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Matt HaganMatt Hagan, the cattle farmer from Christiansburg, VA, no longer wears the high speed badge of 335 mph.

He wears a faster badge.

When fellow Funny Car racer Robert Hight upped Hagan’s signature showcase speed to 337 mph during qualifying at Heartland Park Topeka last week, the cowboy hat and boot wearing two-time world champion hit an even more impressive stride.

Hagan raced down the runway of high horsepower fashion with the fastest run in drag racing history, 338.85 mph.

Equally impressive, Hagan also garnered the quickest elapsed time in NHRA Funny Car history with a 3.802-second time pass.

Hagan admitted, “This one actually had a lot of really fast shaft early and almost didn’t make it. It was fast early and then Dickie had the timing coming out of it. It settled down and then the clutch came to it and then it got back up on the tire and was floating around, like it let loose. Loose is fast, but it was definitely one of those floating feelings. It just felt fast.”

Hagan quickly learned what his crew chief Dickie Venable had referenced time and time again, about “truly getting all of it.” Hagan, who once tried his hand unsuccessfully at circle track racing, likened the experience to a dirt track car gliding along the top of the racing surface.

Unlike his signature 335-mph record from 2016, where his Mopar-sponsored Dodge Charger dropped two cylinders in the last 200 feet and lost 13-degrees of timing, this time Venables kept all of the candles lit all the way until the last 50 feet of the run.

“We had a crosswind, and then it put a cylinder out down there because it hit the rev limiter, so it was still a handful down there on the big end because of what was going on,” Hagan revealed. While the cynical critics of modern-day fuel racing are already declaring a change to the 8,250 NHRA imposed rev-limiter will go even lower, Hagan believes such a move would be detrimental to a big picture which is already facing many challenges.

NHRA Funny Car speedster Matt Hagan has six tandem skydiving jumps to his credit, and is working on a solo. 

Hagan, a cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va., has climbed aboard a 1,700-pound wild bull. 

In the gym, he's bench pressed more than 400 pounds. 

And, as much machismo as those acts of manly-manness exudes, they pale in comparison to what he pulled off on May 20, 2016. 

Hagan from a dead start, in one-thousand-feet, ran 335.57 miles per hour. 

"There’s just nothing that compares," Hagan said. "It’s just a pure adrenaline rush."

Hagan's speed was and remains the fastest of any Funny Car or Top Fuel dragster in NHRA history on the current 1,000-foot track, and faster than any Funny Car has ever gone at the end of the former quarter-mile. Only Tony Schumacher has been faster, albeit to a quarter-mile in a dragster, with a 337.58 mile per hour clocking in 2005.

Sometimes crew chiefs will allude to some performance not being fully exercised, but this time last year championship tuner Dickie Venables left nothing to the imagination.

"I remember Dickie saying, “Man, we got all of that race track that time," Hagan said."A lot of it is not so much the car; it’s the race track. What it can hold, what the grip is, how good the rubber is. Honestly, to make a really fast, good run is sometimes harder than a beat up, sloppy run. The thing about those fast runs is that they’re so on the edge of coming loose. Loose is fast, but as long as it still stuck." FULL STORY


TOPEKA, Kan. (May 20, 2017) - Don Schumacher Racing swept the nitro poles on Saturday in the Heartland Nationals at Topeka, Kan., marking the third time the seven-team operation has done it in eight NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events this season and the 31st time since 2002.

But that wasn't the most impressive accomplishment by DSR heading to Sunday's eliminations scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (CDT).

After losing their world records on Friday, Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil led by crew chief Dickie Venables needed less than 24 hours to reclaim both by completing their first run Saturday in 3.802 seconds at 338.85 mph that led to their second pole in this year.

On Hagan's first run Saturday, he nearly achieved another milestone but came up two-thousandths of a second shy of cracking into the 3.7 range.

"We were the first in the 3.9s  and 3.8s and want to be the first in the 3.7s," said Hagan, the 2011 and 2014 world champion.  "But you can't be upset with a run like that.

"Dickie Venables and this whole Mopar gang are working so hard. Before the run they just told me to hang on. When they tell me that I know what to expect."

On his last run, he nearly improved with a time of 3.806 at 335.98.

"We had an amazing hot rod, that's just Mopar power speaking out loud right there."

Each of the DSR Dodge Chargers qualified in the top seven and will get to select their lanes for the first round. Closest to Hagan for DSR is Jack Beckman (Infiniti Hero) seeded fourth with Terry Chandler's other driver Tommy Johnson Jr. in fifth on the strength of his career-best speed of 331.61.

