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Matt Hagan, driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, dropped a final-round match with reigning NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car Champion John Force during today’s 24th-annual MOPAR Mile-High NHRA Nationals here at Bandimere Speedway.

Starting from the third position, the Don Schumacher Racing driver made four clean passes on the day, but fouled at the starting line (beating the green light by .012 seconds) against Force, negating a 4.328-second pass at 274.83 miles per hour (Force posted a 4.361-second lap at 285.23 mph).

“I don’t know what to say except it was my fault,” explained the chagrined Hagan. “We had him – Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) and the MOPAR/DieHard guys did a great job all weekend giving me a competitive car despite the difficult conditions – and I just didn’t get the job done.

“I can’t remember ever red lighting before and this was not the time to do it.”

The runner-up finish solidified Hagan’s hold on fifth place in the Funny Car standings – he increased his lead on Jeff Arend by 29 points which equates to just over one race-round win.

“Okay, that’s done and we’ll put it behind us,” he said about the disappointing finish. “We have to pick it up and get ready to race again in five days. No excuses; we just have to bear down and get that first victory.”

Today’s win by Force, his first of the season, means last year’s two nitro-champions have now recorded 2011 victories, while the two runners up – Hagan in Funny Car and Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel – are still looking for their first 2011 trip to the winner’s circle.

“I know Tony, who also lost in the finals today, wants that win and is doing everything to get it, just like we are,” he said. “We’ve both have cars capable of winning and have advanced to final rounds; we just have to close the deal.”

This was Hagan’s second runner- up finish in 2011, having opened the season with a final-round appearance in Pomona, Calif.

Matt Hagan put together four solid qualifying runs in gaining the third-starting spot for Sunday’s 32nd-annual MOPAR Mile-High NHRA Nationals here at Bandimere Speedway.

The 28-year-old pilot of the MOPAR/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car was one of the only drivers to get down the track without issue in each session, despite the heat and altitude of the facility near Denver.

According to the Don Schumacher Racing driver, remaining this consistent will be the key to success on Sunday, which he will open by facing 14th-qualifier Melanie Troxel.

“We just have to stay the course and continue to run in the 4.20s,” he said. “We have to do what we’ve been doing, getting down the track and not beating ourselves.

“Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) kept gaining confidence and so did I as we progressed during these last two days.”

It was Friday’s second round run at 4.194 seconds at 300.06 miles per hour which secured the third position. He had started Friday with a 4.327 run at 283.49, and then today ran 4.283 at 289.76 and 4.238 at 293.41 to complete the qualifying performance.

“When this car throws you a bone like it has the last two days, you have to run with it,” said Hagan, who goes into Sunday’s event – which begins at 11 a.m. MT – fifth in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings.

Matt Hagan’s Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car sports a unique design for next weekend’s 32nd-annual MOPAR Mile-High NHRA Nationals as the Don Schumacher Racing driver will pilot the MOPAR/DieHard machine here at Bandimere Speedway.

“It’s great to drive the MOPAR Funny Car again this year,” said the 28-year-old from Christiansburg, Va. “We drove it last year, qualified first and sparked a lot of interest in our team.”

Traction issues led to Matt Hagan, driving the Sears Auto Center Home of the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, losing his first-round match today during the 14th-annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals here at Route 66 Raceway.

An excess of power on a hot race track produced tire spin, loss of traction and a loss to number-15 qualifier Dale Creasy Jr. Hagan, coming out of the second-starting position, pedaled his Funny Car, but could not catch Creasy. The Don Schumacher Racing machine posted a 4.620 run at 259.91, not quick enough to catch Creasy’s 4.396 at 268.06.

“This car didn’t react the way a number-two qualifier should,” he said. “We should be getting out of the first round. I’m not happy, the crew and Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) are not happy and Don (Schumacher) is not happy.”

Hagan believes a test session Monday should go a long way to helping the team resolve some of its issues.

“We have to focus on one thing – going out and going rounds,” he said. “We’ll test here tomorrow and the weather will be hot and the track will be slippery, which are conditions we need to work on as the season moves into the summer months.”

Remaining positive, despite passing the half-way point of the 22-race 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season without a victory, is key to improving, Hagan believes.

“We can’t walk around with our heads down; we have to keep our confidence. We need to get results out of this test session and apply it to the next few races, which could offer similar, tough conditions.

“I feel Tommy can turn this thing around. He’ll find and pick a setup combination and ‘rub on it.’ I trust him, he trusts me and I’ll stay with him to the bitter end. This is the guy who makes the decisions and we go with them.

“And we have eight wonderful guys working on the DieHard car – the best of the best!”

Hagan heads to the Western Swing, consecutive weekends, beginning July 22, in Denver, Sonoma and Seattle, sitting in fifth place of the Funny Car standings. He trails Mike Neff (today’s winner), DSR teammate Jack Beckman, Robert Hight and Cruz Pedregon (respectively).

Aboard the Sears Auto Center Home of the DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, Matt Hagan grabbed the second-starting position for Sunday’s 14th annual Route 66 NHRA Nationals here at Route 66 Raceway.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver’s 4.114-second, 296.18-mile-per-hour lap in Friday’s second-qualifying session propelled him into a first-round match Sunday against 15th-qualifier Dale Creasy Jr.

Weather – midday heat – could introduce a new factor for Sunday’s eliminations, which begin at 11 a.m. CT, but Hagan’s concerns are tempered by success during qualifying.

“Tommy DeLago (crew chief) got this hot rod down the track three times, including in the heat of Friday and Saturday afternoons,” said the defending event champion. “It may be a bit hotter tomorrow then it was Friday, but it was very hot (track temperatures exceeded 130 degrees) and we put up some good numbers (4.320 at 243.19 and 4.225 at 284.03, second-best of the first and third rounds).

“Remember, everyone has to deal with the same conditions, with the same limited data.”

Hagan, who came into the weekend fifth in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings, is excited about both the qualifying results and final-eliminations prospects due to a change in his ride.

“We brought out last-year’s car for this race and we made three solid runs during qualifying,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native. “We still need more runs with this race car, but we are definitely going in the right direction.

“We won three races and finished second in the championship last year with this car, so I’m really excited about driving it again – and making our first appearance of 2011 in the winner’s circle with it.”

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Next NHRA Event 2018

FC Mello Yello Points

Funny Car (Unofficial)

1. Courtney Force (1197)
2. Ron Capps (1032)
3. Robert Hight (1024)
4. Matt Hagan (1001)
5. Jack Beckman (967)
6. J.R. Todd (863)
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (819)
8. John Force (807)
9. Shawn Langdon (680)
10. Bob Tasca III (656)