BROWNSBURG, Ind. (April 24, 2012) – Matt Hagan devoted most of Tuesday speaking to students at the middle school he attended near Christiansburg, Va.
His message was setting goals and focusing on attaining them.
The reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion only needed to look to how his 2012 Full Throttle Drag Racing season has gone to realize that adversity can challenge a course set to reaching goals.
“Life is full of challenges and how you deal with those challenges; how you take that hardship and turn it into something positive,” Hagan said. “Sometimes that’s hard to do.”
The hard-working cattle farmer always believed that philosophy but he’s had to study a refresher course the way the 2012 season has gone for him, crew chief Tommy DeLago and their Aaron’s Dream Machine Funny Car team.
After winning only one round in this year’s first five events, it was hard to imagine how the season could have gotten worse.
But it did two weeks ago at the Four-Wide NHRA Nationals at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.
On the Don Schumacher Racing team’s first qualifying run on April 13, a part broke and his Dodge Charger R/T exploded in a fireball. The body and engine were destroyed, and Hagan was uninjured.
But the team was unable to qualify for championship eliminations two days later marking the first time he has not earned the right to race on Sunday since 2008.
“This is about as low as it gets. A lot of folks are looking to see whether you’re going to dig deep and get back up on top or let the pressure crumble you.”
He added, “You think how in the world can I take a DNQ, a blow up and one round win under our belt all year and make that look positive? While it’s hard to make all that look positive what we can do is get with Tommy and make sure the guys on the team and keep their heads up.
You have to lead by example.”
It could be a positive omen for Hagan and the Aaron’s team that he will be racing at the track where he won his first Funny Car title in 2010. That makes the NHRA Spring Nationals a special event for him and Royal Purple Raceway near Houston a special track.
“Good, bad or indifferent, it will always be a special racetrack for me because it’s where I got my first win. We started that year off and ended up second in the world at the end of the season. It goes to show it’s not too late to bounce back.
“We need to make something out of these next couple races.
“We have a great car, a great team and Tommy is giving 100 percent. Sometime it just hasn’t materialized to what it should be. That doesn’t mean that we’re losing faith, throwing our hands up or lost any confidence in anybody. It’s just a matter of seeing what we’re made of.
“This pressure is no different than the pressure of the championship. It’s about how you deal with it and turn it into a positive and make things happen.”
HAGAN AT HOUSTON
2011: Qualified fifth; last in second round.
Career: Wins (1), 2010; runner-ups (0); poles (0).
FULL THROTTLE EVENT SCHEDULE
FRIDAY: 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m., Qualifying
SATURDAY: 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., Qualifying
SUNDAY: 11 a.m., Championship Eliminations
SATURDAY: 6-8 p.m. (EDT), Qualifying coverage (delayed)
SUNDAY: 7-10 p.m. (EDT), Championship Eliminations (delayed)