POMONA, Calif., (Feb. 12, 2017) – Matt Hagan entered this weekend’s NHRA Winternationals with a new set of goals for himself and the Mopar Express Lane team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen.
Hagan is extremely motivated this year for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season as he continues to deal with the loss of his younger brother, Kyle, who died of natural causes earlier this year.
“It’s just a real special race for me,” Hagan said. “A lot of stuff happened over the offseason with losing my brother and I’m just coming out motivated. My lights have been great, the car is running great. We’ve just got a real powerhouse team right now.”
And what a powerhouse they are. Hagan tied both ends of his national record in route to the No. 1 qualifying spot with a 3.822-second, 335.57-mph pass on Saturday evening to close out qualifying.
The team followed up their Saturday performance with four round wins on Sunday knocking off Jeff Diehl, Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, defending Funny Car world champion and teammate Ron Capps in the semifinal and Courtney Force in the final round.
“I’ve got to say thank you to Don Schumacher,” Hagan said. “There’s a line of drivers that would sit in that car and take my job tomorrow. But he keeps me in the car and I just try to do a good job for him. We’ve got a great team around us right now. I’m just excited.
“This is the first race of the year and you chalk it up to, ‘okay, yeah that’s great, but there’s a long season ahead of us.’ We’ve just got to keep some of this momentum going. To be driving for Mopar and carrying the banner for so long, I’m sure Pietro’s (Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar) FCA – Global) has a big smile on his face right now. We’ve just to keep that going.
“Anytime we can put those Forces on the trailer that’s what we need to do. We’re here to win and Don expects us to win.”
Event winner: Matt Hagan (Don Schumacher Racing),
No. 1 qualifier: Hagan (DSR), 3.822 sec., 335.57 mph (both match Hagan’s national records set in 2016)
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: Dickie Venables; assistant: Michael Knudsen
First round: HAGAN (3.885 sec., 331.77 mph) def. Jeff Diehl (11.556, 69.79)
Second round: HAGAN (3.882, 329.18) def. Jack Beckman (3.893, 328.30)
Semifinals: HAGAN (4.290, 207.50) def. Ron Capps (redlight disqualification)
Final: HAGAN (3.875, 330.07) def. Courtney Force (3.901, 326.95)
Qualified: No. 1
FRIDAY: 3.840 sec., 330.15 mph, (Session 1); rained out, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 3.878, 304.87(Session 3); 3.822, 335.57-both match Hagan’s national records, (Session 4)
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