ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 16, 2016) – Two-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan was powered by Pennzoil to his fourth win in six final round appearances this season on Sunday at the AAA Texas NHRA Fallnationals at Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
The Pennzoil/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T defeated John Bojec, Courtney Force, Robert Hight and current Funny Car points leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the final round to earn his 22nd career win.
“That’s a huge (final) round,” Hagan said. “Unfortunately we faced him (Capps) late in the race. In Reading, we had him in the semis and he left on me and spanked me on the tree. This time I got to leave on him and get a little payback. He’s a great guy, great individual and one of those guys that took me under his wing when I first came out here. I have lots of respect for him and I know he’s digging deep and working hard but we have a job to do for Pennzoil, Mopar, Freightliner, Rocky and all those folks that support us.”
Hagan with crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen got back into the championship hunt with an outstanding weekend.
The first seven runs by the Pennzoil/Mopar Dodge were in the 3.8-second range. The only run it missed the magic bracket was in his final race against Capps when Hagan’s quicker reaction time won on a holeshot to beat Capps quicker Dodge.
“We race heads up and that’s the way it’s going to be. When you earn a championship that’s what makes you feel good, that you earned it. We’re just keeping the old boy honest. I love him (Capps) to death and it was cool to see him in the final but I was glad to see that win light come on in our lane. We’ve had to get through some pretty tough cars today and had a little bit of luck go our way.”
Hagan and the Pennzoil team moved into third in Funny Car points standings with two Countdown to the Championship events remaining in 2016. With their win, they pulled within 88 of leader Capps and 22 of DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr.
DSR holds the top-four spots in Funny Car standings with Jack Beckman in fourth.
It was Hagan’s second title from the Motorplex facility near Dallas.
“It’s a great race track,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of success out here. This track has shown me some love, I love all these Texas folks. Hopefully we can keep this ball rolling in the Countdown. It’s the fiercest competition that I’ve ever seen out here. You have to bring it every time. It takes everybody to do what we’re supposed to do. We are very, very blessed to be out here. You don’t take it for granted and you work hard for it every day.”
Hagan pushed his Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T to a 3.913 at 327.03 to beat points leader Ron Capps’ 3.906 at 322.19 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T on a holeshot in the Funny Car final round. Hagan, who won in Dallas in 2010, claimed his fourth victory of the year and 22nd of his career. The Virginia cattle rancher moved to third in points, trailing Capps by 88 and second-place Tommy Johnson Jr. by 24. He defeated John Bojec, Houston winner Courtney Force, and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in the earlier rounds.
“That was a huge round,” said Hagan, a two-time world champion. “It’s just unfortunate that we’re facing [Ron Capps] so late in rounds. In Reading, I had him in the semi’s, and he spanked me on the Tree, and this time, I was able to get a little payback. I actually try to minimize everything out of my control and just focus on leaving on time, keeping it in the groove, and turning on the win light and let the rest take care of itself. We can’t worry about who might mess up or how many rounds someone might go; we just need to do the best job we can and turn on as many win lights as we can.” Full Race coverage
Hagan’s Pennzoil Dodge has been the most consistent of the weekend with four runs ranging between 3.851 and 3.896, including his final pass of 3.864 that was quickest in the fourth session.
“We’ve got a fast racetrack out here this weekend even in the heat,” he said.
“Dickie (Venables) was really pleased with that last run and that puts us in a good position heading into tomorrow. We were able to pick up some bonus points in qualifying and that was the goal.
“Now we just need to go out and get the job done on Sunday for all the folks at Pennzoil who are out here supporting us. The Countdown is winding down and we need to turn on as many win lights as we can tomorrow and at the last two races. We made it down the track all four laps this weekend and that says a lot about the hard work that Dickie and these guys are putting in.”
READING, Pa. (Oct. 2, 2016) – On a weekend where rain showers left a lot of free time for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors, Matt Hagan was one of the busiest.
After two sessions of qualifying were rained out on Friday at the 32nd annual NHRA Dodge Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen earned the No. 1 qualifying spot, their fifth of the season, with a 3.873-second pass at 333.90 mph in the one and only qualifying session on Saturday.
After securing the No. 1 qualifying spot for Sunday’s eliminations, Hagan returned to Christiansburg, Va., to be with his wife, Rachel, for the arrival of the couple’s third child that entered the world on Sunday morning roughly six hours before the opening round of eliminations.
“My wife, God bless her. She had a baby then we get back out here and I was just glad to be able to make it back out here in time. Just blessed to be out here doing what I do, loving what I do,” Hagan said.
