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Qualified: No. 2 (lane choice)

The Competition: No. 15 Phil Burkhart Jr. 

The Results: 
Q1: 3.942 E.T. at 321.50 MPH (Three bonus points for quickest run of the session)
Q3: 3.900 E.T. at 327.82 MPH (One bonus point for third quickest run of the session)
Q4: 3.881 E.T. at 323.43 MPH (Two bonus points for second quickest run of the session)

Bonus Points: Six

Quotable:
"I’m feeling really, really confident in this Sandvik Coromant Hellcat. (Crew chief) Dickie Venables seems to have a really good handle on it. We’ve been down the race track three times out of the three qualifying sessions. We were ‘top three’ of each session. We ran into an issue with the five disc (clutch) clunking a little bit out there, but NHRA really has the race track glued in so it’s not been such an issue. Hopefully tomorrow the track will be prepped well again and we can lay some power down and win some rounds. All in all, we’re very pleased with how this Sandvik Dodge has been running."

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Qualified: No. 4 (3.909 E.T. at 326.79 MPH)

Results: E1: 4.140 E.T. at 243.33 MPH defeated by John Force 3.890 E.T. at 333.74 MPH

Matt Hagan entered the race weekend as the two-time defending event champ and with his sights set on becoming the fourth Funny Car pilot in history to win the season-opening event three years in a row. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona E.T. and speed track record holder. Hagan was out of the gate first against opponent John Force. The MOPAR Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat held the lead until the 330-mark before slowing to a 4.140 and allowing Force’s session-best 3.890 E.T. to claim the win.

“Obviously not the Winternationals we were hoping for. We won this race the past two years in a row and were hoping to make it three. I think if maybe we struggle at the beginning of the season than we’ll do well at the end because the last couple of years we’ve done well at the beginning and then stumbled at the end. At least that’s how I’m trying to look at it right now. Our MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is going down the race track, but it was just one of those things. We hit the bump out there and the clutch came at it really hard and pulled the tires loose. No excuses, on to the next race but I think with the way we qualified and the way the cars been running, I’m happy with it."

As a 10-year veteran and two-time champion in the NHRA Funny Car series, Christiansburg’s Matt Hagan is already living one of his dreams.

He’s about to experience another.

All this week on multiple networks, the Auburn High School alum will be featured on an episode of “Jimmy Houston Outdoors” alongside the famous angler, whose show has been running since 1990.

“I was 10 years old growing up watching this guy almost every Saturday morning,” Hagan said in a recent phone interview. “Jimmy has always been the one catching big fish, and you go out and buy every lure to try to catch big fish like him. It’s really been kind of a fairy tale to come full circle and be on the boat with him.”

Hagan met Houston through sponsor connections and was invited to tape the episode last fall, as he was wrapping his ninth season in NHRA. Hagan spent time on a private Oklahoma lake with the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Famer as cameras rolled.


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FC Mello Yello Points

Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:
POSITION DRIVER POINTS
1 Robert Hight 717
2 JR Todd 556
3 Ron Capps 548
4 Tommy Johnson Jr. 527
5 John Force 524
6 Matt Hagan 506
7 Jack Beckman 477
8 Tim Wilkerson 463
9 Shawn Langdon 404
10 Bob Tasca 369
11 Cruz Pedregon 306
12 Terry Haddock 250
13 Jim Campbell 209
14 Jeff Diehl 191
15 Jonnie Lindberg 174
16 Blake Alexander 143
17 Dave Richards 94
18 Phil Burkart Jr. 88
19 Gary Densham 73
20 Paul Lee 52
21 Frank Pedregon 32
22 John Smith 31
23 Dale Creasy 10
24 Bob Bode 5