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READING, Pa. (Oct. 2, 2016) – On a weekend where rain showers left a lot of free time for NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors, Matt Hagan was one of the busiest.

After two sessions of qualifying were rained out on Friday at the 32nd annual NHRA Dodge Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen earned the No. 1 qualifying spot, their fifth of the season, with a 3.873-second pass at 333.90 mph in the one and only qualifying session on Saturday.

After securing the No. 1 qualifying spot for Sunday’s eliminations, Hagan returned to Christiansburg, Va., to be with his wife, Rachel, for the arrival of the couple’s third child that entered the world on Sunday morning roughly six hours before the opening round of eliminations.

“My wife, God bless her. She had a baby then we get back out here and I was just glad to be able to make it back out here in time. Just blessed to be out here doing what I do, loving what I do,” Hagan said.

Hagan opened eliminations by pedaling to a win over Jim Campbell and a 3.869-second, 332.75-mph win over John Bojec in the quarterfinals before facing Don Schumacher Racing teammate and Mello Yello points leader Ron Capps in the semifinal round.

Both Hagan and Capps posted 3.893 times but the win went to Capps who got the starting line advantage.

“Identical ETs – he just left on me, and when you get left on like that, you own it,” Hagan said. “There's just no way around it. He just did a little bit better job in the wheelhouse than I did, and you can't make excuses. Those are make-or-break moments.”

The Mopar Express Lane team moved to fourth in Mello Yello Funny Car points standings with three racing remaining in the Countdown to the Championship.

“This was a huge race for us,” he said of his semifinals round against Capps. “We needed to dig deep there and for a 40-point swing. I feel like I let the team down there. It's not cool. That's not something I take lightly. It's one of those things where he just did a better job at the end of the day. We'll get back in this deal at Dallas, work hard and see what we can do.”

The Mello Yello Series takes a weekend off before resuming the Countdown at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas on Oct. 14-16.

FUNNY CAR Winner: Tommy Johnson Jr. (Don Schumacher Racing) No. 1 qualifier: Matt Hagan (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.873 sec., 333.90 mph

MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Qualified: No. 1
First round: HAGAN (4.112 sec., 325.22 mph) def. Jim Campbell (16.036, 28.69)
Second round: HAGAN (3.869, 332.75) def. John Bojec (4.174, 289.51)
Semifinals: Ron Capps (3.893, 327.66) def. HAGAN (3.893, 333.58)
QUALIFYING FRIDAY: Sessions 1 and 2 rained out SATURDAY: 3.873 sec., 333.90 mph, (Session 3); Session 4, rained out

Matt Hagan Racing

Matt, the two-time Funny Car world champion with the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team and crew chief Dickie Venables produced a time of 3.873 seconds at 333.99 mph to set their seventh elapsed time and eighth speed records through 21 events this season.

Not only were both qualifying sessions lost to rain on Friday, the fourth and final session was cancelled after an afternoon shower followed by a sporadic drizzle leaving only Saturday's first session to determine the 16-car fields for Sunday's eliminations scheduled for noon (ET).

"Pretty phenomenal. It's right there behind winning a race of course," Pritchett said of winning for the first time in the second event of the year.

"This is do or die time. This is the time of digging deep for the Countdown and to be No. 1 at one of the fastest racetracks and race conditions says a lot about my Mopar Pennzoil team. They know what they're doing, and I have a lot of confidence in that racecar. From a strategy standpoint, it's really big.

"I wanted to get that other run and maybe get into the (3.60s) or get my first 330. But yeah, it definitely doesn't suck for us to be in this position. To be No. 1 is pretty awesome, but we came here to win the race. We're starting this off on the very best foot forward. It can't get any better than this today. Being in the No. 1 position comes with points, and that's very important to us. Overall, we're happy. I'll take it.

Hagan was able to gain 11 points in the standings and will trail teammate and points leader Ron Capps (NAPA AUTO PARTS) by 90 when racing begins Sunday.

"I hated it for our funs who are out here to see drag racing, and we're out here to put on a show," Hagan said of the limited qualifying.

