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NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan, driver of the DieHard/Shelor Motor Mile Dodge Charger R/T for Don Schumacher Racing, was honored by the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) in Indianapolis on Sunday after being named to the group’s prestigious 2011 All America Race Team in the Drag Racing category.

Hagan, at age 28, claimed his first NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car crown in 2011 in only three years of full-time competition in the class, and became the second-youngest Funny Car champion in NHRA history. (Frank Hawley was the first, capturing the championship at age 26 in 1982, the year Hagan was born.) He was the first to break the 4-second barrier, by setting a 3.995-second national record, and established the fastest pass in NHRA history (to 1000 feet), of 322.27 mph. He is also the 13th different driver to win a Funny Car crown in the class' 38-year modern-era history. 

The Christiansburg, Va., cattle farmer won twice in 2011, qualified No. 1 three times and finished runner-up two times. At the season finale in Pomona, Calif., he avenged his painful loss of the title to John Force last year when he upset his DSR teammate Jack Beckman in the quarterfinals and then outran two-time Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon in the semifinals to score his first World Championship. He went on to win his second race of the season and fifth of his short career by posting a track-record performance of 4.009 seconds at 317.79 mph to hold off final-round opponent Robert Hight in the quickest side-by-side race in Funny Car history. Hight trailed with a 4.031/318.92.

The other members of the 42nd annual All America Team include NHRA Top Fuel champion Del Worsham, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (Stock Car Racing), Dario Franchitti and Will Power (Open Wheel Racing), Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas and Chris Dyson/Guy Smith (Road Racing), Bryan Clauson and Kyle Larson (Short Track), Austin Dillon and Andrew Davis (Touring Series) and Josef Newgarden and Patrick Long (At Large). They received AARWBA’s coveted “Horsepower” trophy which symbolizes top performance in each category. AARWBA members across the country voted for two drivers in each category to make up the First Team.

“It is such an honor to be recognized by members of the media and to be voted into the All America Race Team by AARWBA members,” said Hagan. “To be included on a team with these champions from other major racing series in the U.S. is very humbling. This has been a whirlwind year for me and the DieHard/Shelor Motor Mile Dodge Funny Car team. We struggled early on, we kept our focus and came out on top. It’s great to be rewarded and I’m happy to share this honor 

Shelor Motor Mile is throwing a party on Friday, Dec. 16, and fans, media, competitors and anyone else wishing to celebrate driver Matt Hagan’s first NHRA Funny Car championship racing the DieHard/Shelor Motor Mile Dodge Charger R/T for Don Schumacher Racing are invited!

The celebration will be held from 6-9 p.m., at the Event Centre, 1655 Roanoke St., Christiansburg, Va., and will provide FREE food and beverages, FREE autographed posters, FREE photo opportunities with World Champion Hagan, and FREE collector’s cards. 

“This is a great opportunity for us to celebrate our first championship with our friends, fans and even fellow competitors,” said 29-year-old Hagan, who, at 28, became the second-youngest NHRA Funny Car champion when he claimed the crown in the final event of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series in November. “It’s finally sinking in that we’re the 2011 Funny Car champions and we want to share that feeling with all our friends.”

EVENT INFO:
What:
       Champion’s Celebration for 2011 NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan
When:      Friday, December 16, 2011 – 6-9 p.m.
Where:
The Event Centre
1655 Roanoke St.
Christiansburg, Va. 

Aboard his DieHard Advanced Gold/Rimco Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car Matt Hagan completed a dream season here by capturing today’s 47th-annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals and the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship.

The third-year flopper pilot blitzed the strip at Auto Club Raceway Pomona with one of the quickest 1,000-foot times in NHRA history – 4.009 seconds – to defeat Robert Hight in the final round. His ouster of Cruz Pedregon one round earlier secured the championship, on a day when every round was significant.

“The biggest race of my life was the (second) round against Jack (Beckman, Don Schumacher Racing teammate who came into the day less than a round behind Hagan in the standings); that MOPAR Dodge has been running great and we knew we had to beat him for a chance at the title,” explained Hagan, who brought a less-than three-round-lead against four drivers into the season finale. “Every round was big today. I “owed” Robert because he beat me here on a hole shot in the first race of the season in February.

“I’ll admit I’m greedy because I wanted the championship and I wanted to win the race.”

Today’s achievements vanquished the ghosts from last year when he finished runner up in the standings after losing a two-round lead, at this event, to 2010 champion John Force.

Hagan credited the members of the team with the success.

