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Matt Hagan drove his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to a key first-round victory in today’s 26th-annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals here at the Texas Motorplex to close to within two points of the lead in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

Coming out of the 11th-qualifying position which meant a loss of lane choice on a hot, tricky and sensitive track, the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver to eliminate current points leader Mike Neff in a tight side-by-side first round race.

Hagan grabbed a .026-second advantage at the Christmas Tree and then blasted down the 1,000-foot strip in 4.172 seconds at 302.14 miles per hour for the hole-shot victory. Neff, despite his quicker 4.151-second lap could not run down the Christiansburg, Va. native. 

Although his day ended in the quarterfinals, the 2010 championship runner-up still felt it had been a productive day.

“The DieHard team struggled throughout the weekend, first in qualifying and then in the second round,” explained Hagan, disappointed by his loss to Melanie Troxel in round two. “We have a better car than we showed against Melanie; we just didn’t get it done. I pedaled and almost caught her, but it wasn’t to be.

“But putting things into perspective, we cut 18 points off Zippy’s (Neff) lead heading into Reading (Pa.).”

Hagan heads to Maple Grove Raceway for next weekend’s 27th-annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals in second place, four points – less than one round – behind Neff and three ahead of Cruz Pedregon, who won today’s race.
According to Hagan, who set an elapsed-time record (4.011) there during last year’s race (which he broke last week in Charlotte with a 3.995-second lap, the first sub-four-second pass at 1,000 feet), performances could be way up when compared to this weekend at the Texas Motorplex, where track temperatures on Sunday soared into the triple digits.

“We’ve got great data from Reading and if it is cool, we could see some terrific runs,” he said. “We made some great headway this weekend, but I’m greedy. You have to be greedy every weekend and we are - we want to win every round and set every record – that’s what you need to get the championship.”

Matt Hagan, aboard his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, will have a chance to make a major move up in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship standings with a win in his first-round match during Sunday’s final eliminations of the 26th-annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals here at the Texas Motorplex.

Coming out of the 12th-qualifying spot, the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver faces 5th-qualifier Mike Neff, who he trails by 24 points (just over one round of competition) for the top position in the championship standings.

“There’s no question it’s an important round,” said the winner of last week’s initial Countdown contest (in Charlotte), who stands second in the title race. “We’ll just go out there and do the best we can, letting the chips fall where they may.

“We had some gremlins during qualifying, but Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) got them fixed and we’ll just have to see when we get to race day tomorrow.”

Hagan banked a 4.200-second lap at 300.40 miles per hour in Friday’s opening session to gain his qualifying position and then had three challenging rounds, including running his final attempt today on six of eight cylinders.

“We dropped two holes in that final run (4.256 at 287.60 mph), so we don’t know what we would have run,” he added. “But it all doesn’t matter come race day. We just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

Coming off a record-setting, historic North Carolina weekend, Matt Hagan brings his Service Central/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the Lone Star State looking to have history repeat itself this weekend during the 26th-annual AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals here.

Last week he produced the first sub-four-second and fastest laps in Funny Car history, a four-place jump in the Countdown to the Championship standings and his first win of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, but the history the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing wants to repeat is his 2010 performance at the Texas Motorplex.

“It was like being in a fairy tale, last week, right down to the perfect ending,” Hagan said. “I’m so happy we’re going right to Dallas; maybe we can just keep the mojo going and make a second-consecutive visit to the winner’s circle there.”

The Christiansburg, Va. native scorched the Texas earth in setting the track elapsed-time record of 4.062 seconds en route to his third victory of the 2010 season. The e.t. number pales in comparison to the 3.995 he posted last Friday in capturing the pole at zMAX Dragway where he also produced the fastest 1,000-foot lap during Sunday’s final eliminations, blasting down the strip at 322.27 miles per hour.

“But all of those things are in the past and we have to look forward, not back,” reminded the focused flopper pilot. “Tommy DeLago (crew chief) worked his magic, taking advantage like no other crew chief of the cool, overcast weather we had throughout the Charlotte race.

“The conditions will probably be very different this week outside Dallas, where the forecast is for summer-like heat. But we are confident going into the race; Tommy has shown his ability to meet these types of track and weather challenges, like he did in Denver earlier this summer (a runner-up finish at Bandimere Speedway during intense heat).

Hagan’s success in Charlotte propelled him from sixth to second in the standings, 22 points – just over one round – behind leader Mike Neff.

“Last year, we jumped from third to second after winning here,” he said. “We’d love to repeat both the victory and another jump in the standings at the end of Sunday.”

Aboard his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, Matt Hagan put together a record-setting three-days here en route to his first victory of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season in the fourth-annual NHRA Nationals here at zMAX Dragway.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher driver accumulated 147 (out of a possible 150), the most for any Funny Car driver in a single event, which included 20 bonus points for setting the elapsed-time record and became the first flopper pilot to break the four-second barrier with a 3.995-second lap in Friday-night qualifying, which earned him his third pole of the year. In addition, he recorded the fastest 1,000-foot Funny Car lap at 322.27 miles per hour, the first 320-plus in history.

The win, on the strength of a final-round victory against season-long points leader Mike Neff, propelled Hagan into second place, from sixth, of the Countdown to the Championship standings with five races left in the season.

“I’m still floating after seeing my name (and national e.t.-record numbers) on the wall here at zMAX,” the elated driver told a post-race media group. “When you have a group of guys behind you like I do, Tommy DeLago (crew chief), Glen Huszar (assistant crew chief) and the rest of the DieHard team, you can do great things.

“I can’t say enough about how smart Tommy is. I just try to do my job – leave on time and keep the car in the groove.”

Coming out of the number-one starting spot, Hagan posted a 4.018-second lap at 322.27 mph in racing past John Smith in the first round. He next took out Cruz Pedregon with a run of 4.054 at 316.38 mph. The semifinal win against DSR teammate Jack Beckman came on a 4.083 pass at 318.69 (with Beckman’s 4.090 at 317.79 mph making this the fastest Funny Car round in history).

Hagan ran 4.130 at 301.07 mph to defeat Neff, 4.431 at 202.79, in the finals to gain his first winner’s circle appearance since last year’s race in Ennis, Texas (which is the next stop on the circuit).

“I know I keep talking about Tommy as the mad scientist, but he blew me away again today when he made adjustments after the burnout for the first round when the sun had come out,” said Hagan about the run which backed up the e.t. record and earned the bonus points. “He never does that, but, obviously today, it made a difference.

“Whenever you strap into a car tuned by Tommy, you have to pull your straps tight because you know you’re going for a ride.

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.”

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FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Courtney Force (1038)
2. Jack Beckman (788)
2. Matt Hagan (788)
4. Robert Hight (771)
5. J.R. Todd (767)
6. Ron Capps (755)
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (637)
8. John Force (577)
9. Shawn Langdon (537)
10. Bob Tasca III (532)