BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 18, 2016) – Matt Hagan just wants to do well for everyone that has supported him throughout his eight years of piloting a Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
There are never any more loving eyes on him than when he races at his home track at Bristol Dragway just two hours from his home and cattle operation in Christiansburg, Va. He is feeling the support from all of his family and friends and just wants to give back to them in the form of a win, which he did last year at the Thunder Valley Nationals.
“It’s Bristol, it’s home, we got plenty of people running around here and I’m running around here with the little bit of hair on my head like it’s on fire,” Hagan said. “You know, you want to take care of everybody and treat them right but man alive, I’m telling you it’s just a pressure filled weekend. I love being at home but man it’s just a lot of pressure. They’re out here supporting me and I just want to do well for each of them.”
And so far through four sessions of qualifying, Hagan and the Rocky Boots/Mopar Express Lane team has done just that by earning the No. 4 starting spot for Sunday’s 16th annual Thunder Valley Nationals.
The Rocky Boots team led by crew chief Dickie Venables posted their best run under the lights on Friday night with a 3.914-second pass at 327 mph but it was their run on Saturday afternoon that will prepare them best for Sunday’s eliminations in the Bristol heat.
The 4.01-second pass quit a little bit early with a speed of only 286 mph but the team learned from it and will apply it for Sunday’s first round of eliminations against opponent Tim Wilkerson.
“There’s a lot of stuff going on but the racecar seems to be running pretty good,” he said. “It’s going down the racetrack and we qualified fourth. I think that Tim is going to be a tough one first round. He’s good on a hot racetrack.
“I just have to go out there and do my job and do the best for my guys and I know that they’ll do that for me. Hopefully it’ll all come together for us tomorrow. It’s tough racing but that’s why we love it.”
No. 1 qualifier: Ron Capps (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.884 sec.-track record, 323.66 mph
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 4
First round: Tim Wilkerson
FRIDAY: 3.971 sec., 322.65 mph, (Session 1); 3.914, 327.51, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 4.363, 213.23, (Session 3); 4.013, 286.25, (Session 4)
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 12, 2016) – Sunday was a good learning experience for Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team in the 47th annual NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.
The team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen can use what they learned for an upcoming stretch of summer Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events that are certain to be held in similarly hot conditions.
A 130-degree track challenged most of the nitro-fueled, 10,000-horsepower machines including Hagan and the Mopar team that was defeated in the second round of Summernationals eliminations under sunny skies and windy conditions.
Hagan posted a 3.950-second opening round win over Jim Campbell before being paired against Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman in the second round.
“Obviously it was a hot racetrack, 130 degrees out there,” Hagan said. “Those were conditions that we haven’t seen all year. It was a greasy pedal-fest, no one got down in Top Fuel and only one guy got down in Funny Car and that was another Don Schumacher Racing teammate of ours (Ron Capps).
“When you’re put it into that situation, it’s a crapshoot. You never know what you’re going to get and you have to be mentally prepared as a driver to pedal the car, you have to be ready to leave on time; you’re thinking about all this stuff. Crew chiefs are dialing everything back and sometimes you get it and sometimes it’s just not enough.”
It was the fourth straight event where the Mopar/Rocky Boots team qualified in the top-two positions.
“We learned a lot this weekend, still qualified well. We had a lot of Mopar folks out here this weekend and they had a good time. We would’ve liked to win for them but we’re headed to Bristol next and that’s my home track.”
Venables didn’t expect the heat to affect the track as much as it did.
“The track was worse than I thought it would be,” he said. “We just didn’t do enough to back the car down. The car has been responsive. We had problems with our computer so we weren’t able to collect data all weekend and that was a little bit of a handicap.
“All in all we are pleased with the car. We just got behind on the racetrack, I thought the track would be a little bit better than it was. We’re good, we’re ready to get to Bristol.”
The third of four races in four weekends begins Friday at Bristol Dragway in Tennessee.
The Mello Yello Series will race next weekend near Hagan’s hometown of Christiansburg, Va., at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in Tennessee.
“Home race for me and it’s going to be a busy one. I got my first win there last year so that was special but we’re looking forward to getting out there and work on our hot weather tune-up and see if we can’t get it dialed in.”
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 11, 2016) – Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team are in the midst of an impressive streak of qualifying in the top-two positions at the past four NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events.
Their latest effort is a 3.901-second, 326-mph pass recorded on Friday night that earned them the second position behind Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps at the 47th annual NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.
The Mopar/Rocky Boots team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen have also won two out of the last three Mello Yello series event titles and are looking to defend their 2015 Englishtown title when Sunday’s championship eliminations begin at 11 a.m. (ET).
