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Matt Hagan piloted the DieHard Advanced Gold Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car  into the number-three-starting position – and first in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship standings –  for Sunday’s 27th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals here at Maple Grove Raceway.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver opened Friday’s qualifying with a class-leading 4.076-second lap at 308.50 miles per hour using data from last year’s win – including a record-setting pass – at the Southeastern Pennsylvania track.

He followed with a 4.012 run at 316.67 mph to set up a first-round match with 14th-qualifier Blake Alexander during final eliminations, which begin at 11 a.m. EDT.

“We feel good and are having a good weekend,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native who starts Sunday’s race on top of the standings for the first time in 2011. “We need to go rounds tomorrow and in the remaining races. It’s nice to put up low numbers and to maybe lower the record (which he set two weeks ago in Charlotte at 3.995 seconds), but winning is more important.

“We need a good game plan for the rest of the Countdown and it will be more about winning rounds and races than setting records.”

Being quickest in Friday’s two rounds, as well as grabbing the points for qualifying third, allowed Hagan to pass Mike Neff in the standings as race day commences.

“There’s still a lot of racing left,” he said. “We’re not done. We have to keep on working and racing; we can’t take anything for granted – and we won’t!”

Matt Hagan, driver of the DieHard Advanced Gold Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car would like to leave here Sunday night following the 27th annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals the same way he did after last year’s race – holding first place in the Countdown to the Championship standings.

Last year at Maple Grove Raceway the Don Schumacher Racing driver used a record-setting run (4.011 seconds) to qualify on the pole and a runner-up finish to move around John Force. This year, the 29-year-old flopper pilot comes to Southeastern Pennsylvania four points – less than a round – behind Force’s teammate Mike Neff.

“We made progress and closed the gap last week in Dallas when we beat Zippy (Neff) in the first round,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native. “But we let an opportunity slip away by going out in the second round.”

A return to the hills of Southeastern Pennsylvania renews the team’s optimism.

“I hope it cools down this weekend, which it’s supposed to do, because Tommy has some great data for Maple Grove,” explained Hagan, who broke his national record earlier this month by running 3.995 seconds in Charlotte, the first sub-four-second 1,000-foot lap in history. “We could go for it again; those 20 bonus points would be a great thing to add to our total.

“You have to be greedy and go for everything this time of the year. You have to grab every advantage if you want to win the championship and that is exactly what we are gunning for.”

Hagan picked up his first win of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season at the Charlotte event – first of six Countdown races – which had moved him from sixth to second in the standings around DSR teammates Ron Capps and Jack Beckman as well as Cruz Pedregon.

A sharp eye will see something new when Matt Hagan rolls up to the starting line for Friday’s first qualifying run here at the 27th-annual Auto-Plus® NHRA Nationals – his new DieHard Advanced Gold Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.

Hagan, sitting four points off the lead in the standings coming into this weekend’s race at Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, will showcase the revised Funny Car look for the remaining four races, all Countdown to the Championship events.

“I’m thrilled that we can help our great supporters at DieHard introduce their new battery,” said the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver. “They tell me it’s the best version of the Advanced Gold battery yet and we hope to put it in the winner’s circle as early as this Sunday!”

Debuting at Sears in December, the DieHard Advanced Gold battery offers more power and longer life than its predecessor. In addition, genuine AGM Technology (absorbed matt glass technology) means no acid can spill from this sealed, maintenance-free battery.

Last October, Hagan qualified here at 4.011 seconds to set the then NHRA 1,000-foot elapsed-time record en route to reaching the race’s final round. (He has since broken this record with a 3.995-second pass, first sub-four-second one, earlier this month in Charlotte.) Hagan has four-career Funny Car wins behind the wheel of his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T.

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.”

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FC Mello Yello Points

Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

2019 Funny Car

Funny Car

1 Jack Beckman 220
2 Tommy Johnson Jr 175
3 John Force 173
4 Matt Hagan 129
5 Ron Capps 128
6 Tim Wilkerson 107
7 Robert Hight 100
8 Alexis DeJoria 99
9 Bob Tasca III 87
10 J.R. Todd 65
10 Paul Lee 65