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BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Oct. 11, 2017) - Matt Hagan isn't afraid of a battle and he knows that's what his Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T team faces this weekend at the NHRA Fallnationals at Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
The team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen enter this weekend's Fallnationals fourth in Funny Car points standings, more than 150 points behind leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps.
Hagan knows they'll need a little more than hard work to chip away at the lead.
"Obviously we have to be a little lucky and extremely good these next three races," said Hagan, a two-time Funny Car champion. "There's not much room for error. We're six rounds back with three races to go and you have a team like Ron Capps and those guys leading, they just seem to go rounds on Sunday.
"It's one of those things, you're in a tough situation and you have to make some stuff happen here in the next three races. This race is kind of a make or break for us. If we don't go some rounds or win this race, it's pretty much the nail in the coffin. Pomona has points and a half so it's still there but it's going to be tough."
But no matter what, you won't see Hagan giving up. Especially this weekend at the Motorplex where the team scored the event title last year over Capps in the final round.
"The thing about me is I don't ever want to give up," Hagan said. "I come back from a run and it blows the tires off and I pedaled it seven times when I probably should've pedaled it four. The guys ask me why I pedaled it so many times and I say because the other guy hasn't crossed the finish line yet. It ain't over. That's my mentality. And you have to have that. It's not over 'til it's over. We just have to fight hard and see where things land.
"It's going to be a Pennzoil race for us and I'm coming in early to do spend time with them. I'm just looking forward to it. I love racing this racecar and I'm just looking forward to getting in there and doing what we do."
It has been a challenging year off the track for Hagan and now crew chief Venables, who lost his mother, Nedra, last week.
"Unfortunately Dickie's mother passed away recently and he's going to have that on his mind. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. I understand all about that. This year has been a tough year as far as that goes. I lost my grandfather and my brother this year. I get it.
"I still want to get up on the wheel and drive. I know that he'll be ready to tune this thing. We all have a lot of stuff going on in our lives and hopefully we can all come together and focus and do big things in Texas.
MADISON, Ill. (Oct. 1, 2017) - Matt Hagan could have remembered his second round match-up against Robert Hight Sunday in the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis as a pivotal race in his quest for a third Funny Car world championship.
But after having the quickest car in the first round when his Sandvik Coromant Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil completed a run in 3.838 seconds at 334.73 mph, his Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car suffered a loss of traction like several others did on the cool, sunny afternoon.
Hagan was especially disappointed because Hight, the pole winner, could only must a time of 3.919 that was very beatable.
"We were just pressing really hard on race day," said Hagan, who is ranked fourth but 157 points out of the lead at the midpoint of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff.
"We went 3.83 in the first round and were low of the round. We just made a few adjustments after that for the heat. We were kind of like, 'let's leave it alone.'
"Teams ahead of us in Top Fuel were swapping lanes after a couple smoked the tires. We were the second pair of Funny Cars and switched to the left lane after we ran so strong in the right lane the run before.
"I'm not saying that that was good or bad, but it didn't hold our setup? It's race day, man. You have to press. You're running Robert Hight and they're pressing. They blew their stuff up trying to run hard
"We've got three more races in the Countdown, we've got to make all three of them count."
After opening the Countdown with races on three successive weekends, the Mello Yello Series has a week off before resuming Oct. 13-15 at the Texas Motorplex near Dallas.
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 27, 2017) - Matt Hagan is a proud cattle farmer in rural Virginia when he is not on tour in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. He knows the challenges that operating an ever-expanding cattle farm presents.
He also knows that his toughest row to hoe isn't on his farm in Virginia but on the racetracks of the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff that stops near St. Louis this weekend for the NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
The Sandvik Coromant team had a parachute cable break in last weekend's semifinal round at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pa., that ended their day early after qualifying second and having one of the strongest cars on race day.
The team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen enter this weekend's Midwest Nationals fourth in Funny Car points standings, 90 behind leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps.
"You can't dwell on what happened last week," Hagan said. "So the boys went back to the shop and have checked and double checked everything to be ready for this weekend in St. Louis.
"We have to be perfect to stay in this championship fight and our bad luck has to fall on some of those guys in front of us. We knew we had a car capable of winning last weekend and that's what makes this so hard."
Hagan has never won at the Midwest Nationals at Gateway but the two-time Funny Car world champion has been to the final round three times. The team will fly the colors of Sandvik Coromant, cutting tool supplier for DSR, this weekend in St. Louis.
"We definitely need to pick up the win this weekend and the thing about rolling into a racetrack with Dickie Venables in your corner is that you know you can. We just have to go out and make it happen."
Qualifying kicks off at 5 p.m. (CT) Friday for the Midwest Nationals.
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.




Next NHRA Event 2018

FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. J.R. Todd (2553)
2. Robert Hight (2479)
3. Ron Capps (2388)
4. Tim Wilkerson (2367)
5. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2362)
6. Courtney Force (2324)
7. Matt Hagan (2321)
8. Jack Beckman (2283)
9. John Force (2277)
10. Shawn Langdon (2204)