BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 21, 2016) – Matt Hagan’s first and last runs in the Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at Brainerd International Raceway are two he’d like to forget.
But the six runs between will be used for important data and fond memories in the bank for Hagan, crew chief Dickie Venables, assistant Michael Knudsen and the Rocky Boots team.
The best and most memorable run will be the 3.822 world record run at a track speed record 333.47 that placed them No. 1 for Sunday’s championship eliminations in northern Minnesota. But crew chief Venables again came out swinging on race day and posted three consecutive 3.8-second runs before slowing in the final where opponent Del Worsham went on to win.
"We had a great weekend here at BIR," said Hagan of his runner-up finish. "We qualified No. 1 and set a national record. The car was on a string pretty much all day long, we just came up a little short in the final. All in all, it was a good points day for us, and I'm sure we helped ourselves a little bit there.
It was the fourth final round appearance of the season for Hagan and the Rocky Boots team that has won two event titles.
Hagan pulled within 31 points of Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman for fourth in Funny Car points standings.
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to the regular season finale at the U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis over Labor Day Weekend where each round win is worth 30 points instead of the standard 20.
Venables and the seven other DSR teams will spend this week testing at Lucas Oil Raceway near headquarters.
“I'm looking forward to the Indy test and trying some things there to get ready for that big race,” Hagan said. “I've never won Indy, and it would be great to check that one off the list. I think the karma with this team is coming back around. You feel like you have to wait your turn sometimes to win, and I think our turn is coming right around. We're right where we need to be."
Matt Hagan sets the Funny Car national e.t. record with an amazing 3.822 and the track speed record at 333.82 mph in the Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger.
From the press room, DSR teammate and Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier Antron Brown exclaimed, "Damn! Dickie [Venables, crew chief] threw down! 'Stretch' [assistant crew chief Mike Knudsen] ain't playin'!"
"It's just awesome out there," said Hagan. "The Safety Safari just did a great job getting the racetrack the way it needs to be to make a record run like that."
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 17, 2016) – Matt Hagan became the first driver to record a 3.8-second pass in a Funny Car last year at Brainerd International Raceway. Fast forward a year and 3.8-second passes are often what it takes to turn on a win light in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
The driver of the Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T clocked the first 3.8-second run in the opening round of Brainerd eliminations last year with a 3.879-second pass.
“Last year when we did that, we looked like heroes,” Hagan said. “Now that’s what you have to bring to the line to win. There have been races this year when a 3.8 didn’t even get you lane choice. It’s incredible how much the class has improved and changed in a year and I’m so proud of Dickie (Venables) that we were the first ones to do it.”
The forecast high for most of the weekend in Brainerd is high-60s and already has most of the nitro teams licking their chops and readying for stellar performances.
“There were some incredible performances in Seattle and it’s looking like it could be that way this weekend too. Of course that gets crew chiefs excited, it gets me excited. We know we have a good hot rod that can run in those cool conditions. I’m ready to get up on the wheel and get the job done.”
The Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane team led by Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen is looking for their third event title of the season and first at Brainerd International Raceway this weekend. Hagan ranks fifth in Funny Car points standings. The points will be reset following the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend and the top-10 will compete in the six-race Countdown to the Championship.
“Right now you have to go out and turn on win lights and pick up round wins,” Hagan said. “After Indy (Labor Day Weekend) comes the Countdown and you have to be on your A-game for that. I have all the confidence in the world in Dickie and this team to be able to contend for a championship.”
MATT HAGAN: Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Last event: Seattle (Aug. 5, 2016): Qualified No. 5, lost in semifinals to Del Worsham
A year ago at Brainerd: Qualified No. 9, lost second round to Jack Beckman
Career at Brainerd: Wins 0; Runner-ups 1 (2013); Poles 1 (2011)
Best Time, Speed: 3.862 sec. (2016, Topeka); 335.57 mph (nat’l record, fastest ever 2016, Topeka)
KENT, Wash. (Aug. 7, 2016) – Matt Hagan became the first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series driver to dip into the 3.8-second range in a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car about a year ago in Brainerd, Minn., and this weekend at Pacific Raceways near Seattle he needed a weekend full of them to keep up with the ultra-competitive Funny Car category.
