Hagan looks to finish 2013 NHRA season strong

BROWNSBURG, Ind.  - The 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has been a remarkable turnaround for Matt Hagan.

In 2012, Hagan never won an event title or led qualifying, suffered nine first-round losses and failed to make the Countdown to the Championship playoffs for a chance to defend his 2011 NHRA Funny Car championship.

With the addition of crew chief Dickie Venables on Feb. 1, just two weeks before the season opener on Feb. 14 at Pomona, Calif., 2013 was much more successful for the Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team.

Venables took Hagan and the team to the final round during the second NHRA event in Phoenix in February. Three races later in Charlotte, where Hagan did not qualify in 2012, they earned their first win. Hagan went on to capture wins at Englishtown, N.J., Chicago and Seattle.

Hagan entered the Countdown to the Championship with the points lead, but hasn't made a semifinal or final round appearance in the past four Mello Yello events. The best he can now finish is second in the final standings.

"We still have some pressure to win," Hagan said. "The pressure for us is just to finish strong. You hate to do so well all year long and then end up third our fourth in points. We need to finish strong and show everyone that we still have a good Mopar Funny Car."

Hagan is proud of leader Venables and the eight other crew members wrenching on the Mopar Funny Car.

"Not winning the championship doesn't take away from what we've done this year," he said. "We have a phenomenal group of guys and we just continue to get stronger. I think that we've learned a lot. I think we've figured out what we were doing wrong here at the end a little bit."

DSR teammate and 2012 Funny Car champion Jack Beckman sits 19 points, less than one round of racing, behind Hagan in third.

"We just need to keep moving forward and stay positive. We definitely want to finish second in points and end our season with a win."

MATT HAGAN, Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
Last event (Oct. 27, Las Vegas): Qualified No. 5; lost in first round to Alexis DeJoria.
February at Pomona: Qualified No. 9; lost in second round to Courtney Force.
Last year, at Pomona Finals: Qualified No. 13; lost in first round to Courtney Force.
Career at Pomona Winternationals: Wins 0; Runner-ups 1 (2011); Poles 0
Career at Pomona Finals: Wins 1 (2011); Runner-ups 0; Poles 1 (2011)
Career at Pomona: Wins 1; Runner-ups 1; Poles 1
         Pts Events Titles Rup Semi 2nd rd 1st rd Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 2nd      23        4       4       1         7           7       5        0      36-19
Career         119       9       14     16       37        39      15      4     146-106

(After Las Vegas, 23rd of 24 events; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. John Force 2,581 (Clinched 2013 championship)
2. MATT HAGAN 2,429 (-152)
3. JACK BECKMAN 2,410 (-171)
4. Robert Hight 2,375 (-206)
5. Courtney Force 2,366 (-215)
6. RON CAPPS 2,354 (-227)
7. Cruz Pedregon 2,341 (-240)
8. Del Worsham 2,269 (-312)
9. JOHNNY GRAY 2,257 (-324)
10. Tim Wilkerson 2,206 (-375)
2013 REGULAR SEASON WINNERS: C. Force, CAPPS, GRAY, C. Pedregon, HAGAN, C. Pedregon, GRAY, GRAY, HAGAN, J. Force, C. Force, HAGAN, GRAY, C. Pedregon, CAPPS, HAGAN, CAPPS, Hight.
2013 COUNTDOWN WINNERS: Hight (Charlotte), C. Pedregon (Dallas), J. Force (St. Louis), J. Force (Reading), J. Force (Las Vegas).

Sept. 13-15 zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C.
(Finals: TF - Lucas def. MASSEY; FC - Hight def. HAGAN)
Sept. 19-22 Texas Motorplex, Dallas
(Finals: TF - Kalitta def. Langdon; FC- C. Pedregon def. J. Force)
Sept. 27-29 Gateway Motorsports Park, St. Louis
(Finals: TF - BROWN def. alBalooshi; FC - J. Force def. BECKMAN)
Oct. 3-6 Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa.
(Finals: TF - Langdon def. BROWN; FC - J. Force def. Head)
Oct. 24-27 Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas
(Finals: TF - BROWN def. Millican; FC - J. Force def. C. Force)
Nov. 7-10 Auto Club Raceway, Pomona, Calif. (final event of 2013)

SCHEDULE (times are PT)
Thursday: Nitro qualifying, 2:30 p.m.,
Friday: Nitro qualifying, 2:30 p.m.
Saturday: Nitro qualifying, 12:30 p.m., 2:30 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.

ON ESPN2 (times are ET)
Sunday: Qualifying, 2:30 a.m. (delayed)
Sunday: Qualifying (re-air), 2 p.m.; Eliminations, 7 p.m. (delayed)
 world championships.

Dusty Brandel

President of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association, Inc. Worked with Mike Hollander since Tapsis, Compuserve, etc. and has posted to the website since the beginning. First Female photo-journalist to be given a garage and pit pass for the NASCAR garage, 1972 at Ontario Motor Speedway. One of first seven female writers, photographers given access to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage and pits in 1971. Past President of Greater Los Angeles Press Club, 1992-96, and first female editor of the 8-Ball publication for the Press Club

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Volume 2013, Issue 11, Posted 12:16 AM, 11.07.2013