Hagan opened eliminations by pedaling to a win over Jim Campbell and a 3.869-second, 332.75-mph win over John Bojec in the quarterfinals before facing Don Schumacher Racing teammate and Mello Yello points leader Ron Capps in the semifinal round.
Both Hagan and Capps posted 3.893 times but the win went to Capps who got the starting line advantage.
“Identical ETs – he just left on me, and when you get left on like that, you own it,” Hagan said. “There's just no way around it. He just did a little bit better job in the wheelhouse than I did, and you can't make excuses. Those are make-or-break moments.”
The Mopar Express Lane team moved to fourth in Mello Yello Funny Car points standings with three racing remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.
“This was a huge race for us,” he said of his semifinals round against Capps. “We needed to dig deep there and for a 40-point swing. I feel like I let the team down there. It's not cool. That's not something I take lightly. It's one of those things where he just did a better job at the end of the day. We'll get back in this deal at Dallas, work hard and see what we can do.”
The Mello Yello Series takes a weekend off before resuming the Countdown at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas on Oct. 14-16.
FUNNY CAR Winner: Tommy Johnson Jr. (Don Schumacher Racing) No. 1 qualifier: Matt Hagan (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.873 sec., 333.90 mph
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Qualified: No. 1
First round: HAGAN (4.112 sec., 325.22 mph) def. Jim Campbell (16.036, 28.69)
Second round: HAGAN (3.869, 332.75) def. John Bojec (4.174, 289.51)
Semifinals: Ron Capps (3.893, 327.66) def. HAGAN (3.893, 333.58)
QUALIFYING FRIDAY: Sessions 1 and 2 rained out SATURDAY: 3.873 sec., 333.90 mph, (Session 3); Session 4, rained out
Matt, the two-time Funny Car world champion with the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team and crew chief Dickie Venables produced a time of 3.873 seconds at 333.99 mph to set their seventh elapsed time and eighth speed records through 21 events this season.
Not only were both qualifying sessions lost to rain on Friday, the fourth and final session was cancelled after an afternoon shower followed by a sporadic drizzle leaving only Saturday's first session to determine the 16-car fields for Sunday's eliminations scheduled for noon (ET).
"Pretty phenomenal. It's right there behind winning a race of course," Pritchett said of winning for the first time in the second event of the year.
"This is do or die time. This is the time of digging deep for the Countdown and to be No. 1 at one of the fastest racetracks and race conditions says a lot about my Mopar Pennzoil team. They know what they're doing, and I have a lot of confidence in that racecar. From a strategy standpoint, it's really big.
"I wanted to get that other run and maybe get into the (3.60s) or get my first 330. But yeah, it definitely doesn't suck for us to be in this position. To be No. 1 is pretty awesome, but we came here to win the race. We're starting this off on the very best foot forward. It can't get any better than this today. Being in the No. 1 position comes with points, and that's very important to us. Overall, we're happy. I'll take it.
Hagan was able to gain 11 points in the standings and will trail teammate and points leader Ron Capps (NAPA AUTO PARTS) by 90 when racing begins Sunday.
"I hated it for our funs who are out here to see drag racing, and we're out here to put on a show," Hagan said of the limited qualifying.
"I almost messed up our first run. Everybody was shaking, blowing the tires off. Dickie looks in there and he's like, I don't know what (the car is) going to do.
"It's cool to be able to hang onto a car out here that's fast. We just have to push a little harder on Sunday. I know we can do it, it's just a matter of getting a good racetrack underneath us tomorrow, making some runs and having some fun.
"You get here and you have to be in that mindset you pull your belts down tight because it's going to be a ride out there. I'm very blessed to have a good crew chief and all those guys wrenching on the car and putting a great hot rod underneath me. I just try not to mess it up."
DSR took the top-three spots in Top Fuel with reigning world champion and Countdown to the Championship points leader Antron Brown (Matco Tools' Tools for the Cause/U.S. Army) in second with Shawn Langdon (Odyssey Battery) in third.
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 1
First round: Jim Campbell
FRIDAY: Sessions 1 and 2 rained out
SATURDAY: 3.873 sec., 333.90 mph, (Session 3); Session 4, rained out
Funny Car (Unofficial)
1. Matt Hagan (308)
2. John Force (238)
3. Ron Capps (235)
4. Tommy Johnson Jr (209)
5. Courtney Force (177)
6. Robert Hight (150)
7. Jim Campbell (148)
8. Jack Beckman (144)
9. J.R. Todd (138)
10. Robert Hight (117)
12. Alexis DeJoria (101)