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BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Nov. 7, 2017) - Matt Hagan is headed to one of his best tracks to close out the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Series season, and he's headed there with some momentum.
 
The Mopar Express Lane team led by crew chief Dickie Venables with assistant Michael Knudsen scored the event title at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks to send the team to the NHRA Finals on a winning streak.
 
The six-race Countdown to the Championship didn't exactly pan out how the team had hoped, but another win this weekend would be its fifth event title of the season.
 
"We rebounded at Las Vegas, got things in order and got the win," said the two-time Funny Car world champion. "We won't be going after the championship but we've had so much success there that maybe we can finish the season the way we started."
 
The Mopar team Powered by Pennzoil started the season with back-to-back wins at Pomona and Phoenix. With four event titles in five final round appearances, the team is ranked fifth in Funny Car standings with an opportunity to move up this weekend at the NHRA Finals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
 
"(Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron) Capps and (Robert) Hight really ran away with those top two spots, but third is very much within reach for us and that would mean a lot to us to be top-three. We've had a good season, had some struggles here and there but to finish strong would really mean a lot to this team."
 
This weekend's NHRA Finals features a unique points system where each round win is worth 30 points instead of the standard 20.
 
"Dickie has been working really hard to get this car turned around he's proven what I've been saying. He has worked non-stop to give us a strong running race car and that's what we have to finish out the season. I can't say enough about how good of a job he does.
 
"We have a car that can go out and win any weekend and that's what we're going to do this weekend to end the season on a high note."

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By Patrick Rall Oct 30 2017 - 12:39pm - Matt Hagan drove his Dodge Charger funny car to win #4 on the season this past weekend in Vegas, beating Courtney Force in the final round at the Toyota Nationals, but with a first round loss to John Force, Ron Capps slipped from the top spot in the championship race with just one event remaining. 

The NHRA Toyota Nationals were held this past weekend in Las Vegas and while Don Schumacher Racing’s Matt Hagan and his Dodge Charger won the funny car finals – giving DSR its 15th win 23 races – Ron Capps’ early exit coupled with Robert Hight’s strong run caused Capps to fall from the top spot in the championship.

Qualifying
Coming into the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Ron Capps and his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger held a narrow lead over Robert Hight and his John Force Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Capps and his DSR Dodge-driving teammates had hoped to use the stop in Las Vegas to continue their dominance of the funny car class, and they got off to a great start.

Ron Capps came off of the trailer fast, laying down a 3.916 at 325mph to claim the top spot in the first round of qualifying while championship rival Robert Hight sat 14th. Meanwhile, the other Don Schumacher and John Force Racing funny cars to turn in strong first-round runs included Matt Hagan (4th quickest) and John Force (5th), but Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr, Courtney Force and Hight all turned in disappointing first qualifying runs.

That all changed in the second round, as Jack Beckman ran a 3.867 to take the top spot, Courtney Force ran a 3.878 to grab second and Hight ran a 3.880 to move into third. Capps slid to sixth, Hagan to eighth and John Force dropped to 12th.
The order of the top three wouldn’t change during the final two rounds of qualifying, but Hagan was able to move into fourth and Capps held onto sixth. 

Eliminations

In the first round of eliminations, only one driver from Don Schumacher Racing or John Force Racing failed to advance to the second round, and that was Ron Capps. In what could prove to be a devastating blow to his championship run, Capps lost to John Force when his Dodge Charger ran into problems around half track. Beckman beat Jim Campbell, Tommy Johnson Jr beat Jonnie Lindberg, Hagan beat Gary Densham, and Courtney Force beat Jeff Arend – but Ron Capps lost.

In the second round, Beckman beat teammate Johnson in a battle of DSR Dodge Charger funny cars, Hagan beat Del Worsham, Courtney Force beat Alexis DeJoria and Robert Hight beat John Force in a battle of JFR Camaro funny cars. This set up a semifinal round pitting two DSR Chargers head-to-head and two JFR Camaros head-to-head.

In the semis, Jack Beckman held the starting line advantage, but when he ran into problems, Hagan took the win while Courtney Force destroyed teammate Robert Hight to advance to the finals.

In the final round, Matt Hagan pulled the holeshot advantage and never looked back – beating Force’s Camaro with his Dodge Charger for his fourth win of the year.

The Championship Race

Coming into Las Vegas, Ron Capps held a 24 point lead over Robert Hight. By losing in the first round while Hight lost in the third round, Capps fell to second in the championship race as Hight took a 15-point lead.

This means that at the NHRA Auto Club Finals in Pomona, California, Capps needs to go to the late rounds and he needs to hope for Hight to lose early. Should Capps win the final event, he should win the title, but the 2017 NHRA Funny Car Title is likely going to come down to which of those two drivers finishes better in the final event.

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Hagan powered his Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T to his first career victory at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a run of 3.942 at 329.42 defeated Courtney Force’s 4.020 at 320.05 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro. This is Hagan’s fourth victory of the season and 26th of his career. 

“There’s no replacement for the feeling of winning,” Hagan said. “That’s a fix you can’t get nowhere else. My guys busted tail all day. We had a car that went down the track every run we’ve been here. I was just trying not to mess it up.”

MORE TO COME

ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 15, 2017) - An outcome couldn't have been any different for Matt Hagan on Sunday at  the Texas Motorplex near Dallas in the NHRA FallNationals than it was a year ago.
 
And it wasn't in a good way.
 
After qualifying fourth and winning his second Dallas title in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a year ago, Hagan with crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen started as the No. 13 seed and were defeated in the opening round Sunday to Jonnie Lindberg after Hagan's Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T lost traction right off the starting line.
 
Jim Head Racing's Lindberg recorded a time of 4.372 seconds at 303.78 mph after he lost traction farther down the track to Hagan's 5.186 (257.38).
 
"We've kind of hit a little rough patch here with some of these races in the Countdown," said Hagan, who has won three events this year.
 
"It's not because Dickie Venables is not smart or he's not trying hard or anything like that. It's just we've made some wholesale changes to get better. We've got a brand new car out here that we've been ironing out and we're changing some of our stuff in our bellhousing.
 
"It's just not really working the way that we hoped. So when things don't go the way you want them to, you go back to what you know and that's what we're going to do on Monday when we stay and test.
 
"We're going to go back and get the old car back and set some stuff up and make some laps and try to finish as strong as we can."
 
The Mello Yello Series will be off next week before heading to Las Vegas for the penultimate event and a week later ending the season at Pomona, Calif.
 
Hagan dropped one spot to fifth in Countdown to the Championship standings and will trail teammate and points leader Ron Capps by 226 points when the series arrives at Las Vegas.

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Next NHRA Event 2017

FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Robert Hight (2548)
2. Ron Capps (2533)
3. Courtney Force (2423)
4. Jack Beckman (2396)
5. Matt Hagan (2387)
6. John Force (2306)
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2276)
8. Tim Wilkerson (2237)
9. J.R. Todd (2233)
10. Cruz Pedregon (2163)