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Matt Hagan drove the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the 12th starting position for Sunday’s final eliminations of the 42nd annual NHRA SuperNationals here at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver used his third-round run of 4.142 seconds at 299.86 miles per hour to secure a first-round match with John Force, who needed a 4.107 lap in the final round to make the field.

“Obviously, you can’t take John or his team lightly,” said Hagan, who finished runner up last year to Force in the Funny Car championship. “I’ll bring my A game, Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) will bring his A game, as will their team, and we’ll have fun racing.”

The DieHard team, like many of the Funny Car teams, had issues getting down the track during Friday’s two qualifying runs. Hagan turned in laps of 6.979 and 4.300, ending the night in the 12th starting spot.

The third-round run moved him into ninth, but a 6.519 final lap allowed several drivers to go around him.

“It’s a bit frustrating,” said Hagan. “We need to put some wins on the board and they will come, I’m sure. Tommy hasn’t forgotten how to tune a car and I haven’t forgotten how to drive.

“We’ve been trying some new things, and just haven’t hit our stride, yet. We will.”

Hagan, who is a fulltime cattle farmer in his native Christiansburg, Va., when not racing, came into the weekend fifth in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings. He trails Mike Neff, DSR teammate Jack Beckman, Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon (respectively).

Matt Hagan believes the time is coming for his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team to turn things around and this weekend’s 42nd annual NHRA SuperNationals here at historic Old Bridge Township Raceway Park would be a good time to start.

According to last season’s runner up in the Funny Car championship, staying the course will result in success.

“The DieHard car has not opened up yet,” said the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver. “The biggest thing for us is to stay positive; we still have a lot of races ahead of us (15 remain in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, nine in the “regular” season, six in the Countdown to 1 playoffs).

“We’ve just got to keep our heads up and keep our composure and, hopefully, I can do my part and win one for this DieHard team.”

As the season comes into the hot-weather months the DieHard team returns to last year’s setup by crew chief Tommy DeLago.

“We’ll stick with the combination which gave us so much success in the past,” he explained. “We need to get some solid runs in the 00s.”

Hagan comes to Englishtown in fifth place of the Funny Car standings, trailing Mike Neff, DSR teammate Jack Beckman, Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon (respectively).

Known as a fast track when the weather conditions cooperate, Hagan thinks Englishtown could be the place to challenge the national elapsed-time record, 4.011 seconds, he established last year in Maple Grove, Pa.

“If we get conditions Tommy likes, I’ll have to pull my seatbelt down tighter,” Hagan said. “We might just shoot for that record!

Regardless of the record potential for this weekend’s Garden State race, Hagan is happy to be behind the wheel of the 8,000-horsepower hot rod. Since the Topeka race, where Hagan lost a “pedalfest” to eventual race winner Robert Hight in the second round, he has been cutting hay on the farm in preparation for the winter.

“I’m excited about getting back to racing,” said the cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va.  “I’m exhausted from the last two weeks of farm work; racing is like my vacation.

“We cut and rolled 478 (four-foot-by-five-foot) bales of hay.”

Matt Hagan reached the quarterfinal round in Sunday’s NHRA Summer Nationals here at Heartland Park Topeka.

Hagan came out of the gate strong with an impressive run by his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the first round of eliminations, recording the second best elapsed time of the session –  4.112 seconds at 304.12 miles per hour.

“We were feeling pretty good about the first run of the day, but also knew the conditions were changing,” stated Hagan. “The heat not only presented a tune-up challenge for our DieHard team, but based on all the tire smoke it was a universal issue here at Topeka.”

Entering the quarterfinal round, Hagan knew it was a roll of the dice.

“It was like throwing darts for the second round,” explained the 28-year-old cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va. “We did not see any of these conditions the past two days and it was a difficult time for all crew chiefs.”

In Hagan’s quarterfinal match against Robert Hight, both drivers lost traction with Hight getting to the finish line first.

“It was one of those deals that didn’t go our way,” noted the Don Schumacher Racing driver, who is fifth in Funny Car points. “But we’re not disappointed, we know what to do, we’re confident and having fun in the process.”

The next race is the NHRA SuperNationals, June 2-5 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J.

Matt Hagan, driving the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, qualified 11th for Sunday’s 23rd annual NHRA Summer Nationals here at Heartland Park Topeka.

Hagan’s best run came in the first qualifying session Friday – a 4.102-second elapsed time at 306.95 miles per hour.

“I know we’re better than 11th, we just had some things happen to us which are not typical,” said Hagan. “I know that Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) will work his magic with our DieHard Dodge Charger.”

Hagan’s first-round opponent will be No. 6 qualifier Tim Wilkerson, who qualified with a 4.081 at 305.15.

“We know that Tim (Wilkerson) will be tough and we need to be ready for him,” added Hagan. “We didn’t qualify where we thought we would, but hopefully we can change things around tomorrow.”

The top-five Funny Car qualifiers in order were: Jack Beckman (4.054), Johnny Gray (4.058), Robert Hight (4.067), Mike Neff (4.070) and Cruz Pedregon (4.072).

ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage Sunday beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

Matt Hagan foresees a turnaround in the fortunes of the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, which he hopes begins this weekend by going deep into the 23rd annual NHRA Summer Nationals here at Heartland Park Topeka.

According to the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver, the Tommy DeLago-led team has reverted to previous setups to capture the magic which propelled the then-sophomore racer into the runner-up spot for the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship.

“We’re running the same combinations as we did last year,” Hagan explained. “Tommy has a good handle on it and this is especially important for the hot-weather tracks, like Topeka, which can be real tricky.”

The team, which finished last season strong, including setting, then breaking the sport’s elapsed-time record, has been frustrated by not repeating a final-round appearance like it attained in the first race of 2011 at Pomona.

Hagan said the recent changes made by DeLago and on-track performance, including a quarterfinals appearance last week at the NHRA Southern Nationals, has the team thinking positive thoughts. 

“It’s all about confidence,” said the cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va. “We have to keep our heads up and our chins up and get back into it. We know what this DieHard Funny Car is capable of doing; it can win races – and we will.

“Tommy’s an animal crew chief – and I mean that he goes after it on the track. I like being aggressive and Tommy gives me that kind of race car.”

Hagan’s results after six races find him holding fifth place in the Funny Car standings. He trails Mike Neff, DSR teammate Jack Beckman, Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon (respectively) in the quest to be first by the end of the 16-race “regular” season in preparation for the six-race Countdown to 1 playoffs.

“We’ll be there when it counts,” he said. “And good things will start this weekend.”

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Next NHRA Event 2018

FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Robert Hight (2548)
2. Ron Capps (2533)
3. Courtney Force (2423)
4. Jack Beckman (2396)
5. Matt Hagan (2387)
6. John Force (2306)
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2276)
8. Tim Wilkerson (2237)
9. J.R. Todd (2233)
10. Cruz Pedregon (2163)