By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer
The 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season continued marching on Sunday afternoon at the 17th annual Norwalk Nationals which took place at “America’s Race Track” Norwalk Drag Way in Norwalk, Ohio.
On Sunday in the ever-so-popular Funny Car class, race fans saw a new race winner and somewhat of a surprise winner. Blake Alexander and the hometown race team of Jim Head Racing located in nearby Columbus, Ohio picked up a popular victory after ousting Tony Stewart Racing’s Nitro Matt Hagan.
The final round was a rematch for both drivers of Alexander and Hagan, who last competed against each other in the finals at the 2022 Gator Nationals in Gainesville, Florida. On that particular day, it was Hagan who gave Tony Stewart their first win in the organization as Alexander fell short.
However, fast forward to a year and a half later, it was Alexander who was the one who eliminated Hagan with a pass of 3.935 at 321.96 mph over Hagan’s 3.991 at 327.90 mph. Not only did Alexander have a faster E.T. time, but he left on Hagan first with a 0.028, much quicker than Hagan’s 0.067 reaction time.
The victory was Alexander’s first of the year and marked his third career victory, his first since Sonoma of 2018 where he competed in the Top Fuel category. In addition, the win was Alexander’s first Funny Car win and his second Norwalk win which also came in 2018.
“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.”
Alexander had notable round wins over tough opponents with Tim Wilkerson, Alexis DeJoria, and No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III.
As for Hagan, he picked up his first runner-up finish of the year and 37th of his career. Hagan had victories over Dale Creasy Jr, John Force Racing’s Robert Hight, and Team Kalitta’s J.R. Todd before falling short in the finals.
“It was good day for us in the points,” Hagan said. “We made seven solid runs here in hot and humid conditions. Overall, we are moving in the right direction in the Direct Connection Dodge Hellcat. Wow, Blake (Alexander) cut .028 light and we would have had to run a 3.88 there. It’s one of those days and you can’t win them all. I’m happy for Blake. He has been a friend for a long time.
“The car and crew did a great job this weekend with Dickie and the guys. I’m super excited for Leah to win today in Top Fuel. It’s a great feeling here with TSR with what Tony, Leah, Dodge and both teams have put together. She is doing a great job behind the wheel.
“TSR walks away with a huge win in Top Fuel and the points lead in Funny Car. We will keep digging and we go to Denver for the last race of the Dodge Power Brokers Mile-High Nationals. It’s emotional because Dodge has been there for over 30 years and now it’s the last one. I think this is our first time with both cars to the final with TSR. We hoping to do a double win event for TSR very soon.”
Official NHRA Funny Car Results following Norwalk Nationals
- Blake Alexander
- Matt Hagan
- J.R. Todd
- Bob Tasca III
- Ron Capps
- Robert Hight
- Chad Green
- Alexis DeJoria
- John Force
- Alex Laughlin
- Bobby Bode
- Dale Creasy Jr
- Cruz Pedregon
- Tim Wilkerson
- Paul Lee
- Mike McIntire
Official NHRA Funny Car Camping World Points Standings
- Matt Hagan, 679 points
- Ron Capps, -4
- Robert Hight, -69
- Chad Green, -86
- Alexis DeJoria, -93
- Bob Tasca III, -100
- Tim Wilkerson, -171
- John Force, -196
- J.R. Todd, -261
- Cruz Pedregon, -275
Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Series will take a two-week hiatus before starting the Western Swing beginning at the Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, which is scheduled to be the last race at the facility, July 14-16.