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Nitro stars Leah Pruett and Matt Hagan looking to put on show at Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Courtesy of the NHRA

BAYTOWN, Texas – It hasn’t been quite the start Leah Pruett wanted to her 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season, but the Top Fuel star has a great opportunity to change that this weekend and the venue couldn’t be more ideal.

Leah Pruett. NHRA photo

Racing in her 11,000-horsepower Pennzoil dragster, Pruett will look to put on a show at her sponsor’s race, the 34th annual Mopar Express Lane NHRA SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil at Houston Raceway Park. The eight-time event winner is searching for her first victory of the 2021 season, as well as her second victory at the facility. The first came in 2017 and Pruett will look to replicate that during a busy and thrilling weekend where she will also be competing in the popular Constant Aviation NHRA Factory Stock Showdown class.

“I’m very excited to get to Baytown. We’ll be at sea level, and I have no doubt we’ll be making those fast runs that get all of us hyped up,” Pruett said. “I’ll be back to pulling double-duty, running both my Top Fuel dragster and Mopar Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. I truly feel like when we get to Houston, it’ll be our ‘get healthy’ race and it’ll be a new beginning for us. We’re looking forward to laying down maximum horsepower on the Pennzoil proving grounds.”

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) won last year at the event in Houston, which took place in October. This year’s event will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 23. It is the fifth race of the 2021 NHRA season and the first back-to-back race weekend of the year. Due to the impact of rain on the facility and the forecasted additional rain, the event will be a two-day race, with two rounds of qualifying on Saturday and eliminations on Sunday.

Pruett will have a chance to get right in qualifying as she tries to advance to the final round for the first time in 2021 as well. Currently ninth in points, a win would go a long way in jumpstarting Pruett’s season, but to do so she’ll have to race past the likes of three-time defending world champ and Texas native Steve Torrence, Brittany Force, Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley, Antron Brown, Josh Hart, and Clay Millican.

Matt Hagan. NHRA photo

Defending Funny Car world champ Matt Hagan is also eager to get to Houston Raceway Park. He’s had a solid start to his 2021 campaign and is currently sitting fourth in points, but Hagan is still seeking his first victory of the season as well. Houston would be the perfect place to do that in his 11,000-horsepower Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye.

The team, led by standout crew chief Dickie Venables, made positive strides in Charlotte and Hagan believes the team is primed for a victory. To get it, the three-time world champ will have to get past the likes of points leader Bob Tasca III, Charlotte winner John Force, Gainesville winner J.R. Todd, Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria, and Robert Hight.

“I’m pumped up to get to Houston,” Hagan said. “That’s where I got my first NHRA Funny Car win, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Houston always brings a great crowd, it’s a great facility and it’s a Pennzoil race track. There’s nothing better than going to your partner’s event at a partner’s track and we want to put on a great show. I have a great race car underneath me and it’s handling well and responding to the changes we’re making to it. We’re excited to see all of the folks down there in Baytown and it should be a fun weekend.”

Pro Stock’s Aaron Stanfield earned his first career win at the race in 2020 and will look to add to that this weekend. Standing in his way are several top drivers, including points leader Greg Anderson, defending world champ and Houston-area native Erica Enders, Charlotte winner and rookie Dallas Glenn, Troy Coughlin Jr., Mason McGaha, and Deric Kramer.

The event also includes thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills, along with the Constant Aviation NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Drag Racing Series and the Top Fuel Harley class.

Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds on Saturday, May 22 at 12:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 23. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 22, and eliminations beginning at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 23 on FS1.

To purchase tickets, call 281-383-7223 or purchase online at For more information about the NHRA visit

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