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Matt Hagan joins Brian Lohnes on this week's episode of the NHRA Insider podcast and talks about his 2020 NHRA Camping World Funny Car championship season: The ups, the downs, the motivating factors, and the ultimate victory in Las Vegas. Lohnes also talks about some of the most interesting numbers from the 2020 Top Fuel season as well. A fun listen!

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Matt Hagan knew the enormity of the situation headed into race day.

Hagan was one of three drivers with a strong chance to win the 2020 NHRA Funny Car championship, and the Christiansburg, Va.-based competitor was in the driver's seat to score it all.

Hagan needed this championship.

He didn't need this title for the prestige or to pad his resume. Nor did he need it for job security.

Hagan needed to win this one for his brother Kyle and gain a measure of closure in losing his younger sibling.

Kyle, 32, passed away on January 8, 2016, suddenly in his sleep. Since then, Hagan has tried to win a championship in memory of Kyle, who was going through a very rough patch in his life; one that the Funny Car champion didn't know how to help his sibling fight through.

Matt and Kyle"Growing up, we fought like cats and dogs, as most brothers do," Hagan said. "I had always been playing sports and some different things like that, and he'd always tried to, but he had scoliosis. He had almost a 90-degree curvature of his spine, which basically makes your head feel like it's six pounds heavier than normal. And it just makes things more challenging to get around and do stuff. He lived more of a reserved life than I did."

"He still tried. He wanted to play but was really challenged to do that, so we got into cars together and started drag racing a little bit here and there. My fondest memories with him were going to Elk Creek drag strip and being able to race with him.

"But as he got a little older, it got even more challenging just to even drag race. He had a hard time just kind of sitting up and sleeping and moving around and stuff. So racing or any type of physical activity or something that's stressful on your body became challenging for him."

Full Story @ Competition Plus

Matt Hagan won for the third time in 2020, 36th time in his career and handed Don Schumacher Racing its 14th straight victory in the class. Hagan was splendid when NHRA returned to racing in July, winning the first event at Indy and holding the points lead over the final four races. He beat Cruz Pedregon, Paul Lee and Alexis DeJoria to reach the final round, capping off his year in an impressive way. Hagan and Brown’s victories also gave DSR its second straight double-up in the nitro categories and 67th overall.

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NHRA.com Matt Hagan completed a dominant season of Funny Car competition for Don Schumacher Racing by clinching his third NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series championship at the season-ending Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil.

In a year dominated by DRS’s Funny Car four drivers who monopolized all the wins throughout the 11-race season, Hagan won the final slugfest at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway buy outlasting teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman.

Beckman was upset in round one by Paul Lee and Johnson was knocked off in the semifinals by their other teammate, low qualifier Ron Capps, in the semifinals. Even though the title was decided before Hagan’s semifinal run, Hagan added an exclamation point by reaching the final round, which would have clinched the title no matter what Johnson did.

“It’s been a dogfight the whole time; this championship was for my brother that I lost three years ago,” said an emotional Hagan. “Dickie Venables and the guys … I can’t say how proud I am of each and every one of my guys. They bust their damn asses each and every day and I try to drive the wheels off of this thing. I can’t say enough about everyone who’s been a part of this and our NHRA fans who support our sponsors.”

Although Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables looked like champions from the start of the season, qualifying No. 1 at both the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals and the NHRA Arizona Nationals, he went winless at the first two events. His loss at the Arizona Nationals was especially galling in that he crossed the centerline while beating Jeff Diehl.

The second hardest part of that loss was that racing was halted not long after due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Hagan to chew on his bitter pill of defeat for four months until racing resumed with four straight events at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Hagan and Venables came back with a vengeance, defeating Phoenix winner Johnson in the final to win the first Indy event and Winternationals champ Beckman at the second event.

A second-round loss to Bob Tasca III at the third Indy event was the last time this season that he wouldn’t reach the semifinals. He reached the final four at both the U.S. Nationals and Gatornationals, then went to the final in St. Louis. Although he lost the trophy dash to Johnson, Hagan had his first points lead of the year.

Hagan added another runner-up, this time behind Beckman in Dallas and reached the semifinals in Houston before falling to eventual winner Johnson to set up the final showdown in Las Vegas.

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FC Points

Unofficial NHRA Championship Standings

Funny Car

1 Matt Hagan 1020
2 Tommy Johnson Jr 915
3 Jack Beckman 848
4 Ron Capps 828
5 Bob Tasca III 679
6 J.R. Todd 663
7 Tim Wilkerson 615
8 Alexis DeJoria 605
9 Paul Lee 464
10 Cruz Pedregon 436