“Anytime you get qualified in the top half of the field and get lane choice, you’re setting yourself up for a good race day,” said Hagan, the two-time Funny Car world champion.
“But to have the success we’ve had over the last few races in qualifying, that just shows what we’re capable of. We’re just really kind of taking it in stride right now and Dickie and the team are just doing a phenomenal job. We’re looking forward to a good race day.”
Hagan posted 4.02- and 3.98-second passes in the heat similar on Saturday afternoon are similar to what is forecast for when he meets Jim Campbell in Sunday’s opening round.
“It’s going to be hot tomorrow,” Hagan said. “All in all, though, we have a great racecar. We’ve been down the racetrack three out of four laps in qualifying so that definitely gives us confidence for Sunday. It was pretty hot our here today and Dickie and the guys were able to get this car down a hot racetrack and that’s what it takes to turn on win lights on Sunday.”
Sunday’s NHRA Summernationals eliminations is the second of four consecutive Mello Yello events.
“We’re right here in the middle of a busy stretch and it’s important that we’re running well. We can really get some momentum going and rack up the points and try to move up in the standings.”
EPPING, N.H. (June 6, 2016) – The hot streak for Matt Hagan and Don Schumacher Racing’s Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Funny Car stalled a little Monday in the rain-delayed NHRA New England Nationals, but the two-time world champion is eager to get to the next race in four days to start another streak.
The Dodge Charger R/T tuned by crew chief Dickie Venables with assistant Michael Knudsen had been dominant in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series over the past two events when they won both titles and qualified first or second in the past three.
After qualifying No. 2 Friday night at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H., with a time of 3.868 seconds at 329.75 mph, which is the fourth quickest in Funny Car history, Hagan struggled to get off the starting in both runs Monday after it appeared the car lost a cylinder each time.
The Mopar/Rocky team survived the first round against independent racer John Hale, but the same problem happened in the second round and Hagan wasn’t able to overcome a stout run of 3.969 by reigning world champion Del Worsham of Kalitta Motorsports.
“Something’s going on with the timing or we have an ignition problem because we had a problem at the hit (of the throttle) both times,” said Hagan, the two-time world champion from Christiansburg, Va.
“We’re not used to that. Our Mopar/Rocky Dodge usually runs on all eight (cylinders), and we don’t often lose one right at the start like that let alone twice. Who knows? There could be a million different things wrong with it. It’s just uncharacteristic of us.”
Hagan was trying win a third straight Mello Yello event title but will have to start a new streak next weekend at Englishtown, N.J., in the Summernationals, which is the second of four races in four weekends.
“We’ll go back and fix it. That’s part of the ups and downs of racing,” he said.
“Our Mopar/Rocky guys are in a groove. It’s just a matter of servicing it and hauling it to Englishtown.”
EPPING, N.H. (June 4, 2016) – Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team will try to win their third consecutive NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event on Sunday in the NHRA New England Nationals at Epping, N.H.
Hagan and the Mopar team continued their torrid pace throughout qualifying to earn the No. 2 spot for Sunday’s championship eliminations with an elapsed time of 3.868 seconds at 329 mph. It was the fourth quickest lap in NHRA history.
“These cars are humbling, so we just have to take it one round at a time on race day,” Hagan said. “The air is great, the track is great and it’s really just a great race, period. Through four rounds of qualifying, we’ve been able to go down the racetrack almost every time. It’s digging, it’s running strong.”
Crew chiefs throughout the NHRA pit area are paying close attention to Sunday’s forecast for a high of 65 degrees with rain showers.
“We’re going to have to run strong on Sunday to get some round wins,” Hagan said. “Some weather might be rolling in and they’re saying it’s supposed to be cooler. You’re going to need to be able to run 3.8’s if you want to turn on win lights tomorrow.”
It is the third straight event where the team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen have qualified in the top-two positions.
“I can’t say enough about Dickie and this Mopar team,” Hagan said. “We’ve been running so strong lately and it’s because of the hard work they’ve put in to turn this program around for us. We had some struggles to start out but there’s no doubt that we’re headed in the right direction.”
Sunday’s NHRA New England Nationals are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (ET).
FUNNY CAR No. 1 qualifier: Ron Capps (Don Schumacher Racing) 3.865 sec. (track record E.T, second quickest in history), 325.92 mph
Funny Car (Unofficial)
1. Matt Hagan (308)
2. John Force (238)
3. Ron Capps (235)
4. Tommy Johnson Jr (209)
5. Courtney Force (177)
6. Robert Hight (150)
7. Jim Campbell (148)
8. Jack Beckman (144)
9. J.R. Todd (138)
10. Robert Hight (117)
12. Alexis DeJoria (101)