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Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane Dodge with crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen produced two solid runs Saturday and their time of 3.874 from Friday held up to give them the No. 2 qualifying position.
 
"I'd like to shake this head cold, but I don't think that will happen before tomorrow," Hagan said. "It's part of it. You just have to man-up and do your job.
 
"We had four great runs and it's been warm both days. It could be hotter tomorrow. I can't ask for much more than that what Dickie and Mopar Dodge team have given me this weekend.
 
"We're having fun and we have a great race car," said Hagan, whose four times ranged from 3.874 to 3.948. "We just have to go out and win this Dodge Nationals tomorrow for Mopar, New Holland and Pennzoil

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 20, 2017) - Only five races remain in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship this season, and Matt Hagan knows he has to make them count.

After suffering an uncharacteristic opening round loss at last weekend's NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte, Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen know they have work to do at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., this weekend.

 The first-round loss dropped Hagan from third to fifth in Mello Yello points standings.

 "We had our bad race right out of the gate," Hagan said. "So from here on out we have to turn on win lights. It's as simple and complicated as that. We need some of those guys in front of us to have a bad race too. It's just tough out here, man.

 "We got a little behind in qualifying and that set us up for a tough first round on Sunday. So this weekend we just have to make sure we have a better qualifying effort and that should transition into a better Sunday."

 Hagan faced eventual Carolina event winner and new points leader Robert Hight to start the Countdown.

 This weekend's Dodge NHRA Nationals is the second of three consecutive events on the Mello Yello tour to kick off the Countdown. Last year at Maple Grove, Hagan qualified No. 1 and reached the semifinals before losing to Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps.

 

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BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 13, 2017) – The six-race NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship kicks off this weekend at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte. Two-time Funny Car champion Matt Hagan knows to expect fierce competition.

Hagan enters the Countdown third in Funny Car points standings, trailing leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps by 30 points. But with the points reset and the top-10 competitors separated by 100 points from top to bottom it will be a fight to the finish.

“All these cars out here right now, it’s a throw down every run every race,” Hagan said. “The competition is the toughest it’s been probably in the history of the sport. The years of domination are over. Anybody can win any round. It has to be your day, it has to be right. There’s a million ways to lose out here but there’s only one way to win.”

The regular season ended two weeks ago near Indianapolis where Hagan was the No. 1 qualifier but was upset in the opening round of competition by the No. 16 qualifier.

“Hopefully we got all of our bad luck out of the way. Back to back problems in the first round on race day is unacceptable and we’re looking forward to a fresh start here in the Countdown.”

The team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen has three event titles in four final round appearances this season and will debut a new look this weekend at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.

Hagan will be piloting the Freightliner Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car this weekend that carries the names of more than 150 CDL-licensed drivers to celebrate Truck Driver Appreciation month.

“We’ve been doing this special scheme with Freightliner the past few years and it’s just a really cool deal to honor these guys and gals that are going up and down the road. It’s hard work and to show them some love is pretty awesome. I’m just happy to be a small part of it.”

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Heading into Monday's eliminations scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (EDT), DSR seems to be regaining some Funny Car momentum. Matt Hagan and the 80th Anniversary Mopar/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil and led by crew chief Dickie Venables with assistant Michael Knudsen earned their fourth top qualifying spot in the U.S. Nationals and fourth of the year after they reset the Lucas Oil Raceway records Friday night with a run in 3.799 seconds at 338.77 mph.
 
He won the pole and event title a year ago and can become the first to ever accomplish that back-to-back feat in the 63-year history of NHRA's oldest event.
 
"No one has ever doubled up like that," said the two-time world champion. "It's a pretty tough stat to hear, but maybe we can make some history tomorrow and do that.
 
"Obviously it was a pretty warm day for both sessions, and the car's going down the racetrack. We've had real success when it's cool and also in the heat with this new car so I'm pretty excited about it. I feel pretty good about the car and about the racetrack from what we're doing."
 
Hagan outran John Force in the opening round of the Shootout with a time of  3.918 (331.45), but Force's staged his car extremely deep at the starting line that created a starting line edge that enabled his slower 3.949 (309.98) to get past Hagan.

Matt and the 80th Anniversary Mopar/Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil led by crew chief Dickie Venables with assistant Michael Knudsen became the second Funny Car to run in the 3.7-second range with a time of 3.799 seconds at 338.77 mph - both track records at Lucas Oil Raceway - to capture the provisional No. 1 qualifying position with a pair of track records.
 
"The boss (Don Schumacher) said, 'You guys are going to get another run on Saturday night,' and told the crew chiefs to get after it," said Hagan, who won the pole and event title a year ago in the U.S. Nationals. "That's one thing Dickie Venables knows how to do - get after it.
 
"That's actually only the third hit on that chassis. We came out here with brand new pipe and tested it last week. Our guys at the fab shop at DSR, the guys putting everything together, it just speaks volumes for what our company is capable of doing.
 
"What a fun ride to hang on to. It's out there digging, it's floating, it's hunting around. I made a couple of corrections but tried to not make too many because when it's on a run like that, you start jogging on the wheel and it could pull the tires loose."

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Next NHRA Event 2018

FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Courtney Force (1197)
2. Ron Capps (1032)
3. Robert Hight (1024)
4. Matt Hagan (1001)
5. Jack Beckman (967)
6. J.R. Todd (863)
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (819)
8. John Force (807)
9. Shawn Langdon (680)
10. Bob Tasca III (656)