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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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Matt Hagan Racing

Race Recap:
Defending event champ Matt Hagan opened race day with a first-round win over Tim Wilkerson. He clocked a 3.908-second E.T. in his chrome Pennzoil Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car, the quickest of the round. Next up for the No. 9 qualifier was teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., and Hagan once again paced the field with a winning 3.919 E.T.
 
In the semifinals, Hagan trailed early but was able to reel in Bob Tasca III with a 3.928 at 323.89-mph run, edging out his foe at the stripe in a close race to advance to his seventh final round of the year and 54th of his career. The two-time Funny Car world champion left first in the final round with a 0.037 reaction time and briefly maintained the lead over J.R. Todd before a dropped cylinder slowed Hagan’s momentum and ended his drive for a fourth win on the season, and 150th Funny Car win for DSR.

Quotable:
“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get that win light in the final round. We had such amazing sponsorship support with the folks from Pennzoil, Shell, and Mopar and had so many key clients rooting us on here in Las Vegas. We have the SEMA show this week here in (Las) Vegas and we wanted nothing more than to take the Wally trophy to the Mopar booth to show off with our chrome Pennzoil Funny Car.

"At the end of the day, we went to the final round and it was a good day. That’s just drag racing and sometimes we lose. It wasn’t our day, but we’ll go to Pomona with a strong race car. I’m proud of our guys. They did great all weekend and we were just pressing hard trying to run in the high 80s and the track just wouldn’t hold it.”

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Qualified: No. 9

The Competition: No. 8 Tim Wilkerson

The Results: 
Q1: 4.022 E.T. at 320.13 MPH
Q2: 4.828 E.T. at 164.11 MPH
Q3: 3.966 E.T. at 324.36 MPH
Q4: 3.949 E.T. at 322.65 MPH

Quotable:
“I feel great man. You know we got us a real race car that’s going down the race track. It has been down both lanes. You know my lights are pretty good other than that last one, I was dead late, I didn’t even want to look at it. Other than that, we got us a good race car to go race with.”

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FC Mello Yello Points

Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Funny Car

1 Robert Hight 1159
2 Tommy Johnson Jr 1010
3 John Force 958
4 Ron Capps 927
5 Jack Beckman 904
6 Bob Tasca III 865
7 J.R. Todd 857
8 Matt Hagan 794
9 Shawn Langdon 727
10 Tim Wilkerson 724