Hagan posted four 3.8-second passes through seven runs in his Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T over the weekend at the 29th annual Protect the Harvest NHRA Northwest Nationals and finished Sunday in the semifinal round.
The Rocky Boots/Mopar team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen came up with and executed a solid game plan near Seattle where NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing teams faced cool, overcast conditions.
“We made huge leaps and bounds this weekend,” Hagan said. “Killer conditions, killer air and being able to run 3.8’s consistently all weekend is incredible. It’s just tough out there. Del (Worsham) had a great car. I felt like we had a little on the tree and it put a cylinder out at the big end and stuff happens.”
Hagan disposed of John Hale in the opening round with a 3.865-second pass before meeting Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman in the second round. Beckman fouled out and Hagan slowed to a 3.903.
The team got back into the 3.8-second zone in the semifinals against Worsham with a 3.887 to Worsham’s 3.864. The match-up became the quickest side-by-side Funny Car pass in NHRA history.
“I’m proud of Dickie,” Hagan said. “We said we were going to race smarter and we said we were going to go down the racetrack and we’re not going to smoke the tires at the hit trying to be too aggressive so we are basically doing that. He’s dialing the car in, racing smarter, racing harder. I feel really confident and I’m looking forward to Brainerd. We are headed in a positive direction coming out of this race.”
The Mello Yello Series will take next weekend off before returning to action on Aug. 19-21 at the 35th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota.
The Rocky Boots team leaves Pacific Raceways fifth in Funny Car points standings. Only two races remain before the points are reset for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff.
Winner: Ron Capps (Don Schumacher Racing) or Del Worsham (Kalitta Motorsports)
No. 1 qualifier: Del Worsham (Kalitta Motorsports), 3.886 sec., 327.98 mph, track records
MATT HAGAN, Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 5
First round: HAGAN (3.865 sec., 331.94) def. John Hale 3.994, 290.94)
Second round: HAGAN (3.903, 299.80) def. Jack Beckman (4.669, 171.12, DQ/redlight)
Semifinals: Del Worsham (3.864, 330.96) def. HAGAN (3.887, 326.48)
KENT, Wash. (Aug. 3, 2016) - There's only one way Matt Hagan wants to close out the annual Western Swing on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series - with a win at Pacific Raceways near Seattle.
The driver of the Rocky Boots Venator Camo/Mopar Express Lane Dodge has two event titles in three final round appearances through 15 Mello Yello events this season and has one career event tile from Pacific Raceways, the site of this weekend's 29th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals.
"Seattle typically has been a good place for this Mopar/Rocky Boots team," Hagan said. "It's totally different atmosphere than what we just ran in at Sonoma with it being surrounded by trees, I just really enjoy racing there.
"There's no better way to close out this tough stretch of races with round wins and a Wally. That would be a big pat on the back to these guys that bust their butts to get to these races. It's tough."
Hagan, a two-time Funny Car world champion, ranks sixth in Funny Car points standings with only three races remaining before the points are reset for the Countdown to the Championship six-race playoff that begins near Charlotte in September.
The Rocky Boots team is less than two rounds of racing out of fourth place in the standings.
"It's crazy to think but the Countdown is right around the corner," he said. "We have some things we need to fine tune before it's time for the Countdown and Dickie (Venables) and the guys are working towards that.
"One thing about Dickie is, he's going to figure it out. He's already proven that this year. He sees the bigger picture and that's what we are working for. Ideally we will be top-four, top-five heading into Indy. That's where you need to be to really gunning for the championship and I have all the confidence in this team that that's where we will be sitting."
MATT HAGAN: Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T
Last event: Sonoma, Calif. (July 31, 2016): Qualified No. 4, lost in second round to Ron Capps
A year ago at Seattle: Qualified No. 9, lost first round to Ron Capps
Career at Seattle: Wins 1 (2013); Runner-ups 1 (2012); Poles 0
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)