When you drive a Dodge Hellcat, the hotter it is outside the better.

Two-time NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan has been consistently turning up the heat on the competition this season. In the last qualifying session at the Amalie Oil NHRA Gatornationals, he was as hot as he could be.

With a track over 120-degrees, Hagan laid down a 3.975-second pass at 321.35 mph to earn the top spot, stepping up from an already strong 4.006, 315.64 mph opening salvo.

Hagan’s top qualifier is his third career No.1 position at the Gatornationals (2010-11), and the 39th of his career. He’s also earned a first-round bye run this weekend.

“One thing about (crew chief) Dickie Venables is, hot or cold, he knows how to run fast,” Hagan said. “It’s really just about trying not to overdrive it out there and not pull the tires lose, but he’s got this thing running like a Hellcat out there, and it’s driving smooth. It’s just kind of one of those things where it’s just fun to drive right now. I wish we had more races to go to. I know we’re hunting these points down and stuff, but honestly, this is one of the smoothest, easiest driving race cars I’ve ever had underneath me, and it’s running good.

“We’re coming off several wins and a number one qualifier to start the year and different things like that. Everything’s just kind of clicking and doing what it needs to, and I think that our team has had a lot of adversity with all the stuff that’s happened with COVID and being off for so long and then coming back and watching these boys get in a routine, in a rhythm, and all that kind of stuff is pretty cool.

“Just shows you how professional these boys are and how they just know what they’re doing, and they do a great job. I’m just proud to have them putting a car together that I get to drive, and I know that I’m safe in. It’s really cool to be out here in Florida, a new venue, and have fans in the stands, just everybody is really excited to be here. All the people that come up and they’re just like, ‘man, we’ve been waiting for this forever.’ They just want to be a part of it. So it’s really cool.”

Sunday’s opening round enables Hagan to open with a win-win situation.

“That gives us the opportunity to really push hard try to get lane choice for second round and just make sure that we get this car dialed in first thing right off the bat in the morning,” Hagan said. “So a lot of confidence there, especially when you get that free run, I would say. I don’t know that I’ve ever really had a bye run first round, so that might be a new record for me.

“We’re going to take advantage of it and do the best job we can put on a show for these fans out here, but I’m just excited to be here. At the end of the day I’m getting paid to drive a 335 miles an hour race car and it just don’t get much better than that. So all the folks that have supported us and doing what we do, I just can’t say thank you enough and all the love goes out to him because we can’t be here without them.”




Competition Plus – :::::: News :::::: – HAGAN’S HELLCAT REMAINS HOT EN ROUTE TO GATORS NO. 1

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