Don’t sleep on NHRA Mello Yello Series nitro Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.
The two-time world champion put himself squarely in the 2019 world championship mix by winning the FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex Sunday near Dallas.
Hagan clocked a 3.909-second elapsed time at 327.59 mph to edge Bob Tasca III’s 3.928-second lap at 323.12 mph in the finals.
“We had a great race car,” Hagan said. “Qualifying was a little tough, we couldn’t get down the right lane. We were really trying to keep lane choice all day and Dickie (Venables, Hagan’s crew chief) ran really well and we were able to stay in that left lane all day. There’s a pretty bad bump out there kind of where our clutch comes in and just upsets our car for some reason. To be able to turn on four wins lights was huge. Epping (N.H.) was the last time we did it (July 7). I was really wanting to dig deep. Bob is a great driver and I knew he would be pushing pretty hard. I left on him last race and then did again this weekend, so I’m sure he’s going to be gunning for me on the tree next time.”
Hagan, who won NHRA nitro Funny Car world titles in 2011 and 2014, captured his 32nd career win and third this season. He also had victories in Phoenix, Ariz., and Epping, N.H. This was his third win in Dallas as he also collected Wallys at the Texas Motorplex in 2010 and 2016.
“I’m just glad things turned out the way they did,” Hagan said. “I’ve always done well here and we’re just trying to keep the momentum going.”
More importantly, Hagan moved up three spots in the season points standings to fourth place. He’s 112 points behind leader Robert Hight.
There are two races left in the Countdown to the Championship – Las Vegas (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) and at the Auto Club Finals in Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 14-17). In Pomona, the points-and-a-half system will be in play allowing drivers to make up more ground.
“I don’t know about the championship stuff, we can hope and dream, but we have to go out there and just keep doing our job, and control what we can control and let the rest fall into place,” Hagan said. “We just have to keep doing what we are doing. There’s not a race you take lightly. To put it in perspective, each one of these races cost our sponsors about $150,000. That’s someone’s small or large home somewhere. I don’t take any of it lightly. You have to do well to be on TV and get exposure and you have to do all the things behind the scenes as well to make it work. I don’t take any race lightly whether it is in the Countdown or the regular season.”
Hagan’s victory parade consisted of wins over Blake Alexander, reigning world champ J.R. Todd, points leader Robert Hight and then Tasca III. Hagan’s Funny Car was like a bracket car – running 3.90s all day in a variety of track conditions.
“Once Dickie (Venables) starts building confidence, he becomes deadly,” Hagan said. “When he gets his feet underneath him and the parts and pieces are working how they are supposed to he’s as deadly as anybody out here. I would put him up against anybody. That builds confidence in me and builds confidence in our team. He told me in the semis, after the run that he finally got it. I was like we waited to the finals to finally get it. You could definitely see his confidence.”
Knocking out Hight wasn’t lost on Hagan.
“Hight always has a good car and he knocked himself off when he went red,” Hagan said. “It’s a long tree. I was going, ‘Go, go go.’ It’s just discipline up there. Your foot says go and the light says no. That’s drag racing. Hight has a great car over there. I used to work side-by-side with Jimmy (Prock, Hight’s crew chief) and they have a great combo and are a tough car to get around. At the end of the day, when it is your day, it is your day and today was our day. I’m going to stay focused on what we are doing. We are going to come out and make the best of it.”
Hagan was driving the Western Technical College/MOPAR CAP Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Widebody for Don Schumacher Racing this weekend. He has 32 round wins this season.
“What’s really cool is we have a new sponsor in Western Tech and what’s really cool is we have three or four guys off their race team who have been through their deal,” Hagan said. “To see that come full circle, it was a pretty special weekend. The points and the standings and all that kind of stuff, it is what it is. We have to just digging and keep working. We have a lot of major sponsors to impress and to keep going and sign them back up and keep going in this NHRA drag racing. I love this sport and it has been part of my life for 10 years.”
Billy Torrence might have broken Jordan Vandergriff’s heart for a few minutes on Sunday with his Top Fuel victory. But he might be breaking the spirit – or at least maybe breaking the habits – of fulltime racers – #DragRacingNews #NHRA #NHRAFallNatshttps://t.co/1zPyN2157z pic.twitter.com/Yr7lzaQp2t
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) October 21, 2019