BAYTOWN, Texas (April 29, 2012) - Matt Hagan's cat-like reflexes and an improving Aaron's Dream Machine Dodge Charger R/T came within a few feet Sunday from advancing past the first round for only the second time this year.
The reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion and crew chief Tommy DeLago qualified 13th but nearly upset higher qualified Jeff Arend who had his choice of lanes at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston. Arend's run was quicker at 4.141 seconds and 308.57 mph to edge past Hagan's 4.179 at 303.57.
But Hagan's better reaction time at the starting line by two-tenths of a second made the race too close to call for Hagan.
"I didn't see him or hear him," Hagan said of crossing the finish line. "I thought our win light should have come on, it was that close at the end.
"We almost got him on a hole-shot. I just needed to be a little quicker. If my reaction time would have been a little better we might still be racing," he said after the first round.
"But 'woulda, shoulda, coulda' ... we could Monday morning quarterback it all day long but we just want to get to Atlanta and go some rounds."
Not even the presence of Aaron's Lucky Dog mascot at the track all weekend was enough to help the team's luck change. But a good place for a big turnaround would be next weekend when Hagan and the NHRA Full Throttle tour visits Commerce, Ga., near Atlanta where Aaron's headquarters are located.
Hagan's match-up with Arend was a replay from 2010 at the track when Hagan defeated Arend for his first NHRA Funny Car event title. Arend won the event a year ago.
The frustrations of 2012 continue for Hagan and DeLago. The team's eliminations record fell to 1-5.
"It was another good run to gather data to get our Aaron's Dodge back to where it was at the end of last year," Hagan said.
"If we could have gotten to the second round today we would have been where we needed to be. The car is turning the corner, Tommy's building back his confidence and just a couple more runs today help us going to Atlanta.
"Hopefully this is a good foundation for us to build on."
The following are event results for Hagan at the NHRA Spring Nationals:
Event winner: Mike Neff
Matt Hagan, Aaron's Dream Machine Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 13
Rd.1: Jeff Arend (4.141, 308.57) def. HAGAN (4.179, 303.57)
2012 NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
(Through six of 23 events; DSR drivers capitalized)
1. Robert Hight, 597
2. Mike Neff, 489
3. RON CAPPS, 379
4. JACK BECKMAN, 343
5. Cruz Pedregon, 342
6. JOHNNY GRAY, 333
7. John Force, 323
8. Bob Tasca III, 319
9. Courtney Force, 268
10.Jeff Arend, 252
13. MATT HAGAN, 202
May 4-6, NHRA Southern Nationals, Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga.
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