Driver of the Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye
Qualified: No. 3 (4.001 E.T. at 314.02 MPH)
E1: 3.991 E.T. at 307.65 MPH defeated Robert Hight 5.341 E.T. at 135.18 MPH
E2: 3.947 E.T. at 324.75 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 3.985 E.T. at 319.22 MPH
E3: 3.974 E.T. at 326.40 MPH defeated by Bob Tasca III 3.981 E.T. at 327.82 MPH
Fresh off of a runner-up finish at the previous event, reigning world champion Matt Hagan was seeking his first win of 2021 on Sunday at the NHRA Southern Nationals and advanced to the semifinal round before his quest for one final Atlanta Dragway trophy came to an end.
Hagan and the Mopar Dodge Funny Car team battled through challenging track conditions during Saturday’s two qualifying sessions to earn the No. 3 spot on the strength of their 4.001-second Q2 run, which held up to be second-quickest of the round. Their solid performance allowed them to continue their streak of starting from the top half of the field for the 10th consecutive event. Despite the top-seeded qualifying effort, Hagan found himself in the unusual position of facing fellow three-time series champ Robert Hight in the first round, a showdown typically found in the later elimination rounds. In what can only be considered a monster match-up, Hagan rocketed the Mopar machine to the second-best run of the session (3.991 E.T.) to defeat Hight and extend his round-win record over the veteran driver to 19-16.
In the quarterfinals, Hagan gave up lane choice to Tim Wilkerson, the only driver to have made a quicker pass in E1. Once again, Hagan was quick and consistent, posting low E.T. of the round by speeding through the 1,000-foot timers in 3.947 seconds to set up a semifinal meeting with Bob Tasca III, who seems to be Hagan’s ‘kryptonite’ as of late, having beat Hagan in the final round at the previous event, and in the first round at the season-opener. Against Tasca, Hagan, who is considered one of the best leavers in the sport, powered to another stout sub-four second run (3.974 seconds) but suffered a rare holeshot loss to his opponent who clocked a 3.981 E.T.
“So, coming off of another tough race with Bob Tasca in the semifinals. He just seems to have our number right now but we’ve got a good car, we’re qualifying well and we have a lot of good racing ahead of us. I’m really proud of our team, everyone works well together. We’re running well, just losing really close races. It’s just one of those things where those close ones like that, yea they’re tough to swallow, but they make you dig deeper, make you work harder, and push yourself to get to the next level. Charlotte is our next event. I’m excited about that because it’s close to home. It’s another four-wide but we went to the final at the Vegas four-wide, so hopefully, we’ll take it one step further there. Looking forward to having some fun and keep pushing this Dodge Hellcat and put on a great show for everyone.”