Matt Hagan, the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver, reached the semifinals today during the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom Gatornationals here at Gainesville Raceway.

Hagan, number-one qualifier here for the second-consecutive year, opened the eliminations with a first round victory over 16th qualifier Bob Bode by posting a 4.095-second/305.08-mile-per-hour pass in the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. He followed with a pedal effort, defeating Jeff Arend in the second round (4.441/254.14 vs. 5.586/130.35).

A loss to Cruz Pedregon (4.126/306.95) in the semifinals did not diminish Hagan’s (4.238/288.15) enthusiasm or optimism.

“We picked up a lot of points this weekend,” said the runner up in the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship. “There is still a lot of racing, 20 races, to go in this season. We’ll keep having fun and we’ll keep working hard.”

Hagan, who spends his non-racing days as a Christiansburg, Va., cattle farmer, holds on to the second spot in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship. His 175 points puts him 26 behind the leader, and today’s event winner, Mike Neff.

“I can’t say enough about how great a hot rod Tommy (Delago, crew chief) and my guys are giving me to drive each round,” said the runner up two weeks ago in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series opener. “I wouldn’t change them for any other team!

The DieHard team heads West for the April 1-3 12th annual NHRA Nationals on the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Next NHRA Event

FC Mello Yello Points

Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Funny Car

1 Jack Beckman 278
2 Tommy Johnson Jr 276
3 Matt Hagan 238
4 Tim Wilkerson 179
5 John Force 173
6 Ron Capps 159
7 Alexis DeJoria 154
8 Bob Tasca III 149
9 J.R. Todd 141
10 Robert Hight 100