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bdtonline.com - BRISTOL, Tenn. — Racing at Bristol Dragway is more than enough to get Matt Hagan excited to race. But having the 19th annual NHRA Thunder Nationals take place on Father’s Day Weekend just two hours from his Christiansburg, Va. home makes it one of the most anticipated weekends of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season for the two-time Funny Car world champ.

Hagan has one career victory at his home track, and will aim to make it a second in Thunder Valley in his 11,000-horsepower MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He was able to share his previous win at Bristol in 2015 with his father, as well as plenty of family and friends, and it’s a moment Hagan won’t forget. But it’s also a moment the 30-time event winner would like to recreate in 2019.

“Bristol is one of the most important races all season to me,” said Hagan, who is currently sixth in the Funny Car points standings. “It’s my home track, my family is there, my dad is there. When I won that race, I broke down crying. It was such a big moment for me and it was really special. That place carries a lot of passion for me. When you’re surrounded by all the people you love, have all those people supporting you and watching you, it’s just a really spewcial weekend.”

 

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) were last year’s winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 16. The race takes place June 14-16 and is the 11th of 24 events during the 2019 season. With a Friday night Primetime qualifying session starting at 7:30 p.m., Hagan will have a chance to put on a memorable show and start the weekend on a good note.

After winning at the second race of the season, Hagan is searching to get back to the winner’s circle. The team, led by veteran crew chief Dickie Venables, has fallen on a tough stretch in recent races, winning just one round in the last three events. But Hagan believes the team isn’t that far off from putting together winning performances. It’s a thin line between success and heartbreak in the loaded Funny Car ranks, and Hagan has seen both sides of that in 2019.

“You can’t make excuses, but we’ve been close,” Hagan said.

 “You’re always so close, always right there, but there’s not a lot of in-between in these cars. It’s always humbling every year, but I know we’re a call or two away from hitting our stride.”

 When that happens and the car starts running well, my driving ability comes around and my confidence comes into place. There’s always a good racer within you, it’s just about putting everything together.”

Hagan has been to three final rounds this season, so the potential is certainly there. In the midst of a grueling summer stretch, it’s a matter of finding a car that will perform well in warmer conditions, but Hagan is confident it will come around. He would be thrilled for that to be the case in Thunder Valley, but the talented driver will also have to deal with the likes of points leader Robert Hight, defending world champ J.R. Todd, John Force, and Don Schumacher Racing teammates Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., who won in Chicago. But the good news is DSR has won in Funny Car for the past five years in Bristol, with Hagan hopeful he can make it six straight.

“You can taste it and know it’s right there, and we’re always working, but it’s very humbling sometimes,” Hagan said. “During the summer, it’s just a grind. It’s tough, but you have to try to do whatever you can to get a win. We’re looking forward to the next couple of weekends.”

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FC Mello Yello Points

Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Funny Car

1 Jack Beckman 2179
2 John Force 2160
3 Robert Hight 2155
4 Ron Capps 2136
5 Tommy Johnson Jr 2105
6 Matt Hagan 2092
7 J.R. Todd 2089
8 Bob Tasca III 2072
9 Tim Wilkerson 2057
10 Shawn Langdon 2043