A few years ago, Darrell Gwynn asked a media member if the drivers appreciate what they bring to the mix. It was a remarkably thoughtful question – and the answer is a matter for another day.

However, it raised the notion that the media and the fans often take for granted all the processes and the feelings behind them that the drivers experience. We see them with “that look” in their eyes. We see them make thrilling runs. We see them make disappointing ones. We see them win. We see them lose. We see their cars run into tire shake or explode. We see how they react when they get out of the car. And we only can imagine what they’re thinking and why they’re reacting in whatever way they do. We might not understand all of it or even misinterpret it.

Three-time and current NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan took time to walk Dragzine through some of the emotions and impulses of a driver’s day at the racetrack – and some of it just might be surprising.

It’s no surprise that racecar drivers are wired a little differently than the rest of us. But the notion of competition is a logical place to start figuring out why.

Hagan likened it to the “fight or flight syndrome” – “as a competitor, I’ve really tried over the years to learn how to take a pressure situation and turn it into something that’s positive. Some people are like, ‘Man, I don’t want to mess this up.’ For me, I look at it like ‘Give me the ball. I want that opportunity.’

“I think that that aggression, that adrenaline and that everything-that-it-takes-to-get-there puts you in, almost an old-school gladiator kind of feel. It’s just the last of what we do, of our primal instincts, to just be adrenaline-filled. That’s why people used to come and watch people fight tigers in an arena,” he said.

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Camping World Funny Car Top Ten

1 Bob Tasca III 495
2 John Force 480
3 J.R. Todd 450
4 Robert Hight 423
5 Matt Hagan 375
6 Ron Capps 372
7 Tim Wilkerson 364
8 Alexis DeJoria 325
9 Cruz Pedregon 305
10 Terry Haddock 226


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