BROWNSBURG, Ind. (Sept. 19, 2012) - Matt Hagan’s eyes are more on the future heading to Dallas than they might have been all season.
The biggest factor in readjusting some priorities for the reigning NHRA Funny Car world champion is that he can’t defend that title regardless of what he and the Aaron’s Dream Machine/Mopar Funny Car team do at the Texas Motorplex this weekend or in the proceeding four Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events.
Hagan and crew chief Tommy DeLago missed qualifying for the Countdown to the Championship by seven points.
“For our team, missing the Countdown was pretty devastating considering what we have for funding from great sponsors and the brain trust of crew chiefs we have at DSR,” Hagan said.
“It’s one of those things that are more embarrassing than anything. But that’s racing and things happen. You have to take everything that happens out here and learn from it, and our team is learning from it.”
Hagan’s Dodge Charger R/T advanced to the semifinals Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s zMAX Dragway in North Carolina where it lost to Don Schumacher Racing teammate and eventual event winner Ron Capps.
The Aaron’s team has advanced to the semifinals in each of the past five events and went to championship rounds twice in a stunning turnaround after 13 disappointing performances.
On the racetrack, all that’s left for the team is race for event titles, which is plenty. But Hagan said he did a “gut-check” and found one way to take advantage of not running for another championship.
“The biggest thing for me at the first race in this year’s Countdown last weekend at zMAX Dragway was that my dad (David Hagan) and wife (Rachel) came to the race and we weren’t even in the Countdown. Dad owns a lot of businesses, but he came out with about 200 employees to support us. That’s huge in my eyes because they understand my racing goals.”
And that’s where a shift started.
“When you’re running for a championship you have to be so focused you don’t give enough time to important parts of life – like family. It’s awesome I’m taking time to do things with family instead of spending so much time on my practice Christmas tree to work on my reaction times.
“Obviously I always want to be better at my job driving our Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, but you have to make things that might disappoint you into something positive.”
Like taking 5-year-son Colby to football practice and 2-year-old Penny to ballet class.
“I took her to a couple ballet lessons. She’s 2 and just a doll baby. It melts my heart when I see her out there trying all the moves. (Colby) reminds me what it was like when you were a kid and everything in life was fun; no worries, just pure, wholesome fun. I plan on bringing some of that back to my drag racing team.
“Everybody out here loses sight of that joy Colby feels when he’s getting ready to go play football because we get too wrapped up in the money, pressure and performing. You have to think back to how it felt as a little boy when you stepped on that field just lovin’ life. It’s not about winning or losing yet for him. He thinks he wins every time. I get a little jealous because he has that pure love and joy for life.
“We need more than that out here and this team is going to get that back.”
And it could start with a Texas-sized title on Sunday that would be the team’s first of the year.
Matt Hagan, Aaron’s Dream Machine/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T
Career at Texas Motorplex: Wins 1 (2010), Runner-ups 0, Poles 0
2011 at Texas Motorplex: Qualified No. 12; lost in second round
2012 Pts Races Wins Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
11th 18 0 2 0 1 16-17
CAREER Races Titles Rup Poles DNQ Win/Loss
90 5 8 10 4 102-82
Friday: Qualifying, 3 p.m., 6 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 1, 3:15 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.
ON ESPN2 (times are ET)
SUNDAY: Qualifying, 1 p.m.
SUNDAY: Eliminations, 8:30 p.m.
FRIDAY: High 91 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
SATURDAY: High 89 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
SUNDAY: High 80 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain