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Matt Hagan turned the quickest lap during pre-race testing here last week which he hopes is indicative of the potential success his MOPAR/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car will have this weekend at the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver flew down the Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis drag strip in 4.055 seconds at 310.41 miles per hour Thursday, quickest of the Funny Cars during open nitro testing in advance of the “Big Go.”

“We made that run in good, cool conditions and we hope we can repeat it under similar ones when the action becomes real on Friday,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native about the first nitro qualifying session scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. “We’ve been running well in recent races, but we’re still working on a new combination. We’ll run it at Indy and Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) will continue to get data from it which will be crucial as he decides on the setup for the Countdown.

“We’ve stuck with this one because it has shown promise to run in the 0s, which it hasn’t yet at a race, but it has worked well in both cool and hot conditions.”

The combination has helped Hagan reach two semifinal and one final round in the last four races (with a photo-finish first-round loss in the other race by .003 seconds). He heads into this weekend solidly in the field for the Countdown to the Championship sitting fifth in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings, but he would like to go deep on Sunday before the playoffs begin (at the next race in Charlotte, N.C.).

“Everybody gets pumped up for Indy, but for me, I want to win every race, to do well at every race,” he said. “We have to treat it as ‘just another race’ so we don’t get too pumped up; we have to stay on our game and not let the hype take over.

“Maybe some folks try too hard for this race which can get them in trouble. We just have to do our thing.”

Last year Hagan set a track elapsed-time record of 4.039 en route to his number-one qualifying position and a semifinal appearance on race day.

“We just try to do the best job we can every time we go to the starting line.”

Aboard his menacing black Freightliner/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, Matt Hagan looks to continue his mid-season performance surge this weekend in the 30th-annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals here at Brainerd International Raceway.

On the just-completed three-race Western Swing, the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver reached the finals and semifinals in two of the contests, while his first-round loss in Denver was by a scant .003 seconds.

“We’ve been qualifying well (second twice, third twice, fourth and seventh in the last six races) and going rounds, so my confidence just keeps increasing,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native. “Tommy DeLago (crew chief) has been making improvements in leaps and bounds with his new setup – all I have to do is not mess up in driving the car.
 
“We’ll use this week’s race here to continue evaluating and refining this setup as we prepare for the playoffs. It’s all good.”

For the first time this season Hagan will wheel a Freightliner liveried Funny Car down the 1,000-foot drag strip.

“It’s always exciting having the Freightliner folks come out to one of our races,” he said about the supplier of the 11 Class 8 tractors which transport DSR’s seven nitro teams from race to race. “They’re super nice and very supportive. And it’s cool running that body – I’m excited to be flying their colors and would love to put together the first win for a Freightliner body.”

Hagan comes to the Gopher State holding fifth place in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings, one race-round win from clinching a spot in the Countdown to 1 (with this and the U.S. Nationals Labor Day weekend remaining to set the field of 10 for the playoffs).

“No worries about getting into the Countdown,” he said. “And we know how important it is to be ready for that six-race stretch when the champion will be crowned (he was runner up for the 2010 championship). But we won’t look to be lucky; we’ll have to earn our success and just keep doing our thing.”

Matt Hagan trucks into Minnesota next weekend behind the wheel of a uniquely designed Freightliner/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car for the 30th-annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals here at Brainerd International Raceway.

The menacing-black bodywork of the 8,000-horsepower race car pays tribute to the 11 Class 8 Freightliner tractors which transport Don Schumacher Racing’s seven nitro teams around the country for the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.

“This car is so cool,” said the 28-year-old Christiansburg, Va. native. “This is a ‘bad race car,’ thanks to my ‘animal’ crew chief Tommy DeLago and this color suits us just fine. We’ve been running really well lately and I think the fans are in for a treat when they see the black Freightliner/DieHard car hit the track.”

Matt Hagan today wheeled his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the number-three starting position for Sunday’s NHRA Northwest Nationals here at Pacific Raceways.

Improving his times in each of the four-qualifying rounds, the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver blasted to the third spot with a 4.117-second pass at 301.47 miles per hour on his final attempt on Saturday afternoon.

“I feel really good,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native. “Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) brought out some new things for today and they really paid off. We just keep running well, consistently building our confidence.”

Hagan takes on 14th-qualifier Melanie Troxel in the first round, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. PT Sunday. This will be the third meeting of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season between the two, with Hagan holding a 2-0 advantage.

“It doesn’t matter who we are racing; we have to race our race,” Hagan said. “We have lane choice, which is good, but we went down both lanes today really well and got good, solid data from each.”

In today’s opening round the DieHard machine motored down the left lane in 4.155 seconds at 301.74 mph, which put him fifth at the time. Hagan had opened qualifying Friday with a 7.258-second lap, good enough for eighth, following that in the evening session with a 5.115-second pass resulting in a jump to seventh.

“The key is doing the things you know how to do, round by round, race by race,” said Hagan. “There’s a long way to go in the season and we’re going in the right direction.

“This DieHard car has been running really well for several races and Tommy has been able to figure out whatever the tracks throw at him.”

Going into this race, the 14th stop of the 16-race regular season before the start of Countdown to 1 championship playoffs amongst the top 10 drivers, Hagan ranks fifth in the Funny Car standings. He trails Mike Neff, Robert Hight, DSR teammate Jack Beckman and Cruz Pedregon (respectively).

Thanks to consistently solid runs in recent races by his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, driver Matt Hagan finds himself eager to compete in this weekend’s 24th-annual NHRA Northwest Nationals here at Pacific Raceways.

“I’m really excited about racing in Seattle,” said the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver.  “We were strong in qualifying and on race day two weeks ago in Denver and again last weekend in Sonoma.

“Tommy DeLago (crew chief) has been making adjustments, trying out things and giving me a great race car these past two races and it feels terrific to be a real challenger each time out. 

“Our performance has Tommy feeling even more confident in the car and I’m feeling more confident with every round about everything in this DieHard team.”

When qualifying begins on Friday (nitro scheduled for 2:30 p.m. PT), the Christiansburg, Va. native will be in fifth place of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings. The top-10 drivers at the conclusion of the 16-race “regular season” will qualify for the six-race Countdown to 1.

“We’ve got to make sure we snag our spot, a good one, in the playoffs,” he explained. “With only three races left before they start, we’ve got to be consistent and go rounds to get this done. We want to be as close to the top as possible when the Countdown begins.”

The points are reset for the Countdown, with a 10-point gap between each of the second through 10th spots, while the leader will have a 20-point advantage over the second-place holder when the action begins following the Labor Day weekend U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

“We’re getting stronger as we get closer,” said Hagan. “Of course we want to win a race as soon as possible, but being prepared for the championship run is more important.

“Like I said, the DieHard car is running great. We had the car to beat in Denver and last week in Sonoma Cruz Pedregon just got by us in a very close race (Pedregon’s margin of victory - .003 seconds).

“But it’s all good and we’re really going great right now.”

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Next NHRA Event 2017

FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Ron Capps (2273)
2. Robert Hight (2265)
3. Courtney Force (2234)
4. Matt Hagan (2183)
5. Jack Beckman (2173)
6. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2159)
7. J.R. Todd (2135)
8. John Force (2116)
9. Tim Wilkerson (2098)
10. Cruz Pedregon (2065)