BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Feb. 7, 2017) - Matt Hagan has his sights set on a big year for himself and the Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T team. The two-time Funny Car champion and Virginia cattle farmer is embracing all aspects of life after the unexpected death of his younger brother, Kyle Hagan, last month.
"He was 33 years old and he's gone. You've got to take life and really realize how special every moment is. So I think that when I'm crawling into the racecar this year I'm not going to take anything for granted and not just go through the motions. It just means a lot more to me now knowing that it can be gone tomorrow."
Hagan will pay tribute to his brother each time he puts on his Impact Racing helmet with a portrait of his brother painted by Polen Designs.
"I wanted to do something special on my lid this year to honor my brother and all of the memories we made together. Polen Designs did a wonderful job and I was at a loss for words when I saw it."
Hagan and the Mopar team powered by Pennzoil has won one of its four titles at Pomona in the Winternationals.
"2017 is going to be a big year I think for all of us, especially here at DSR," Hagan said. "I have a lot of goals that I've set for myself. With my brother Kyle passing it put some stuff in perspective for me, treating every day and every lap and every race as it could be your last.
Hagan is thrilled to be a part of Mopar's 80th anniversary in 2017 by again flying the colors of Mopar Express Lane in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series with the team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen.
"Eighty years of Mopar, that's just 80 years of horsepower. It's pretty cool that everybody's so brand-loyal and supported the cause and allowed Mopar to be out here and be able to demonstrate the horsepower like they do on the racetrack. I think that we have to have a big year for them. We've got to go out here and win a bunch of races and win this championship and make it all happen."
The team participated in the Nitro Spring Training preseason test last week at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix.
"It's always good to get back in the car, knock the dust off before we roll into Pomona," Hagan said. "I feel like we had a really good test session. We learned some things that worked, some that didn't. The thing with Dickie (Venables) is when you pull up to the line with him on your side as your crew chief, you know you're going to have a winning race car."
MATT HAGAN: Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Last event (Nov. 11-13, 2016, at Pomona): Qualified No. 7, lost in first round to Jeff Arend 2016 Pomona 1: Qualified No. 10, lost in first round to Chad Head Career at Pomona 1: Wins 1 (2015); Runner-ups 2 (2011, 2014); Poles 0 Career at Pomona: Wins 4; Runner-ups 2; Poles 1
Pts Events Wins Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ W/L 2016 3rd 24 4 2 5 7 5 5 0 40-20 CAREER 192 22 20 28 62 56 26 4 265-166 Best Time, Speed: 3.822 sec.-quickest ever (2016, Brainerd); 335.57 mph-fastest ever (2016, Topeka)
NHRA Winternationals Event Schedule (All times PT) Friday: 1, 4 p.m., nitro qualifying Saturday: 1, 4 p.m., nitro qualifying Sunday: 11 a.m., championship eliminations
ON FS1/FOX Friday: 7-8 p.m. ET, qualifying Saturday: 1-2 p.m. ET, live qualifying on FS1 Sunday: 4-7 p.m. ET, live eliminations on FOX