"I almost messed up our first run. Everybody was shaking, blowing the tires off. Dickie looks in there and he's like, I don't know what (the car is) going to do.

"It's cool to be able to hang onto a car out here that's fast. We just have to push a little harder on Sunday. I know we can do it, it's just a matter of getting a good racetrack underneath us tomorrow, making some runs and having some fun.

"You get here and you have to be in that mindset you pull your belts down tight because it's going to be a ride out there. I'm very blessed to have a good crew chief and all those guys wrenching on the car and putting a great hot rod underneath me. I just try not to mess it up."

DSR took the top-three spots in Top Fuel with reigning world champion and Countdown to the Championship points leader Antron Brown (Matco Tools' Tools for the Cause/U.S. Army) in second with Shawn Langdon (Odyssey Battery) in third.

MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 1
First round: Jim Campbell
QUALIFYING
FRIDAY: Sessions 1 and 2 rained out
SATURDAY: 3.873 sec., 333.90 mph, (Session 3); Session 4, rained out

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Matt Hagan had a Funny Car capable of winning on Sunday at the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals and that's what he will focus on as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series leaves Gateway Motorsports Park.
Hagan and the Rocky Boots Venator Camo/Mopar Express Lane team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen had a strong Dodge Charger R/T in the heat of race day after struggling in the same heat during qualifying.

Hagan posted a 3.934-second pass at 327 mph in the opening round of Sunday's Countdown to the Championship eliminations to defeat Cruz Pedregon with what was the second best elapsed time of the session.

Then the Rocky Boots team was paired against Tim Wilkerson in the second round of eliminations but were defeated by the best elapsed time of the second round, a 3.928 to Hagan's 3.948 that resulted in a .002-second margin of victory.

"That's just drag racing," Hagan said. "We were just on the wrong side of a good drag race. We've been running strong, running hard and this car does what they want it to on race day but we keep getting paired up with the guys that run low ET of the round. That's the luck of the draw. We just have to be that guy that runs low ET. We need to be aggressive and keep pushing and digging."

Hagan leaves St. Louis sixth in Funny Car points standings, 96 behind leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps.

"Everyone out here is tough right now," Hagan said. "That's the pressure that's involved and the price that you pay. You work hard all year and it comes down to the last six races and it's make or break. There's no do overs. We still have racing left to do and we are going to make sure these next ones count."

The Mello Yello Series heads to Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Penn., next weekend for the third consecutive Countdown to the Championship event with four races remaining before the season ends.

FUNNY CAR
Event winner: Jack Beckman (Don Schumacher Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Robert Hight (John Force Racing) 3.893 sec., 328.38 mph

MATT HAGAN, Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 5

SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS

First round: HAGAN (3.934 sec., 327.43 mph) def. Cruz Pedregon (8.729, 86.18)
Second round: Tim Wilkerson 3.928, 316.52) def. HAGAN (3.948, 326.40)
QUALIFYING

FRIDAY: 4.002 sec., 290.38 mph, (Session 1); 3.914, 327.51, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 9.169, 78.23, (Session 3); 4.228, 219.79, (Session 4)

2016 NHRA Countdown to the Championship Standings
(Unofficial after St. Louis; 2 of 6 playoff races; DSR drivers in CAPS)

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ST. LOUIS (Sept. 24, 2016) – Matt Hagan hopes to almost repeat what he did at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis last year. The only thing he would change is a win light in the final round.

The Rocky Boots Venator Camo/Mopar Express Lane team is off to a good start after qualifying fifth for Sunday’s AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals with a 3.914-second pass on Friday night.

But in order to reach the final round on Sunday, the Rocky team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen will have to navigate the summer-like conditions they’re facing on the first weekend of fall.

Hagan will be hunting for his first career title at Gateway Motorsports Park and fourth title of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series on Sunday.

“Qualifying has been a little tough for us, we ran that 3.91 on Friday in the last session which got us fifth so we have some data to work off but it’s really been pretty tricky in the heat.

“I know Dickie takes everything very seriously and we’re going to look at all the data and compile some information. We went to the finals here last year so I believe that our team has what it takes to go rounds tomorrow. There’s some big match-ups that we’re looking to see how everything unfolds but our main focus is turning on win lights tomorrow.”

