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Matt Hagan became the first driver in Funny Car history to break the four-second barrier during Friday's second qualifying session for Sunday’s NHRA Nationals here at zMAX Dragway.

Hagan, who also recorded the quickest lap in the opening round, grabbed the provisional pole with his 3.995-second run. Jack Beckman, sitting in third after the first day of qualifying, ran 318.92 miles per hour, the fastest 1,000-foot lap in Funny Car history.

The Don Schumacher Top Fuel drivers all ended today’s program sitting in the top-half of the field with Antron Brown second,  Tony Schumacher fourth and Spencer Massey fifth (identical elapsed times, with Schumacher’s faster lap breaking the tie).

The DSR Friday qualifying summary:

Antron Brown, Aaron’s Dream Machine/Matco Tools – 3.802 at 324.44, #2*
 Q1: 4.816 at 152.80 mph
 Q2: 3.802 at 324.44 mph

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army – 3.808 at 321.88 mph; #4*
 Q1: 7.040 at 85.93 mph
 Q2: 3.808 at 321.88 mph

Spencer Massey, FRAM/Prestone – 3.808 at 321.42 mph; #5*
 Q1: 14.757 at 77.35 mph
 Q2:  3.808 at 321.42 mph

Matt Hagan, DieHard – 3.995 at 316.23 mph; #1*
 Q1: 4.055 at 314.39 mph
 Q2: 3.995 at 316.23 mph

Jack Beckman, Valvoline NextGen/Aaron’s Dream Machine – 4.044 at 318.92, #3*
 Q1: 5.642 at 122.82 mph
 Q2: 4.044 at 318.92 mph

Johnny Gray, Service Central/Tire Kingdom – 4.087 at 312.78 mph; #8*
 Q1: 4.087 at 312.78
 Q2: 5.037 at 150.97 mph

Ron Capps, NAPA AUTO PARTS – 7.057 at 84.93 mph; #16*
 Q1: 7.057 at 84.93 mph
 Q2: 7.923 at 75.68 mph

*Qualifying as of Friday.

When Matt Hagan brings his DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to the starting line for Friday’s first qualifying session of the fourth-annual NHRA Nationals here, he will be embarking on his quest for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle championship in front of family and friends.

The race marks the beginning of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs with the Christiansburg, Va. native holding sixth place in the Funny Car standings, 70 points off the leader, Mike Neff.

Matt Hagan drove his MOPAR/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into the third round of the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil here at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

Coming out of the number-four starting position, Hagan opened final eliminations by defeating Tim Wilkerson with his quickest run of the weekend at 4.066 seconds with a top speed of 308.14 miles per hour.

He followed that up with a quarterfinal victory over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, matching his earlier performance with a 4.066-second run (at 315.05 mph!).

The semifinals pitted the 28-year-old Christiansburg, Va. native against eventual-winner Mike Neff, who held lane choice for the encounter, which proved to be a crucial advantage.

“The car had been running well throughout the weekend, but losing lane choice to Neff hurt us,” Hagan explained. “As the day went on, it became a one-lane race track and we ended up smoking the tires in the semis.

“It was great going rounds, though, and qualifying like we did (4.071 at 309.13).”

Hagan finished the 16-race “regular” 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season sixth in the Funny Car standings. This means he will travel to Concord (N.C.) for the beginning of the Countdown to the Championship at the September 15-18 NHRA Nationals at zMax Dragway 70 points behind points leader Neff.

“We wanted to move up in the standings for a better spot at the start of the Countdown,” the DSR driver said. “But, the reality is we are now closer to Mike than we were at the beginning of the weekend.

“That is the great thing about the Countdown – with the points being reset, every one of the top-10 drivers who make the playoffs have a real chance to win the championship – keep in mind that a couple of years ago Robert Hight won from the 10th spot!

“We’re going to Charlotte on a quest to win that championship. We’re going with a great car, one that really hauls!”

 Matt Hagan today qualified the MOPAR/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car fourth for the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil here at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver jumped from the 11th to the third slot with a 4.071-second blast at 309.13 miles per hour in today’s first (and the fourth overall) qualifying round. Hagan will take on 13th-qualifier Tim Wilkerson in the first round of final eliminations which begin at 11 a.m. EDT.

“I feel great,” he said after three days and five rounds – unique for the U. S. Nationals, premier event on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series schedule – of qualifying. “Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) stepped on it today when the weather turned cool and we had a terrific run (to second at the time).

“We took a shot at the top spot in the final round knowing we were well into the field and smoked the tires. It doesn’t matter, because we’ve got good information about the track and the conditions should be even better tomorrow.”

The outcome of this race will determine the Countdown to 1 playoff roster as the top-10 drivers in the Funny Car standings will compete in a six-race playoff beginning at the next race in Charlotte, N.C. Hagan sits fifth in the standings, trailing Mike Neff, Robert Hight, DSR teammate Jack Beckman and, in fourth place, Cruz Pedregon, who is the top qualifier for this race.

“We’d like to move up in the standings, to improve our position as the Countdown begins,” said Hagan about the playoffs for which the participating drivers’ points are reset. “And it’s not simply trying to catch Cruz; we want to keep ahead of (DSR teammate) Ron Capps, who’s breathing down our necks (less than a race-round win behind in sixth).

“The higher we are in the standings when the Countdown begins, the better; but first, we have to take care of business and do everything to get into the Indy winner’s circle.

Matt Hagan turned the quickest lap during pre-race testing here last week which he hopes is indicative of the potential success his MOPAR/DieHard Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car will have this weekend at the 57th-annual U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil.

The 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver flew down the Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis drag strip in 4.055 seconds at 310.41 miles per hour Thursday, quickest of the Funny Cars during open nitro testing in advance of the “Big Go.”

“We made that run in good, cool conditions and we hope we can repeat it under similar ones when the action becomes real on Friday,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native about the first nitro qualifying session scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. “We’ve been running well in recent races, but we’re still working on a new combination. We’ll run it at Indy and Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) will continue to get data from it which will be crucial as he decides on the setup for the Countdown.

“We’ve stuck with this one because it has shown promise to run in the 0s, which it hasn’t yet at a race, but it has worked well in both cool and hot conditions.”

The combination has helped Hagan reach two semifinal and one final round in the last four races (with a photo-finish first-round loss in the other race by .003 seconds). He heads into this weekend solidly in the field for the Countdown to the Championship sitting fifth in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car standings, but he would like to go deep on Sunday before the playoffs begin (at the next race in Charlotte, N.C.).

“Everybody gets pumped up for Indy, but for me, I want to win every race, to do well at every race,” he said. “We have to treat it as ‘just another race’ so we don’t get too pumped up; we have to stay on our game and not let the hype take over.

“Maybe some folks try too hard for this race which can get them in trouble. We just have to do our thing.”

Last year Hagan set a track elapsed-time record of 4.039 en route to his number-one qualifying position and a semifinal appearance on race day.

“We just try to do the best job we can every time we go to the starting line.”

Next NHRA Event

FC Mello Yello Points

Unofficial NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings:

Funny Car

1 Jack Beckman 278
2 Tommy Johnson Jr 276
3 Matt Hagan 238
4 Tim Wilkerson 179
5 John Force 173
6 Ron Capps 159
7 Alexis DeJoria 154
8 Bob Tasca III 149
9 J.R. Todd 141
10 Robert Hight 100