jr.’s first victory at Summit Motorsports Park and the 18th in his career. After qualifying third with a 6.814, Arana Jr. stayed in that range throughout eliminations, beating Wesley Wells, Angie Smith and defending world champ Matt Smith with runs of 6.826, 6.801 and 6.820.

That consistency followed through in the final round with an impressive performance against Johnson, helping send Arana Jr. to second in points.

“We made one little mistake in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, and we were able to learn from our mistake and come out today with a really fast, consistent bike,” Arana Jr. said. “That gives you all the confidence in the world as a rider, knowing you have a good bike beneath you and that when you let the clutch out, it’s going to do what it’s supposed to do and go right down the track.

“We definitely have momentum. We’ve had a fast bike, and we’ve been qualifying really well and running well. We had a good bike in Bristol, we just had a couple little gremlins we needed to get through, but I’d rather have those earlier in the season than later.”

Johnson earned his second straight final round appearance and 32nd of his career with victories Chase Van Sant, Eddie Krawiec and Jianna Evaristo. Gaige Herrera maintained the points lead in the class.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action July 14-16 with the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in Denver. It kicks off the famed NHRA Western Swing and also marks the final race at Bandimere Speedway.

Sunday’s final results from the 16th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park. The race is the ninth of 21 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series: 

Top Fuel — Leah Pruett, 3.761 seconds, 326.79 mph def. Justin Ashley, 4.497 seconds, 198.90 mph.

Funny Car — Blake Alexander, Ford Mustang, 3.935, 321.96 def. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.991, 327.90.

Pro Stock — Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.624, 207.02 def. Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 17.599, 67.65.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Hector Arana Jr, EBR, 6.821, 199.82 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.943, 176.63.

Top Alcohol Dragster — Kirk Wolf, 5.269, 274.00 def. Cody Krohn, 5.413, no speed.

Top Alcohol Funny Car — Bob McCosh, Chevy Camaro, 5.478, 266.27 def. Sean Bellemeur, Camaro, 8.681, 106.96.

Competition Eliminator — Bruno Massel, Toyota Solara, 7.006, 196.39 def. Andrew Holt, Dragster, 6.632, 200.77.

Super Stock — Sean Dornan, Plymouth Savoy, 8.917, 148.48 def. Peter D’Agnolo, Chevy Camaro, 9.661, 126.09.

Stock Eliminator — Marion Stephenson, Chevy Camaro, 9.778, 132.46 def. Rob Bihl, Chevy Chevelle, 12.251, 102.28.

Super Comp — Lauren Freer, Dragster, 8.910, 173.67 def. David Dahlem, Dragster, 8.940, 177.67.

Super Gas — Lauren Freer, Chevy Corvette, 9.911, 161.11 def. Pat Martin, ’27-T Ford, 9.916, 164.21.

Top Sportsman — Scott Wasko, Pontiac GXP, 6.459, 208.49 def. Mike Morehead, Chevy Camaro, 6.643, 209.26.

Top Dragster — Joe Swanson, Dragster, 7.189, 189.52 def. Darian Boesch, Dragster, Foul – Red Light.

Pro Modified — Jason Scruggs, Chevy Camaro, 5.760, 250.32 def. Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, 5.807, 248.93.

Factory Stock Showdown — Stephen Bell, Chevy Camaro, 7.783, 177.74 def. Lee Hartman, Dodge Challenger, 7.809, 175.32.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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