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By Patrick Rall Oct 30 2017 - 12:39pm - Matt Hagan drove his Dodge Charger funny car to win #4 on the season this past weekend in Vegas, beating Courtney Force in the final round at the Toyota Nationals, but with a first round loss to John Force, Ron Capps slipped from the top spot in the championship race with just one event remaining. 

The NHRA Toyota Nationals were held this past weekend in Las Vegas and while Don Schumacher Racing’s Matt Hagan and his Dodge Charger won the funny car finals – giving DSR its 15th win 23 races – Ron Capps’ early exit coupled with Robert Hight’s strong run caused Capps to fall from the top spot in the championship.

Qualifying
Coming into the NHRA Toyota Nationals, Ron Capps and his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger held a narrow lead over Robert Hight and his John Force Racing Chevrolet Camaro. Capps and his DSR Dodge-driving teammates had hoped to use the stop in Las Vegas to continue their dominance of the funny car class, and they got off to a great start.

Ron Capps came off of the trailer fast, laying down a 3.916 at 325mph to claim the top spot in the first round of qualifying while championship rival Robert Hight sat 14th. Meanwhile, the other Don Schumacher and John Force Racing funny cars to turn in strong first-round runs included Matt Hagan (4th quickest) and John Force (5th), but Jack Beckman, Tommy Johnson Jr, Courtney Force and Hight all turned in disappointing first qualifying runs.

That all changed in the second round, as Jack Beckman ran a 3.867 to take the top spot, Courtney Force ran a 3.878 to grab second and Hight ran a 3.880 to move into third. Capps slid to sixth, Hagan to eighth and John Force dropped to 12th.
The order of the top three wouldn’t change during the final two rounds of qualifying, but Hagan was able to move into fourth and Capps held onto sixth. 

Eliminations

In the first round of eliminations, only one driver from Don Schumacher Racing or John Force Racing failed to advance to the second round, and that was Ron Capps. In what could prove to be a devastating blow to his championship run, Capps lost to John Force when his Dodge Charger ran into problems around half track. Beckman beat Jim Campbell, Tommy Johnson Jr beat Jonnie Lindberg, Hagan beat Gary Densham, and Courtney Force beat Jeff Arend – but Ron Capps lost.

In the second round, Beckman beat teammate Johnson in a battle of DSR Dodge Charger funny cars, Hagan beat Del Worsham, Courtney Force beat Alexis DeJoria and Robert Hight beat John Force in a battle of JFR Camaro funny cars. This set up a semifinal round pitting two DSR Chargers head-to-head and two JFR Camaros head-to-head.

In the semis, Jack Beckman held the starting line advantage, but when he ran into problems, Hagan took the win while Courtney Force destroyed teammate Robert Hight to advance to the finals.

In the final round, Matt Hagan pulled the holeshot advantage and never looked back – beating Force’s Camaro with his Dodge Charger for his fourth win of the year.

The Championship Race

Coming into Las Vegas, Ron Capps held a 24 point lead over Robert Hight. By losing in the first round while Hight lost in the third round, Capps fell to second in the championship race as Hight took a 15-point lead.

This means that at the NHRA Auto Club Finals in Pomona, California, Capps needs to go to the late rounds and he needs to hope for Hight to lose early. Should Capps win the final event, he should win the title, but the 2017 NHRA Funny Car Title is likely going to come down to which of those two drivers finishes better in the final event.

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Hagan powered his Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T to his first career victory at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after a run of 3.942 at 329.42 defeated Courtney Force’s 4.020 at 320.05 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro. This is Hagan’s fourth victory of the season and 26th of his career. 

“There’s no replacement for the feeling of winning,” Hagan said. “That’s a fix you can’t get nowhere else. My guys busted tail all day. We had a car that went down the track every run we’ve been here. I was just trying not to mess it up.”

MORE TO COME

ENNIS, Texas (Oct. 15, 2017) - An outcome couldn't have been any different for Matt Hagan on Sunday at  the Texas Motorplex near Dallas in the NHRA FallNationals than it was a year ago.
 
And it wasn't in a good way.
 
After qualifying fourth and winning his second Dallas title in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a year ago, Hagan with crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen started as the No. 13 seed and were defeated in the opening round Sunday to Jonnie Lindberg after Hagan's Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T lost traction right off the starting line.
 
Jim Head Racing's Lindberg recorded a time of 4.372 seconds at 303.78 mph after he lost traction farther down the track to Hagan's 5.186 (257.38).
 
"We've kind of hit a little rough patch here with some of these races in the Countdown," said Hagan, who has won three events this year.
 
"It's not because Dickie Venables is not smart or he's not trying hard or anything like that. It's just we've made some wholesale changes to get better. We've got a brand new car out here that we've been ironing out and we're changing some of our stuff in our bellhousing.
 
"It's just not really working the way that we hoped. So when things don't go the way you want them to, you go back to what you know and that's what we're going to do on Monday when we stay and test.
 
"We're going to go back and get the old car back and set some stuff up and make some laps and try to finish as strong as we can."
 
The Mello Yello Series will be off next week before heading to Las Vegas for the penultimate event and a week later ending the season at Pomona, Calif.
 
Hagan dropped one spot to fifth in Countdown to the Championship standings and will trail teammate and points leader Ron Capps by 226 points when the series arrives at Las Vegas.
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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.

mhologo250

   

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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)