“I was doing some praying today entering the race. I hadn’t prayed to my mom since we lost her this year. And I said, ‘I don’t know what you are doing up there, but I sure could use some help today from you and my brother.’ You hate to see someone go out in the second round to win a championship. I don’t wish losing on anyone. That’s not my style of racing.
But it was the body of work that we did all year with Dickie Venables, Mike Knudsen, Alex Conaway and the whole TSR Dodge Direct Connection team. We were in position to win the championship if everyone went out in the same round as us. And the cards fell that way for us. We won six races and twice were runner-up which should give you a good chance for the title. It’s incredible that Tony Stewart can be the World Champion in his second year in the NHRA. He has put together an outstanding team. Some team owners have put in millions and millions of dollars in NHRA racing and never won a championship. It speaks volumes that the leader Tony is and the people he has assembled around him.
We had a fire in the car in the last qualifying run last night and I got a piece of metal in my eye. So, I was up since 3:00 a.m. trying to flush my eye out. It was scratched a little. I think that might have kept me from thinking about the eliminations today. In the race against Blake (Alexander) in the second round, I knew I started to smoke the tires and then I saw him do the same. I was chasing him at that point and almost caught him. It was close. Then when Chad Green, who is a good friend, beat Robert Hight, I ran over to him after his race and said, ‘Raise up your visor, cause I want to kiss you on the lips!’ I owe him beer for sure. We have a family atmosphere in the pits. And Robert (Hight) ran over and congratulated me too. And what do I say to the guy because I have been there too on the losing end.
Thank you to our NHRA fans. Without them we wouldn’t have sponsors like Dodge, Direct Connection, American Rebel, Rinnai, Johnsons Horsepowered Garage and many others. To be mentioned in a caliber of four Funny Car championship-winning drivers like John Force, Don Prudhomme and Kenny Bernstein is just unbelievable. I just know I’m not that good because I have surrounded myself with people better than me. Overall, I’m overwhelmed with this championship. I really can’t put it into words. After 21 races, the championship comes down to the final race to determine the title with Robert and Bob (Tasca III). That’s great racing. And the pressure for everyone is very emotional with the ups and downs. But this is why we do it.”
Team Owner Tony Stewart: “I’m so proud of Matt (Hagan). He is one of the best cheerleaders for a racing team that I know. He never lets his crew guys get down. He makes my job so much easier as a car owner. He is my little big brother. To lock this championship already in the Tony Stewart Racing Nitro history, this is an unbelievable day. Thank you to every one of our partners, crew, support workers and fans, we greatly appreciate all of the effort for the 2023 season.”
Matt Hagan, driver of the Dodge Direct Connection Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car:
- Earned No. 2 provisional qualifying position in Q1 on Friday (3.933 ET at 332.51 mph)
- Scored three bonus points for second-quickest run of the session
- Earned No. 1 provisional qualifying position in Q2 on Friday (3.869 ET at 328.46 mph)
- Scored four bonus points for quickest run of the session
- Maintained No. 1 provisional qualifying position based off of Friday’s Q2 run. In Q3 on Saturday, Hagan ran a 3.994 ET at 321.27 mph.
- Secured No. 4 qualifying position based off Friday’s Q2 run. In Q4 on Saturday, Hagan ran a 3.963 ET at 304.46 mph.
- Advanced to Round 2 on Sunday:
- Round 1: 3.945 ET at 327.11 mph, defeated Alex Laughlin (5.272 ET at 155.76 mph)
- Round 2: 4.251 ET at 261.52 mph, lost to Blake Alexander (4.196 ET at 258.71 mph)
- Finished first in the Funny Car championship standings, 12 points ahead of Robert Hight
- Hagan earned his fourth Funny Car championship. His previous championships came in 2011, 2014 and 2020. Hagan is just the fourth Funny Car driver to win as many as four championships after John Force, Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme.