JOLIET, Ill. (July 9, 2017) - After a semifinal exit at the 20th annual Route 66 Nationals near Chicago, Matt Hagan and the Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Powered by Pennzoil team set their sights on Denver and later the Countdown to the Championship.
On Sunday, Hagan entered race day at the Route 66 Nationals as the No. 4 qualifier with his time of 3.895 seconds at 332.10 mph from the second qualifying session on Friday.
The team, led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Mike Knudsen, lined up for round one against former nitro champion Del Worsham. Hagan clocked a time of 4.162 (251.95) to give him the win light over Worsham's tire smoking 5.718 (133.68).
In the second round, Hagan matched up with Alexis DeJoria of Kalitta Motorsports. Hagan ran a 4.006 (319.60) to win over DeJoria's 4.399.
Hagan then moved onto the semifinals to face his Don Schumacher Racing teammate and NHRA points leader, Ron Capps.
The Mopar Express Lane car left the starting line first but Capps got to the finish line first to with a time of 4.038 (318.84) over Hagan's 4.088 (313.58).
"We learned some stuff in the clutch department in the seat on a hot racetrack," Hagan said. "Obviously we would do a few little things different than what we did in the semis, but went to the semis.
"We're trying to catch Capps and he's just kind of pulling away a little bit with stuff. But that's why they have the Countdown nowadays."
The Countdown to the Championship is the NHRA's playoffs. After the U.S. Nationals during Labor Day weekend, the NHRA points are reset as the circuit runs its six final races of the season.
"We're just going to keep working on it. I wouldn't trade Dickie Venables or Mike Knudsen for anybody out here, man. I know when things cool down a little bit nobody can touch our race car so I'm really looking forward to the Countdown and the last six races."
In two weeks, the NHRA circuit travels to Denver for the 38th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals to kick off the annual Western Swing, a three week swing through Colorado, northern California and Washington.
"Denver is huge event for Mopar. We'll be doing stuff non-stop. I'm going to have my son there with me. It's going to be a big event. It's got a new feel to it so we'll start it off right and hopefully win that race for our sponsor."
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane 2017 Dodge Charger R/T
Crew chief: Dickie Venables; Assistant: Michael Knudsen
SUNDAY'S CHAMPIONSHIP ELIMINATIONS
First round: HAGAN (4.162 sec., 251.95 mph) def. Del Worsham (5.718, 133.68)
Second round: HAGAN (4.006, 319.60) def. Alexis DeJoria (4.399, 210.67)
Semifinals: Ron Capps (4.038, 318.84) def. HAGAN (4.088, 313.58)
Qualified: No. 4
FRIDAY: 3.946 sec., 326.40 mph, (Session 1); 3.895, 332.10, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 4.970, 158.20, (Session 3); 10.009, 74.92, (Session 4)
CHICAGO BY THE NUMBERS
Last event (June 15), Norwalk, Ohio: Qualified No. 1, lost in second round to Jack Beckman
A year ago at Chicago: Qualified No. 1, lost in semifinals to Ron Capps
Career at Chicago: Wins 3 (2014, 2013, 2010); Runner-ups1 (2015); Poles 1 (2016)
2017 NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(Unofficial after Joliet, Ill.; 13th of 24 events; wins in parenthesis; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1 RON CAPPS (6) 1,208 -----
2 MATT HAGAN (3) 1,022 -186
3 JACK BECKMAN (2) 914 -294
4 Robert Hight 853 -355
5 TOMMY JOHNSON JR. (1) 833 -375
6 Courtney Force 749 -459
7 John Force (1) 718 -490
8 Tim Wilkerson 599 -609
9 J.R. Todd 559 -649
10 Cruz Pedregon 463 -745