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Matt Hagan, the 28-year-old Funny Car driver from Christiansburg, Va., placed his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in fifth position for tomorrow’s eliminations at 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals here on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hagan’s fast round, a 4.180-second/298.73 mile-per-hour pass, was run on a very hot track, which was a challenge throughout the two qualifying days. A change in the forecast presents another challenge for Sunday’s race.

“Although we can use data from previous races here, you can never really duplicate these hot track temperatures (close to 130 degrees during both days of qualifying), hot air temperature and varying track conditions from year to year,” said Hagan about the preliminary rounds. “It will be cooler tomorrow, and our DieHard crew will make the setup adjustments, but I have to put all of that aside and just concentrate on the line and get the car down the track.

“We know we have all the elements to get the win here, and will work hard tomorrow for just that!”

His fifth-starting position earned him a first-round match with Jeff Arend – the third time after three races in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season he will race the Kalitta Motorsports Driver. Hagan is 2-0 against Arend this year, with second-round victories in both the Winternationals and the Gatornationals.

Hagan sits in second place of the NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car championship following the first two races of the season, thanks to a final-round appearance in the opening race and a semifinal one at the second.

In addition, he took the pole position with a 4.030 pass for the Gainesville race a little more than two weeks ago.

Hagan was runner up during the last race here in November 2010 and won the pole en route to a final-round appearance during the 2009 spring race. Last spring he qualified third and reached the quarterfinals.

Matt Hagan enjoyed his time off between races, but is anxious to resume racing his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car this weekend in the 12th annual SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals here on the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“It was great having time at home with the family and I got a lot done on the farm,” said the 28-year-old cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va. “But I’m ready to get back to racing. With two off weeks between the last race and now, it seems like we’ve been off for the winter.

“And once we go down the track for the first qualifying session (scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, April 1), I’ll be back into the groove.”

Hagan’s desire to resume the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series is understandable – he sits in second place of the Funny Car championship following the first two races of the season, thanks to a final-round appearance in the Winternationals followed by a semifinal one at the Gatornationals.

In addition, he took the pole position and set low elapsed time (4.030 seconds) for the Gainesville race a little more than two weeks ago.

“Tommy DeLago (crew chief) has the DieHard Dodge running really well,” said the Don Schumacher Racing driver. “We’ve done well in Vegas before and we have some great data to work from for this race.”

He was runner up during the last race here in November 2010 and won the pole en route to a final-round appearance during the 2009 spring race. Last spring he qualified third and reached the quarterfinals.

“I like racing in Vegas,” Hagan said. “The track’s been good to us and, well, it’s Vegas.”

Matt Hagan, the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver, reached the semifinals today during the 42nd annual Tire Kingdom Gatornationals here at Gainesville Raceway.

Hagan, number-one qualifier here for the second-consecutive year, opened the eliminations with a first round victory over 16th qualifier Bob Bode by posting a 4.095-second/305.08-mile-per-hour pass in the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. He followed with a pedal effort, defeating Jeff Arend in the second round (4.441/254.14 vs. 5.586/130.35).

Matt Hagan today secured his second pole of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, putting his  Freightliner/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car  in the top-spot for Sunday’s 30th-annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals here at Brainerd International Raceway.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver banked a blistering 4.101-second lap at 303.57 miles per hour in Friday’s second session to earn a first-round match in final eliminations against 16th-qualifier Tony Pedregon.

“It really doesn’t matter who’s in the other lane or who we have to race,” explained Hagan, who was the number-one qualifier in the season’s second race at Gainesville, Fla. “We know Tony, who’s fighting for a spot in the playoffs, will go out and try anything he can to beat us, but we just have to race the race track, race our race.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll take Tony or any other driver lightly, it just means we have to remain focused on doing our job without worrying about somebody else.”

It will be the first meeting this season between the two veteran drivers who are on different paths as the regular season evolves into a six-race Countdown to 1 playoff for the Funny Car championship.

Hagan comes into this race a solid fifth in the Funny Car standings, Pedregon 12th, with the top-10 drivers at the conclusion of the next race (Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis) qualifying for the playoffs.

“Even though we’ve already clinched a spot in the Countdown, this is an important weekend,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native. “Tommy DeLago (crew chief) is still perfecting our setup and getting ready for the playoffs – and his ability to do so came through in this number-one qualifying run.

“And we’d really like to get a win under our belts. The team has been doing a great job, giving me a great race car – we just haven’t gotten to the winner’s circle. I won’t talk about luck because we haven’t had any this year. So we won’t look to be lucky; we’ll just work hard to earn our successes.”

In addition to the qualifying run in round two, the Freightliner/DieHard car put up runs of 4.599 at 183.49, 4.224 at 272.50 and 4.175 at 291.89.

Matt Hagan drove the Freightliner/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the semifinals of today’s 30th-annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals here at Brainerd International Raceway.

Starting from the pole position, the 28-year-old Christiansburg, Va. native blasted through the first two rounds before running into a very hot driver in Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps.

“It was a ‘good old drag race which could have gone either way,” he explained about the match which was decided by just .011 seconds. “Ron is a great racer and when you run someone like him, you have to be ready for a tight run.”

Hagan ran a 4.145-second lap at 302.62 miles per hour against Capps’s 4.137 at 306.46 in the losing effort. He made it to the semifinals after dispatching Tony Pedregon in the opening round (4.145 at 299.40 vs. 6.605 at 100.76) and Melanie Troxel in the quarterfinals (4.158 at 277.77 vs. 6.084 at 117.96).

The quarterfinals victory ended with a bang the result being a switch to a different body and some extra work by the team.

“That’s not why we lost to Ron,” explained Hagan. “Remember, these cars go through a complete rebuild between rounds, even if there isn’t an engine issue like we had.”

The number-one qualifier came on a 4.101 pass at 303.57 during Friday’s second round of qualifying.

“Tommy DeLago has been giving me a great race car and it keeps getting better,” said Hagan. “We’ve been really consistent, getting down the track some 90 percent of the time, which is great. When we lose, it is generally in a tight battle, a great race like today.

“And this is the way we want to go into the Countdown. We’ll go to Indy next Thursday and do some testing before the U.S. Nationals to get ready for that race (Labor Day weekend) and for the playoffs.”

Hagan heads to Indianapolis in fifth place of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings. The loss to Capps, in sixth place, allowed the other DSR driver to get within three points of Hagan.

The top-10 drivers at the conclusion of the U.S. Nationals will qualify for the six-race Countdown to the Championship. The current top four are: Mike Neff, Robert Hight, DSR teammate Jack 

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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)