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Matt Hagan used the quickest lap in Funny Car history to put his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T on the pole for Sunday’s fourth-annual NHRA Nationals here at zMAX Dragway.

Quickest in three of the four qualifying sessions, the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver’s 3.995-second lap at 316.23 miles per hour in Friday’s second round earned the number-one starting spot for tomorrow’s race which begins at noon EDT.

A mechanical failure as the DieHard car neared the finish line in today’s third round both caused a fire and cost Hagan the backup run necessary to turn his quick lap into a national record and 20 bonus points.

“We were so close,” he said about the 4.038-second pass which was .003 of a second from providing the backup necessary. “The car pushed me hard at 900 feet and then I saw orange. We were going for the record on the run to get those points.

“But now it’s time to go racing. If the conditions allow tomorrow, we might take a shot at the record, but the most important thing is going rounds and going after a win. Now that we’re in the Countdown, the rounds and the points are the most important.”

Qualifying first and being quickest in three rounds produced 17 points for Hagan, allowing him to go around DSR teammate Ron Capps into the fifth position of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings.

John Smith, 16th-qualifier, provides Hagan’s first-round challenge.

“We’re really excited about going racing in the morning,” he said. “Tommy DeLago (crew chief) and the DieHard team have done a great job all weekend and I have tremendous confidence in our chances here.

“I know we didn’t get down the track in today’s last session, but we’re okay. My guys and guys from all the other DSR teams did a great job just getting the DieHard car ready for that lap after the fire. They’ll be working through the night to get ready for tomorrow and I have no doubts we’ll be there ready to take on all comers.”

Matt Hagan became the first driver in Funny Car history to break the four-second barrier during Friday's second qualifying session for Sunday’s NHRA Nationals here at zMAX Dragway.

Hagan, who also recorded the quickest lap in the opening round, grabbed the provisional pole with his 3.995-second run. Jack Beckman, sitting in third after the first day of qualifying, ran 318.92 miles per hour, the fastest 1,000-foot lap in Funny Car history.

The Don Schumacher Top Fuel drivers all ended today’s program sitting in the top-half of the field with Antron Brown second,  Tony Schumacher fourth and Spencer Massey fifth (identical elapsed times, with Schumacher’s faster lap breaking the tie).

The DSR Friday qualifying summary:

TOP FUEL: 
Antron Brown, Aaron’s Dream Machine/Matco Tools – 3.802 at 324.44, #2*
 Q1: 4.816 at 152.80 mph
 Q2: 3.802 at 324.44 mph

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army – 3.808 at 321.88 mph; #4*
 Q1: 7.040 at 85.93 mph
 Q2: 3.808 at 321.88 mph

Spencer Massey, FRAM/Prestone – 3.808 at 321.42 mph; #5*
 Q1: 14.757 at 77.35 mph
 Q2:  3.808 at 321.42 mph

FUNNY CAR:  
Matt Hagan, DieHard – 3.995 at 316.23 mph; #1*
 Q1: 4.055 at 314.39 mph
 Q2: 3.995 at 316.23 mph

Jack Beckman, Valvoline NextGen/Aaron’s Dream Machine – 4.044 at 318.92, #3*
 Q1: 5.642 at 122.82 mph
 Q2: 4.044 at 318.92 mph

Johnny Gray, Service Central/Tire Kingdom – 4.087 at 312.78 mph; #8*
 Q1: 4.087 at 312.78
 Q2: 5.037 at 150.97 mph

Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS – 7.057 at 84.93 mph; #16*
 Q1: 7.057 at 84.93 mph
 Q2: 7.923 at 75.68 mph


*Qualifying as of Friday.

When Matt Hagan brings his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the starting line for Friday’s first qualifying session of the fourth-annual NHRA Nationals here, he will be embarking on his quest for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle championship in front of family and friends.

The race marks the beginning of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs with the Christiansburg, Va. native holding sixth place in the Funny Car standings, 70 points off the leader, Mike Neff.

Matt Hagan drove his MOPAR/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the third round of the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil here at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Coming out of the number-four starting position, Hagan opened final eliminations by defeating Tim Wilkerson with his quickest run of the weekend at 4.066 seconds with a top speed of 308.14 miles per hour.

He followed that up with a quarterfinal victory over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, matching his earlier performance with a 4.066-second run (at 315.05 mph!).

The semifinals pitted the 28-year-old Christiansburg, Va. native against eventual-winner Mike Neff, who held lane choice for the encounter, which proved to be a crucial advantage.

“The car had been running well throughout the weekend, but losing lane choice to Neff hurt us,” Hagan explained. “As the day went on, it became a one-lane race track and we ended up smoking the tires in the semis.

“It was great going rounds, though, and qualifying like we did (4.071 at 309.13).”

Hagan finished the 16-race “regular” 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season sixth in the Funny Car standings. This means he will travel to Concord (N.C.) for the beginning of the Countdown to the Championship at the September 15-18 NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway 70 points behind points leader Neff.

“We wanted to move up in the standings for a better spot at the start of the Countdown,” the DSR driver said. “But, the reality is we are now closer to Mike than we were at the beginning of the weekend.

“That is the great thing about the Countdown – with the points being reset, every one of the top-10 drivers who make the playoffs have a real chance to win the championship – keep in mind that a couple of years ago Robert Hight won from the 10th spot!

“We’re going to Charlotte on a quest to win that championship. We’re going with a great car, one that really hauls!”

 Matt Hagan today qualified the MOPAR/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car fourth for the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil here at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver jumped from the 11th to the third slot with a 4.071-second blast at 309.13 miles per hour in today’s first (and the fourth overall) qualifying round. Hagan will take on 13th-qualifier Tim Wilkerson in the first round of final eliminations which begin at 11 a.m. EDT.

“I feel great,” he said after three days and five rounds – unique for the U. S. Nationals, premier event on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule – of qualifying. “Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) stepped on it today when the weather turned cool and we had a terrific run (to second at the time).

“We took a shot at the top spot in the final round knowing we were well into the field and smoked the tires. It doesn’t matter, because we’ve got good information about the track and the conditions should be even better tomorrow.”

The outcome of this race will determine the Countdown to 1 playoff roster as the top-10 drivers in the Funny Car standings will compete in a six-race playoff beginning at the next race in Charlotte, N.C. Hagan sits fifth in the standings, trailing Mike Neff, Robert Hight, DSR teammate Jack Beckman and, in fourth place, Cruz Pedregon, who is the top qualifier for this race.

“We’d like to move up in the standings, to improve our position as the Countdown begins,” said Hagan about the playoffs for which the participating drivers’ points are reset. “And it’s not simply trying to catch Cruz; we want to keep ahead of (DSR teammate) Ron Capps, who’s breathing down our necks (less than a race-round win behind in sixth).

“The higher we are in the standings when the Countdown begins, the better; but first, we have to take care of business and do everything to get into the Indy winner’s circle.

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FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Robert Hight (2548)
2. Ron Capps (2533)
3. Courtney Force (2423)
4. Jack Beckman (2396)
5. Matt Hagan (2387)
6. John Force (2306)
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2276)
8. Tim Wilkerson (2237)
9. J.R. Todd (2233)
10. Cruz Pedregon (2163)