BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Aug. 14, 2012) - After Matt Hagan enjoyed the two best weeks of this year’s NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series there was no way he was going to miss a weekend of racing.
The driver of Don Schumacher Racing’s Mopar/Aaron’s Dream Machine Funny Car was runner-up at the past two Full Throttle events and needed something to tide him over until this weekend’s NHRA Nationals at Brainerd, Minn.
So he flew to Texas Thursday and went drag boat racing for the first time.
The cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va., is now licensed to drag race even on a wet track provided power is distributed to a propeller and not rubber slicks.
“Man, that was just awesome,” Hagan said after going 168.539 mph to complete the liquid quartermile in 7.090 seconds during Lakefest at Marble Falls, Texas, in the Lucas Oil Drag Boat Series. “It’s not like I’m going to quit my regular job driving my Dodge but I’d like to try it again.
“You know, it was just something I wanted to try … something I wanted to do for myself. I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anybody.”
Hagan was the pilot of Randy Benson’s Texas Bounty Hunter H20 in the Pro Modified class for supercharged boats with fully-enclosed driver capsules. Benson has won series championships in the category several times and is contending again.
“I wanted to make some more laps in the boat but Randy is going for a championship and I didn’t want to take any chance of messing him up,” Hagan said. “Randy and everyone on the team was great. I almost felt like a rock star out there.
“It really got me out of my comfort zone. I think it will help me when I get back into our Aaron’s Dodge on Friday. Everything in the boat was new to me and I had to focus harder on everything. That will help when I get back in our Dodge.”
And he can’t wait to get back into his 322-mph Dodge Charger R/T.
Hagan and crew chief Tommy DeLago are coming off two solid NHRA events when they advanced to the championship rounds at Sonoma, Calif., and near Seattle. Those efforts enabled the Aaron’s team to move up two spots in Full Throttle points to 11th and are only 62 outside of making the top-10 and qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, which will be contested over the last six events of the 23-race season.
Hagan and DeLago still have an uphill battle to make it to No. 10 with only Brainerd and the U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend remaining, but it is within reach. Each win during elimination rounds pays the driver 20 points.
“We’re excited and tickled that we’re making forward progress and going in the right direction,” Hagan said of the team’s turnaround.
Before making the finals three weeks ago at Sonoma, the team had only made it to the second round four times through the first 13 events. The team won four rounds through the first 13 events and have won six in the last two.
He sees a realistic chance to defend his 2011 NHRA Funny Car world championship.
“If you’d have asked me a month ago I probably would have told you my chances were not very good. But we’ve made it to two championship rounds in the last two races and it’s within reach now. I think we’re going to make it in with our Aaron’s Dodge.
“You can’t win it if you’re not in it. Our goal heading to Brainerd is to qualify good and then win rounds. We’re not looking any farther down the road than that. You can’t ’cause if you do you’re gonna get bit. If you qualify good and win rounds everything else will take care of that.
“You know, I’ve been confident in Tommy and our whole Aaron’s/Mopar team all year. That might sound stupid because of the lows we’ve had but Tommy never forgot how to tune a racecar and our guys sure as heck haven’t forgotten how to work on my hot rod. Confident? I’m always confident when it comes to our team.”
Shirley Muldowney joins Vote4Hagan.com campaign
The most famous name in NHRA drag racing has endorsed the candidacy of Matt Hagan in his race to get into the Sept. 2 Traxxas Nitro Shootout.
“If it’s for Matt Hagan I will crawl on my hands and knees over broken glass,” said Shirley Muldowney, the most successful woman in motorsports history and most famous drag racer of all time.
Muldowney, winner of three NHRA Top Fuel world championships, has adopted Hagan as her favorite racecar driver.
“Something about what Matt brings to our sport is so different from what anyone else has brought into this sport,” she said. “I have never had a hero in any sport I looked up to until I met Matt. He’s the most handsome man I’ve ever met, but he could be a 99-year-old man. It doesn’t matter to me, because he is just a special, special man.”
That’s why she wants to see Hagan pull enough votes between Aug.19 and 28 at Facebook.com/nhra to enhance his chance of getting into the Shootout by having his name drawn in a weighted lottery at noon on Aug. 29 during NHRA Fanfest at Monument Circle in Downtown to kick off the Aug. 29-Sept. 3 U.S. Nationals.
The first seven spots in the eight-car Shootout, which will pay the winner $100,000, went to the first seven winners of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events this season.
She appreciates Hagan for more than his good looks and driving skills that led him to the 2011 NHRA Funny Car world championship.
“He is an excellent, excellent driver. That goes without saying,” she said. “But what makes him so special is that he’s down to earth and a wonderful family man. He is wonderful to everybody, and he shows he has feelings for people. He warms my heart.”
The following are Hagan’s statistics, Funny Car standings and notes:
Matt Hagan, Mopar/Aaron’s Dream Machine Dodge Charger R/T
2011 at Brainerd: Qualified No. 1; lost to Ron Capps in semifinals
Career at Brainerd: Wins 0, Runner-ups 0, Poles 1 (2011)
2012 Pts Races Wins Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
11th 15 0 2 0 1 10-14
Career Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
87 5 8 10 4 96-79
NHRA FULL THROTTLE FUNNY CAR STANDINGS
(Through Kent, Wash., 15 0f 23 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; *clinched spots in Countdown)
1. *Robert Hight, 1,143
2. *RON CAPPS, 1,112
3. *JACK BECKMAN, 1,003
4. JOHNNY GRAY, 942
5. Mike Neff, 933
6. Courtney Force, 851
7. Cruz Pedregon, 803
8. Jeff Arend, 749
9. John Force, 746
10. Bob Tasca, 739
11. MATT HAGAN, 677
FULL THROTTLE NITRO SCHEDULE:
Friday: Qualifying, 3 and 6 p.m. (CT)
Saturday: Qualifying, 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. (CT)
Sunday: Eliminations, 11 a.m. (CT)
Saturday: qualifying, 11 p.m.-1 a.m. (ET), delayed
Sunday: eliminations, 9-11 p.m. (ET), delayed