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Qualified: No. 1 (3.859 E.T. at 331.61 MPH)

The Results:
E1: Foul (made contact with a timing block), defeated by Jeff Diehl 

Race Recap:
By earning the No. 1 starting position for the third consecutive event, Matt Hagan and the Mopar team put themselves in prime position to defend their 2019 NHRA Arizona Nationals title. Hagan began Sunday morning by lining up opposite No. 16 qualifier Jeff Diehl in round one, and it was clear crew chief Dickie Venables wasn’t taking their first opponent lightly. The Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was on a tremendous run but charging hard to the left toward the centerline. Hagan did his best to muscle it back over, but narrowly brushed a timing block just before the finish line, which caused his opponent to claim the automatic round win by default.

Quotable:
“My guys did a heck of a job today; the car was on a really good run. It was just one of those deals where it got inside on me, and I couldn’t get it back. I thought I lifted soon enough not to hit anything, but a header brushed a timing block, and that DQ’d us. But, a heck of a job for this Mopar team to run such a good number like that on race day. We were No. 1 qualifier, have such a good race car, and I hate that I let my team down like that. It’s race day; I was just trying to get to the finish line first. All in all, we’ve got a great car, things are going in the right direction, the guys are working hard, the parts and pieces are working well, and it’s all coming together.”

Matt Hagan earned the 38th pole position of his career on the strength of the run he made during the second qualifying session of the NHRA Arizona Nationals. Hagan ran a 3.859-second pass at 331.61-mph, putting his Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat at the top of the Funny Car qualifying sheet.

Hagan will race Jeff Diehl in the first round of the NHRA Arizona Nationals, the second of 24 stops on the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series tour. The Don Schumacher Racing driver also earned pole position at the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com, which opened the season, and the Auto Club NHRA Finals, which concluded the 2019 season. 

John Force came in .002-second behind Hagan with a slightly quicker speed of 331.94 and will race Terry Haddock in the first round at 11 a.m. Mountain Time. Force is hunting his 152nd career victory as the winningest driver in NHRA history. His most recent victory came at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in 2019. 

2019 Funny Car champion Robert Hight powered his Auto Club Chevy Camaro to the No. 3 qualifying position with a 3.867-second hit at 3330.55. The John Force Racing driver will race Jim Campbell in the first round as he looks for his first victory of the 2020 season and first final since the final race of the 2019 campaign. 

Blake Alexander, in his first race of the 2020 season, qualified in the No. 12 position in his Pronto Auto Service / Head Racing Ford Mustang. That booked him a matchup against fellow Ford Mustang driver Bob Tasca III, who took his Mike Neff-tuned Ford Motorcraft machine to the No. 5 machine behind a 3.883-second pass. 

Jack Beckman, who has won back-to-back events thanks to excellent performance at Auto Club Raceway, will start race day from the No. 6 position. He ran a 3.889 and earned a matchup against former Funny Car world champion Cruz Pedregon. Pedregon is racing with crew chief Eric Lane in his Snap-On Dodge Charger and qualified No. 11 with a 3.962. 

The first round of Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing is scheduled for 11 a.m. at Wild Horse Motorsports Park. You can get tickets here or catch all the action on NHRA.tv. 

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Qualified: No. 1 (3.841 E.T. at 333.25 MPH)

The Results:
E1: 3.914 E.T. at 330.39 MPH defeated Alex Miladinovich 5.859 E.T. at 124.03 MPH
E2: 4.042 E.T. at 284.03 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 6.083 E.T. at 113.18 MPH
E3: 8.859 E.T. at 78.06 MPH defeated by John Force 3.923 E.T. at 331.28 MPH

Race Recap:
No. 1 qualifier Matt Hagan knew he had a strong car and that the improvements made to the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car throughout the off-season put him in a good position to repeat the winning performances he enjoyed at the Winternationals in 2015, 2017 and 2018. He rolled into race day with confidence on the heels of an impressive qualifying performance, which saw his Mopar Dodge run low E.T. in Q1 and Q4, and second-low in Q2.
 
At his 265th professional event, Hagan worked his way through eliminations to a semifinal match-up against John Force to whom he ceded lane choice. The left lane was unkind to the DSR driver, and tire shake ended his hopes to advance further but didn’t dampen his enthusiasm about starting off the 2020 NHRA season on a good note. He will look to continue to build upon his performance at the next event on the schedule, the NHRA Arizona Nationals, where he returns as the defending champion.

Quotable:
“I had a great qualifying and test session and came out here and ran really well. We ended up going to the semis, which was a good, healthy weekend for us. All-in-all, just a great way to start the season, so I’m excited rolling into Phoenix. We’re going to make sure that we end up having some more good runs along the way. The car is working really well. We were No. 1 qualifier here in Pomona, and I think we’re going to carry that momentum into Phoenix. Hopefully, we can turn on some more win lights for Mopar Dodge, for Pennzoil, and for Sandvik and hopefully get a win soon.”  

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NHRA - Minutes after losing their Friday qualifying lead to world champ Robert Hight, Matt Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables regained the top spot on the final pass of Funny Car qualifying to enter Sunday as the No. 1 qualifiers.

Hagan’s Friday Q1 pass of 3.867 had withstood all challengers until Hight pulled the Auto Club Chevy to the line in the second to last qualifying pair and rocketed to a 3.862. That lead lasted until the two-time world champ ripped away from the starting line in his blue Mopar/Pennzoil Dodge and clocked a 3.841 alongside teammate Jack Beckman, whose Infinite Hero Dodge knocked Hight down another spot with a 3.856.

Tommy Johnson Jr. and the new-look MD Anderson Cancer Center Dodge made three-second passes on three of four runs and hit a best-of-qualifying 3.881in Q4 for the No. 3 spot.

After two Friday misses, John Force chalked up a 3.93 in Q3 then put down a solid 3.889 in the final session to qualify No. 5 with new crew chiefs Danny Hood and Ronny Thompson.

Twelve cars qualified in the three-second zone with Bob Bode’s 3.984 being the slowest of the sub-fours. Also qualifying in the three-second zone were Paul Lee (3.910), Ron Capps (3.911), J.R. Todd (3.914), Tim Wilkerson (3.918), Bob Tasca III (3.940), and Alexis DeJoria (3.950).

Alex Miladinovich qualified for the field in his nitro Funny Car debut at the former Nostalgia Funny Car pilot got a passing grade for his Hot For Teacher Toyota with a 4.554 pass that left him in the No. 16 spot with a first-round date with Hagan Sunday morning.

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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