On race day, everything came together for Matt Hagan.
The driver of the Don Schumacher nitro Funny Car sponsored by Sandvik Coromant knocked out the competition en route to winning the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals Sunday.
Hagan clocked a 3.890-second time in the finals to upend reigning world champion J.R. Todd, who smoked the tires off the starting line in his Kalitta Motorsports DHL-sponsored Toyota Camry at Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Avon near Phoenix.
“Hat’s off to (crew chief) Dickie Venables,” Hagan said. “The guy won the race, that’s for sure. He had a race car underneath me that was going down the race track every lap and it gave me a lot of confidence. The lights out here were really long. You almost had to kind of like think go and you go in your mind and I still had to wait. My lights were a little bit off, I was in the .080s all weekend and I got pumped up and had a .040 in the final. At the end of the day, it was one of those things were Dickie put a great race car underneath me and he gave me a car where it didn’t matter if my lights were great or not. He won this race and my entire team that came back with me this year has been great.”
Hagan’s victory was the 30th of his career and 150th Funny Car win for DSR. Hagan upended Phil Burkhart Jr., Shawn Langdon, and Bob Tasca III before ousting Todd in the final round.
“Those are some huge milestones,” said Todd about his 30th win and No. 150 in Funny Car for DSR. “To be driving for Don Schumacher for 11 years and be able to win 30 races and have a chunk of those 150 Funny Car wins is pretty cool. It just goes to show you that I’ve been put around really good people and really driven crew chiefs and individuals who work hard. Dickie is one of the best out here and I’m just really glad to have him in our corner and we’re looking forward to this season. J.R. is a great driver, he’s a world champ, and I have nothing but respect for him, but it is a new year and a new season, and we have to go out here and make our own way again.”
Hagan claimed bragging rights for becoming the first Mopar-powered driver to park the new Dodge Hellcat body in the winner’s circle for the first time. This is the third time Hagan has won in Phoenix, as he also was victorious in 2015 and 2017.
“It’s huge to get the first win with the Hellcat body,” Hagan said. “Mopar has spent so much money with R&D designing a new look and new body that has better performance and it is just nice to put it in the winner’s circle and show them that their hard work has paid off. It’s early in the season and I’m excited that we got some pressure off and we have a Wally back in the trophy case and we have a lot more racing to do. I think we are going to test (Monday) and make some more runs and try some different things, but I really felt like Dickie Venables figured some stuff out in the clutch side of things this weekend.”
Hagan, who won the 2011 and 2014 nitro Funny Car NHRA world titles, moved up to second place in the points.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019