“Winning the championship is a testimony to Tommy DeLago (crew chief), Glenn Huszar (assistant crew chief) and all of my DieHard guys. I knew if I did my job, we’d have a great chance to win it all because they do such a great job at theirs,” he added about a group which also won the Full Throttle Hard-Working Crew Award for the event (“for coming back from losing the 2010 and winning their first Funny Car championship”). “I love them like brothers.”

The 28-year-old Christiansburg, Va. cattle farmer won the event “from wire to wire,” having put the DieHard hot rod onto the pole with a 4.033 pass at 315.27 miles per hour in the third qualifying session.

Coming from the number-one spot, he defeated Jon Capps in the opening round before meeting Beckman, who trailed by less than a round, in the quarterfinals. Hagan posted a 4.107 pass at 307.44 mph to top his teammate’s 4.142 at 310.27 mph to set up the title-winning run against Pedregon.

Matt Hagan tore down the drag strip today here to land the DieHard Advanced Gold/Rimco Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car onto the pole for Sunday’s 47th-annual Automobile Club of ¬Southern California NHRA Finals, holding a 12-point lead in the championship.

Hagan banked a 4.033-second lap at a track-record 315.27 miles per hour in today’s first qualifying session to gain his fourth number-one qualifier of the season (10th in his career). The 28-year-old Christiansburg, Va. Native faces 16th-qualifier Jon Capps in the first round of final eliminations which begin at 11 a.m. PST.

“I’m really proud of my guys and Tommy DeLago (crew chief),” he said. “They’ve done a great job all year, and have really stepped it up during the Countdown (to the Championship playoffs).”

Hagan carries a 12-point lead over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, or one full round (worth 20 points), as well as leads of 35 over Cruz Pedregon and 40 over Mike Neff.

“It’s great being a round ahead going into the last race,” he said. “But I’m not looking at the points; we just have to go rounds tomorrow. If we do our job, it won’t matter what the others do. They’re all great competitors.”

Last year Hagan went into this race with a two-round lead over John Force, who would win the race as well as the championship.

“We all learned a lot last year,” explained the DSR driver. “We know what we have to do and we’ll approach Sunday’s race calmly. There is nothing more we can do than the things we’ve done to get us here.

“I have to focus on doing my job at the starting line and going down the track, anything I can do to give us an advantage. I have faith in what Tommy and Glenn (Huszar, assistant crew chief) and the guys have done all year.
“We went down the track three times (4.137 and 4.088 in the previous two sessions; the fourth was rained out), so we have good data and confidence in knowing this race track.”

Carrying a paper-slim one-point lead into this weekend’s 47th-annual Automobile Club of ¬Southern California NHRA Finals, DieHard Advanced Gold/Rimco Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Matt Hagan remains both optimistic and realistic about his chances of leaving Auto Club Raceway here as the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle champion.

According to the 28-year-old flopper pilot, solid preparation, based on staying with the program which has brought them to this point, is crucial to success.

“We just have to take this in stride and go race our race car,” said Hagan, who leads Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman by the narrow margin and then is less than two rounds ahead of both Cruz Pedregon and Mike Neff. “We won’t do anything above and beyond what has gotten us to this point. We went to the finals here during the first race of the season, so we are not afraid of the track.

“It looks like the weather should be cool, which ought to make it a fast race, a driver’s race.”

Two keys for Hagan, who came into last year’s race with a narrow lead over eventual race winner and champion John Force, are not making mistakes and taking advantage of any opportunity.

“When you put pressure on yourself, you can make mistakes,” he explained. “You can’t stay up all night biting your nails. You make a mistake, you could provide your opponent with an opportunity. One of the ways to win this thing is to recognize an opportunity and take advantage of it when it happens, not give it away.

“Nobody lucked into this; all of the top teams have good crew chiefs, good crews and are good drivers. We all can’t win the race, but we have to be ready to take it if it is offered.

“A big part of being ready means being prepared; proper planning helps and I have all the confidence in Tommy DeLago (crew chief) in having us ready when it all begins Thursday.”

Generally, the Christiansburg, Va. native is ready for the decisive race; qualifying begins at 1 p.m. Thursday, followed by another single session Friday, two on Saturday and final eliminations Sunday.

“It’s tough for drivers and crews, with an entire season of battling coming down to one race, where anything can happen,” he said. “It’s tough to come down to who has a good day and who has a bad one, but it’s great for the fans.

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FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Robert Hight (2445)
2. J.R. Todd (2434)
3. Ron Capps (2336)
4. Tim Wilkerson (2334)
5. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2296)
6. Courtney Force (2264)
7. Matt Hagan (2241)
8. Jack Beckman (2229)
9. John Force (2204)
10. Shawn Langdon (2152)