Hagan is seeded fifth in Funny Car points standings headed into Sunday’s championship eliminations, the second race of the Countdown to the Championship and the second consecutive event to start the six-race playoffs.

“This Countdown is a big crunch and it’s a big push to get to the top and a lot of pressure. We have a racecar that’s capable of winning and we’d really like to put this Rocky Boots Funny Car in the winner’s circle and get another W on the board.”


QUALIFYING
FUNNY CAR
No. 1 qualifier: Robert Hight (John Force Racing) 3.893 sec., 328.38 mph

MATT HAGAN, Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 5
First round opponent: Cruz Pedregon
QUALIFYING
FRIDAY: 4.002 sec., 290.38 mph, (Session 1); 3.914, 327.51, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 9.169, 78.23, (Session 3); 4.228, 219.79, (Session 4)

Matt Hagan

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 18, 2016) – The Countdown to the Championship is off and running and the Freightliner Trucks Dodge Charger R/T team rebounded in a big way after showing some struggles in NHRA Carolina Nationals qualifying.

Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables opened the day with a 3.975-second, 323-mph lap to take out higher-seeded Courtney Force on a hot and muggy afternoon at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte. Hagan then lost a close race to Don Schumacher Racing teammate eventual event runner-up Tommy Johnson Jr.

“They just did a great job over there in the right lane,” said Hagan, whose team had choice of lanes against Johnson. “We stuck them over there, and they hadn't been down that lane at all. He still left on me some and they outran us. At the end of the day, you have to go over there and shake their hands.

“They just did a good job. We don't leave here empty handed though. Charlotte, it either loves you or it hates you – if you're me, anyway. We at least got a few points after qualifying was a little rough but we learn from it and move on to St. Louis. We have five more races to make this thing happen. A lot can happen in five races, so we'll just keep digging.”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis next weekend for the 5th annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the second of three consecutive Countdown events

“It's tough, but we know it going into it. It's the same way every year pretty much, and you just have to be prepared for it, mentally and physically, and have enough parts to do it all. St. Louis is a little bit closer to the shop, so we'll go back there and do what they have to do, stock up on some stuff.

“One thing about Dickie, this is something he doesn't take lightly. It's his livelihood, his bread and butter, he's not going back home and farming – this is it. He'll get after it, make the changes needed, and make sure we are where we need to be come St. Louis.”

Hagan leaves the Carolina Nationals fifth in Funny Car points standings, 72 behind DSR teammate Ron Capps in first.

FUNNY CAR
Event Winner: John Force (John Force Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Tommy Johnson Jr. (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.876 sec.-track record, 323.43 mph

MATT HAGAN, Freightliner Trucks Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 9
First round: HAGAN (3.975, 323.89) def. Courtney Force (4.024, 308.85)
Second round: Tommy Johnson Jr. (3.970, 320.74) def. HAGAN (3.992, 322.11)
QUALIFYING
FRIDAY: 3.940 sec., 323.81 mph, (Session 1); 3.962, 279.12, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 4.604, 178.59, (Session 3); 4.278, 208.52, (Session 4)

NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
(Official after Charlotte, first of six Countdown events)
FUNNY CAR
1. RON CAPPS (5) 2194 -----
2. Del Worsham (1) 2152 -42
3. John Force (3) 2144 -50
4. TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 2132 -62
5. MATT HAGAN (3) 2122 -72
6. Courtney Force (1) 2094 -100
7. Robert Hight (1) 2093 -101
8. JACK BECKMAN (1) 2084 -110
9. Tim Wilkerson (2) 2067 -127
10. Alexis DeJoria (1) 2036 -158

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Next NHRA Event 2017

Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Ron Capps (1095)
2. Matt Hagan (946)
3. Jack Beckman (860)
4. Robert Hight (809)
5. Tommy Johnson Jr. (739)
6. Courtney Force (714)
7. John Force (683)
8. Tim Wilkerson (525)
9. J.R. Todd (508)
10. Cruz Pedregon (431)
14. Alexis DeJoria (381)