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Tony Stewart Comes Short Once Again but Makes Ground in His Debut at NHRA 4-Wide Nationals

Published 04/15/2024, 8:17 AM EDT

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We’re going to have a fun weekend,” said an optimistic Tony Stewart after posting the eighth-fastest time at 3.852 seconds at 323.5 mph on the first day of qualifying at Friday’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Las Vegas. However, it was not a whale of a time for the 3-time NASCAR champion and racing veteran as he anticipated it would be. Instead, the SHR co-owner had to be content with a last-place finish in his 4-wide debut getting in as his wife Leah Pruett’s replacement. 

Doug Kalitta beats Tony Stewart to the punch as the veteran dragster crushes the TSR racer’s hopes

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While his NASCAR team is still in rough tides, Stewart rolled up his sleeves returning to the site of his first victory as an NHRA competitor. With the wind in his sails, he first picked up a stellar win in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series round win on Sunday in Phoenix and then topped it off with another one as he advanced to the semifinals for the first time in Top Fuel. 

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Getting in his as his wife Leah Pruett’s replacement, the IndyCar and NASCAR champion had the weight of expectations bore down on him. And he stood up to those expectations by getting into the semi-finals for the very first time. However, the veteran fell short during Sunday’s eliminations. 59-year-old Doug Kalitta showcased his craft as he lit the track on fire, dominating the category going 3.715 at 333.58 in his 11,000-horsepower Mac Tools dragster to blast past Tony Stewart, Justin Ashley, and Steve Torrence. 

Sunday’s outing was more of a dull affair for Stewart and Co. as his TSR driver and reigning Funny Car champion, Matt Hagan also suffered a similar fate.

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Reigning and defending Funny Cars champion Matt Hagan gets his first setback of 2024

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Eyeing to relish more Ws, 4-time Funny Car title holder and reigning champion Matt Hagan rolled into Sunday’s event at Sin City but instead had to go home with a fourth-place finish. This year’s competition marks the racer’s 336th career start in Funny Car and his sixth appearance in the unique four-wide format at LVMS.

But truth be told, the champion couldn’t emulate his last year’s performance when he overcame tough competition from Tim Wilkerson, John Force, and Chad Green. Instead, Bob Tasca III recorded his second career four-wide victory at the 24th annual NHRA 4-Wide Nationals beating Hagan to the second spot. 

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Despite Tasca being the slowest out of the four, he gained a razor-thin margin over the seasoned competition with a 0.034 second reaction time that got him his first win of 2024 and his 16th career win. 

It was the first triple-hole shot win in Funny Car history and Tasca outshined the rest including the #1 qualifier Austin Prock. 

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Written by:

Neha Dwivedi

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Neha Dwivedi is a NASCAR Writer at EssentiallySports. As a journalist, she religiously believes in the power of research, which allows her readers to dive deep into her stories and experience the detailed nuances of the sport like never before. Being proficient with Core Sport and Live Event Coverage, she has written multiple copies on the top entities of Stock Car Racing, like Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, and Tony Stewart.
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Edited by:

Ariva Debnath