Matt Hagan

Word spread a quarter-century ago as if it too was fueled by nitro.

That was when the four-second and 300 mph barriers in the Funny Car division of the National Hot Rod Association were shattered. The year was 1993. The track was Heartland Park Topeka.

The length for the nitro divisions has since been shortened to 1,000 yards.

Yet in spite of changes in ownership at HPT, brief closure of the facility, and an annual date in May that often finds drivers and crews dodging rain drops, the drag strip remains as fast as any in all of motorsports.

“It’s the racing surface. It’s good. Not really bumpy,’’ said Matt Hagan, a two-time world champion in Funny Car and the defending champion in that division for the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals, which begin Friday at HPT.

“Both lanes are pretty equal. Sometimes you’ll get a track that wants to suck you in or pull you out, and get you in a groove. But in Topeka, it’s a good race track because there’s not any huge issues.’’

Hagan knows.

Last year he set both ends of the Funny Car speed record with an elapsed time of 3.862 at 335.57 mph. That was on Friday. Hagan went on to win the event, which included the top five times, and nine of the top 10 speeds ever recorded in Funny Car. Brittany Force also set a Top Fuel record with an elapsed time of 3.676 on a Friday pass.

“Obviously the conditions are key,’’ Hagan said. “That overcast came in as part of a cool front, and the track was really tight.

“It’s just one of those things where all the conditions lined up the right way. We’d just come off a win in Atlanta, and the car was running good, so to roll in there to Topeka, we had a good-working race car and the conditions were just phenomenal.’’

No secrets were kept once Hagan was behind the wheel.

His crew chief, Dickie Venables, doesn’t believe in jinxing a driver. If conditions are good, Venables lets his driver know it and will even predict a fast time.

“He don’t go up there just to go up the race track with those conditions,’’ Hagan said. “He’s gonna try to make a record run. ‘’

Record passes are not entirely instinctive, though.

When a race lasts fewer than 4 seconds, it can be tough to know exactly how fast the car moved or what kind of time it clocked.

“When it’s working, you’ll know it’s on a great run,’’ Hagan acknowledged. “Now, can you tell the difference between a 3.82 and a 3.87? No, but there’s a big difference between a 3.80 and a 3 that’s in the mid-90s. You know the cars are just digging in that much more.’’

Later last year, Hagan broke his speed record with a 3.822 mph pass in his Dodge Charger competing in August at Brainerd International Raceway. The 335.57 mph time he recorded at HPT, however, still stands as a world record.

Overlooked during Hagan’s record run last year was the performance in the opposite lane at HPT.

Alexis DeJoria’s time of 3.875 made for the fastest side-by-side matchup in the history of Funny Car.

The only letdown was that the eventual Sunday marks in tougher conditions were not nearly as good.

Not that Hagan rejected the Wally trophy he received.

“I don’t look at (slower runs) as a dud in the driver’s seat. It keeps it exciting,’’ Hagan said. “Now, if we’d lost that way, it would suck. But to win that way, it’s great.’’

Testament too that racers must be ready for all conditions.

In the case of Hagan, his HPT victory in the finals over Jack Beckman, a teammate with Don Schumacher Racing, came after each driver looked to make the best out of a bad start. Hagan won the peddle-fest in 5.724 seconds and 179.04 mph.

Those are marks nitro drivers, and fans, obviously sense as quite slow.

“But when you’re out there,’’ said Hagan, “and it’s gotten hot and the (good) track conditions are going away, and people are having issues in both lanes, you’ve got to be up on the wheel and be ready to do your job and take it to the other end.

“A lot of times it takes patience to drive one of those cars and keep it in the groove, not get back on the throttle too quickly and let the car recover. Your adrenaline is going and you’re looking where (your opponent) is at.’’

Beat that rival to the finish line, in a final, and all’s well.

Especially since the records Hagan set in the earlier rounds were already in the books.

Contact Kevin Haskin at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @KevinHaskin on Twitter.



Next NHRA Event 2018

FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Matt Hagan (127)
2. Robert Hight (101)
3. Jack Beckman (81)
4. Ron Capps (78)
5. Jonnie Lindberg (51)
6. J.R. Todd (49)
6. Tim Wilkerson (49)
8. Cruz Pedregon (48)
9. Courtney Force (36)
10. Shawn Langdon (32)
10. Tommy Johnson Jr. (32)
10. Del Worsham (32)