BROWNSBURG, Ind. (May 1, 2012) - Matt Hagan must have been born with a smile on his face because the reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion seems to always be showing off his pearly whites.
The 29-year-old cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va., remains optimistic – and smiling – as his Aaron’s Dream Machine team sorts through a variety of gremlins and misfortune that have it mired 13th in points after six of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.
“This is about as low as it gets,” said Hagan. “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.”
Hagan’s Dodge Charger R/T improved last weekend after it didn’t qualify for the previous event near Charlotte, N.C. Hagan’s quicker reaction at the starting line nearly put the car into the second round.
This weekend’s NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., couldn’t be a better track for the team to make a turnaround.
Hagan’s primary sponsor, Aaron’s, is based in Atlanta and a big group of supporters will venture about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta to back him.
“Man, winning at Atlanta would be awesome,” Hagan said. “The folks at Aaron’s have been so supportive of us while we’re struggling a bit. Heck, the Lucky Dog was even at the Houston race.
“We’re getting closer to straightening out our Aaron’s Dream Machine and it would be great to start it at Atlanta.”
Unfortunately, the track has not been very kind to him. In three previous events there he has only advanced to the second round once.
“Atlanta really hasn’t been a good track for me. It’s always been hot. But it could be cool and great conditions, but more than likely it will be hot and sticky,” he said.
The forecast is for high temperatures to be near 90 so the only part of his trip to Atlanta that will be cool is Wednesday night when he’s one of the NHRA Full Throttle champions to be feted Wednesday night at the Coca-Cola Company’s NHRA Champions Dinner at the World of Coca-Cola in Downtown Atlanta.
“I’m really looking forward to be able to go to that with my teammate Tony Schumacher,” Hagan of the event that honors all former Full Throttle champions.
“But last year’s over, you know what I mean? It’s nice and glad we won the championship but we’re a long way from being there again and we have to keep working hard to get back there.”
He’ll keep on smiling although it hasn’t been easy do it at racetracks this year.
But it might get easier this weekend.
AT ATLANTA 2011
Qualified third; lost to Mike Neff in second round.
CAREER AT ATLANTA
(Updated through Spring Nationals near Houston; 6th of 23 events)
2012 Pts W Rups Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Matt Hagan 13th 0 0 0 1 1-6
2011 Pts Ws Rups Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Matt Hagan 1st 2 2 4 0 33-20
Career Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
Matt Hagan 5 6 10 4 87-70
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
SOUTHERN NATIONALS NITRO SCHEDULE
Friday – 4:30 p.m., 7 p.m., qualifying
Saturday – 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., qualifying
Sunday – 11 a.m., championship eliminations
Qualifying: 7-9 p.m. ET, Saturday (delayed)
Eliminations: 7-10 p.m., ET, Sunday (delayed)