The 62nd annual U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis brought victory for Team Mopar in the form of a double-up win on Labor Day weekend ahead of the Countdown to the Championship. Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) driver Matt Hagan, in the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T, crushed the competition with his fierce HEMI® to claim the Funny Car title at the most prestigious race on the tour.
"Another victory for Matt Hagan in the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T shows the true capabilities of Mopar performance, and we are eager to see what the remainder of the season holds," said Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA - Global. "Each of the Mopar-powered Funny Cars look to be emerging as contenders for the championship title, and that's something we're all excited about."
The victory was the 21st of Hagan's career and third of the season in five final rounds. It was also the 10th Funny Car trophy of the season for the Mopar Funny Cars, and Mopar will enter the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship with four cars fully capable of winning the biggest trophy of them all after the six-race playoffs.
Hagan qualified his horsepower-heavy Mopar Dodge on the pole in Indianapolis and used the momentum to knock-out his opponents on raceday, beginning with a first-round meeting with John Bojec. His opponent left the starting line with a small advantage, but Hagan soon took the lead with a demolishing 3.894-second pass at 327.59 mph to a traction-troubled 11.32. Next to fall was Robert Hight, 3.942/324.59 to 4.572/183.42.
The semifinals brought a head-to-head battle for DSR teammates Hagan and Tommy Johnson Jr., who was at the helm of the Riley Kid's Dodge Charger R/T. Johnson was awesome at the starting line, clocking a remarkable .054-second reaction time that wasn't far off of the .051 he used to complement a strong 3.966 pass in the second round. At the top end, Hagan got the nod, 3.945/323.81 to 3.970/321.65.
Hagan had low elapsed time in each of the first three rounds, but in the final it was a mind-blowing .039-second reaction time that did the trick. Del Worsham's quicker 3.958/324.20 wasn't quite enough for Hagan's 3.964/327.43.
"It's just incredible," said Hagan, who is the No. 3 seed in the Countdown to the Championship. "This is something that we've been trying to accomplish for a long time. My crew chief Dickie Venables – that guy put a hot rod under me all weekend along. The guys do their job, and I'm just proud to be part of it, proud to be part of Don Schumacher Racing, and proud to have good sponsors in Mopar. The fans got what they paid for today. It's really something to come out here and know that you have a great car and you have to dig deep to get it done for your team, but that's why they put you in the seat.
"I'm just tickled to death to be out here right now. This is something I've been wanting to check off the list for a long time. We came out here with a brand new race car, we qualified No. 1, and the car was just on kill the whole weekend. Being able to have that confidence and see that in Dickie and this whole Mopar team, it's been great. That's what it takes to win races and to win the championship. I really feel like this car is starting to peak at the right time."
Sweeting the day for Team Mopar was the huge double-up win for DSR as Tony Schumacher won the Top Fuel title in his HEMI-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster with a final-round defeat of Steve Torrence.
Hagan’s Friday night performance of 3.858 at 330.80 in his Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T propelled him to the No. 1 spot in Funny Car qualifying for the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. His time was a Lucas Oil Raceway track record. Hagan earned the 25th No. 1 qualifier of his career and fourth of the season with the effort. He will meet John Bojec in the opening round of eliminations.
“I didn’t think it was going to stick, but I’m glad it did,” said Hagan, who is chasing his first win at the Big Go. “I was surprised to see that .85-second pass was still it. That’s racing. Everybody is swinging for the fence and digging deep and sometimes you miss it. We’ll get focused for tomorrow. Woke up this morning with a sore throat and running a fever but whether you got a cold or not, you got to get in the racecar focused.”
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 2, 2016) – After a fantastic afternoon with an expected record amount raised during the 11th annual Don Schumacher Racing Open House presented by Pennzoil to benefit Riley Hospital for Children, DSR’s Dodge Charger R/T Funny Cars continued the record day 2 miles away on opening night of the 62nd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals at Raceway Park near Indianapolis.
Matt Hagan with crew chief Dickie Venables and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team raced to a track-record elapsed time of 3.858 seconds at 330.80 mph for what could be their fourth track elapsed time record of the year through 17 races to hold the provisional pole with four sessions remaining over the next two days before Monday’s championship eliminations in the regular season finale of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
“That was a brand new racecar that our DSR fab shop put together for us,” said Hagan, who is looking for his first U.S. Nationals title. “We shook it down twice when we tested here last week.
“You really couldn’t ask for much more than that. Dickie has a lot of confidence right now and it showed on that run. It had a really quick 60-foot time and settled into the groove but it started to push a little toward the wall and ended up being a handful. It all worked out.”
A blink behind Hagan in the No. 2 provisional position is reigning U.S. Nationals pole winner and event titlist Jack Beckman with crew chief Jimmy Prock in Terry Chandler’s Infinite Hero Dodge that stopped the clock in 3.859 seconds at a track record speed of 333.08 mph.
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 30, 2016) - There's one place at the top of the list of every driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. It's the biggest stage on the 24-race tour and it's the site of this weekend's prestigious 62nd annual U.S. Nationals.
And Matt Hagan wants the NHRA Wally trophy from it.
The two-time Funny Car champion, owner of 20 event titles along with the quickest and fastest runs ever in a flopper wants to add the accomplishment to his growing list.
After a two-day test session last week at Lucas Oil Raceway, he and crew chief Dickie Venables are satisfied and confident they can not only come away with a win in this weekend's U.S. Nationals, but they're confident for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs that begins two weeks later near Charlotte.
"We are very satisfied," Hagan said. "We couldn't have had a better test session. We shook the car down before but we went into the test session wanting to try some new things and we put down some really good numbers. Dickie seemed very happy with it, I was happy with it. All in all, it was a big success.
"I've never won Indy and that's one of those on the list that you want. All the history, all the big names, you want your name on that list. There wouldn't be a better way to end the regular season than with a win."
The Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team clocked a 3.822-second run two weeks ago in northern Minnesota and reached their fourth final of the season. They are ranked fifth in Funny Car points standings heading into this weekend's event where one round of racing is worth 30 points instead of the standard 20.
"It's points and a half in Indy, and all of the points matter. We want to roll into this Countdown as close to the top as we can get but the bottom line is I've won championships from the sixth spot and seventh spot so as long as you're in it, you can win it and we are locked in already so that's just a huge relief.
"I'm not really too concerned with the points at Indy, we just need to get some good momentum rolling for the Countdown. Going to the final round in Brainerd, we definitely have the ball rolling. It's time to focus on running well, running consistently and I know Dickie has the plan set and we just need to go out and do it."
MATT HAGAN: Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Last event: Brainerd (Aug. 21, 2016): Qualified No. 1, lost in championship round to Del Worsham
A year ago at Indy: Qualified No. 8, lost in first round to Ron Capps
Career at Indy: Wins 0; Runner-ups 0; Poles 3 (2010, 2013, 2014)
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)