GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 19, 2017) - Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane team got a lucky break in the second round but they could have used a little in the semifinals.
The Dodge Charger R/T team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen and the crew ran into a snag in the pits after winning the first round with an impressive 3.898-second run at 331.94 mph that prevented them from starting the car in preparation for the second round.
In that round, the Mopar Dodge immediately lost traction and smoked the tires that seemed to hand the win over to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps, who raced out to an overwhelming lead. But just before the finish line, Capps car veered abruptly into Hagan's lane and when it crossed the centerline the win was handed to Hagan.
But because Capps car ran into the timing cones, neither team received a time and that gave lane choice in the semifinals to rookie Jonnie Lindberg, who selected the much-preferred left lane. Hagan lost traction and Lindberg advanced to the final round where he lost to John Force.
"We just got stuck over in the right lane, and we had to keep backing it down and backing it down to make sure we got down the racetrack," said Hagan, who opened the season with two wins and was able to maintain his points lead. "It's just one of those things where it's a one-lane racetrack, and that's really tough when you don't have lane choice.
"This Mopar car has been running strong. We've won two races and went to the semis and got some separation in our points lead. All in all, a pretty good day, but obviously we would have wanted to hold the Wally (trophy) at the end. But it didn't happen.
"We'll focus on Vegas in two weeks. We've got a weekend off, and we're going to regroup and rest a little bit, do some farm work (at his cattle ranch), and then roll back into Vegas and try to get it done out there."