INDIANAPOLIS – Did an NHRA announcement tease a potential deal in NASCAR? On Friday, Dodge//SRT and Mopar announced their support of the newest team in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Camping World Drag Racing Series, Tony Stewart Racing (TSR). Dodge//SRT and Mopar will be primary sponsors for Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett and three-time Funny Car World Champion Matt Hagan in TSR’s inaugural 2022 NHRA season.
Today’s announcement opens the sixth “garage door” of the Dodge Never Lift campaign, a 24-month road map to the brand’s electrified performance future. The Dodge 24 Months of Muscle calendar can be viewed at Dodgegarage.com/never-lift.
“The Dodge brand has a long history of competing in and supporting motorsports.” says Tim Kuniskis, Dodge Brand Chief Executive Officer – Stellantis. “For nearly a decade, NHRA drag racing has been our primary motorsports focus, helping deliver products like the Dodge Demon, 1320 and Super Stock; cars that resonate with the Brotherhood of Muscle. These vehicles will hold a place in muscle-car history for years to come. The Dodge brand embodies the philosophy of the ‘last tenth,’ and we are not done pushing the performance envelope. So, we are extremely excited to partner with Tony Stewart and his drag racing team to help take Dodge to the next level. Tony is a racing legend with an attitude, personality and competitive drive that aligns perfectly with our goals.”
“I’m really pleased to have Dodge//SRT and Mopar as partners with our new NHRA venture as manufacturer and sponsor for our two entries in Top Fuel and Funny Car with Leah and Matt,” says Tony Stewart, TSR team owner. “It shows confidence in your program when an OEM wants to be on your team and for you to help support their program as well. They have obviously had a great relationship with both drivers for the last few years and to be able to continue that association is key to this team’s success and a huge benefit to the continuity for everyone involved. Having that kind of history definitely helps flatten the learning curve while raising expectations for our inaugural NHRA season. It’ll be nice to work with Dodge and Mopar again after sharing success together in USAC and the World of Outlaws nearly two decades ago. We are certainly setting the bar high and look forward to being competitive from the start.”
TSR was formed in November 2000. Since its inaugural season in 2001, TSR has earned 27 owner championships – 14 in USAC, nine in the World of Outlaws (WoO) Sprint Car Series, and four in the All Star Circuit of Champions TQ Midgets. TSR will embark upon its first NHRA campaign in 2022 while simultaneously running its sprint car program for a 22nd straight season. TSR’s NHRA and sprint car entries will operate out of its existing 25,000-square-foot facility in Brownsburg, Indiana.
Pruett’s and Hagan’s nitro-fueled drag cars will have primary branding throughout the season that spotlights the recently announced Dodge Power Brokers and Direct Connection programs.
The Dodge Power Brokers dealership program is the exclusive source for all new Direct Connection performance parts, including tuner, stage and performance kits for the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat and race-ready kits for the Dodge Challenger Mopar Drag Pak. Dodge Power Brokers dealership staff will be trained to deliver a performance-focused customer service experience.
Pruett first joined forces with Dodge//SRT and Mopar in 2016 and has consistently competed among the top contenders in each of the last five seasons. The 33-year-old Redlands, California, native has nine Top Fuel national event victories, nine runner-up finishes, 12 No. 1 qualifier honors in 172 races, a career best elapsed time run of 3.631 seconds and a best speed of 334.15 miles per hour. She will drive the Dodge Power Brokers Top Fuel dragster this year.
“It was very important to me to continue the close relationship I’ve had with Dodge//SRT and Mopar in this new journey with Tony Stewart Racing,” says Pruett. “I’m appreciative of the support that Dodge and Mopar, and all their fans, have shown me these past few years and I’m proud to fly their colors as we move forward together and work to bring home wins and a championship in 2022. Having Direct Connection branding on my dragster this season is really exciting because it has such a rich history of success at the drag strip with racers like Don Garlits, and it’s amazing to help continue to build on that legacy and introduce it to a new generation of Dodge enthusiasts.”
In addition to carrying on the legacy of drag-racing innovator and multi-time champion Garlits, representing Direct Connection has personal meaning to Pruett.
“While Dodge//SRT was developing the new Drag Pak, we were also testing and developing some of the stage kits,” Pruett said. “It seemed almost unbelievable that an OEM would make available various stage kits capable of adding so much additional power, all while maintaining the car’s warranty. To be on the presenting side of a massive program that I contributed to, while watching it progress in pure secrecy, makes me incredibly proud to run Direct Connection and Power Brokers on my Top Fuel dragster.”
Dodge//SRT and Mopar continue their long relationship with three-time NHRA Funny Car World Champion Hagan with primary sponsorship of his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car. The brands have supported Hagan since his rookie year in 2009.
With Dodge//SRT and Mopar on board, Hagan has vied for the Funny Car crown as either championship points leader or challenger heading into a season finale on seven occasions, including the 2021 season. Together, they have competed in 293 races, earning 39 Wally trophies, 32 runner-up finishes, and 43 No. 1 qualifier positions with a career best elapsed time run of 3.799 seconds and his best speed is 338.85 mph.
The 38-year-old from Christiansburg, Virginia, will drive his TSR HEMI®-powered machine dressed with Dodge Power Brokers and Direct Connection branding throughout the 2022 season.
“I’m so grateful to have represented and shared so many successes with Dodge//SRT and Mopar for most of my career and to say I’m excited to continue our relationship in this next chapter with Tony Stewart Racing is an understatement,” says Hagan. “I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead and introducing our passionate fans to a new-look livery featuring Dodge Power Brokers and Direct Connection.
“My family has been a Dodge dealer since 1979 and we’re really proud of that. We’re also ready to celebrate Mopar’s 85th anniversary this year as we battle for a championship with a few wins along the way.”
The thing is, Dodge has been rumored to be coming back to NASCAR for the last year or so. There’s been hope of a fourth OEM. Dodge has been linked to being that fourth.
If they’d come in, they’d want a flagship team. They had that with Team Penske before they left the sport. So, if they’d come back, who could they get?
You have to look at teams within manufacturers. Toyota only has Joe Gibbs Racing and 23XI Racing and they’re not going anywhere. Chevrolet teams are Hendrick Motorsports, Trackhouse, RCR, Petty GMS, Kaulig, Spire and JTG Daugherty. If you’re Dodge, you’re not getting HMS and are any of those other teams worth going all in for?
Ford there’s more options. Team Penske is arguably the top dog over SHR. Wouldn’t SHR benefit of being the overall lead team like HMS is with Chevy and JGR is with Toyota. Why split with Penske at Ford?
They’ve switched before. They were a Chevy team from 2009 through 2016. In 2017, SHR switched from Chevy to Ford. They could switch again and be so as the top Dodge team who’s proven to be a championship caliber manufacturer in NASCAR.
Plus, to get SHR over to Dodge, they’d have to pay a substantial amount of money to SHR which in turn helps them stay competitive at the top.
This NHRA partnership with them could spark interest if there’s not one already.