Fill-in Knudsen steps up to tune Hagan to Pomona Finals title,

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10, 2013) - A close friend of Matt Hagan and member of the Mopar/Rocky Boots Funny Car team couldn't come to this weekend's NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season finale in Southern California.

Their friend and crew chief, Dickie Venables, had to stay back in Indianapolis after having successful intestinal surgery on Wednesday. He was released from the hospital on Sunday.

Hagan and his crew, led at the Auto Club Finals by first-year assistant crew chief Michael Knudsen, could have passed the hat to collect enough money to send Venables flowers, candy or a really nice card.

Instead, the Mopar/Rocky team delivered an unbelievable weekend to the recuperating Venables that culminated Sunday with Hagan beating 2013 Funny Car world champion John Force in the championship round Sunday.

"I'm on cloud nine that our assistant crew chief stepped up and was able to fill some big shoes," Hagan said. "Mike Knudsen has never tuned a race car by himself before. There hasn't been another crew chief in our lounge all weekend.

"This guy has done a phenomenal job. It just shows you how smart the people are that this DSR organization puts around you. When something happens they can step up and take the reins and run with it. My guys have worked so hard. I'm so proud of them."

Although Hagan finished second in the Funny Car standings, it was a major turnaround season under Venables' guidance with assistance from Knudsen. In 2012, the year after Hagan won the NHRA world championship, he didn't win an event title, a No. 1 qualifying position and didn't qualify for the NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff.

This season ends with Hagan and his team winning a series-best five titles in nine championship rounds with five No. 1 qualifying performances.

"My season has just been phenomenal. How can you be upset about this many race wins and final rounds. Don has done such a phenomenal job of putting core people around us and giving us the parts that we need. Don has been very gracious to me and my career. This guy loves our sport and loves what we are doing out here."

The victory by the Mopar/Rocky team lifted DSR's season total to 23 titles during the 24-race season. It broke the organization's previous record of 22.

"I'm just proud of our guys for working so hard and stepping up. Dickie is probably at home wishing he could be here but he can put a feather in his cap for knowing he trained these boys to do what they did today."

Event Winner: Matt Hagan
No. 1 qualifier: John Force (John Force Racing) 3.995 sec., 319.37 mph

MATT HAGAN, Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 2
First round: HAGAN (4.059, 315.27) def. DeJoria (4.056, 314.24)
Second round: HAGAN (4.070, 309.98) def. Gray (4.086, 311.56)
Semifinal: HAGAN (4.057, 315.56) def. C. Pedregon (4.134, 288.09)
Final: HAGAN (4.018, 320.66) def. J. Force (4.057, 317.94)
Session 1: 4.128 sec., 306.95 mph
Session 2: 4.043, 319.42
Session 3: 4.061, 315.05

(Unofficial after 24th and last event of the season)
1. John Force 2,688
2. Matt Hagan 2,548
3. Jack Beckman, 2,445
4. Cruz Pedregon 2,415
5. Robert Hight 2,413
6. Ron Capps 2,406
7. Courtney Force 2,403
8. Del Worsham 2,309
9. Johnny Gray 2,309
10. Tim Wilkerson 2,238

2012: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car
2011: Matt Hagan, Funny Car
2009: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel
2008: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel
2007: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel
2006: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel
2005: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Gary Scelzi, Funny Car
2004: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel

2013 DSR EVENT WINS (23)
Antron Brown, 4
Spencer Massey, 4
Matt Hagan, 5
Johnny Gray, 4
Tony Schumacher, 3
Ron Capps, 3

219. FC Matt Hagan, Pomona 2
218. TF Antron Brown, Las Vegas 2
217. TF Antron Brown, St. Louis
216. TF Spencer Massey, Brainerd
215. FC Ron Capps, Brainerd
214. FC Matt Hagan, Seattle
213. FC Ron Capps, Sonoma
212. TF Spencer Massey, Denver
211. FC Johnny Gray, Norwalk
210. TF Tony Schumacher, Chicago
209. FC Matt Hagan, Chicago
208. TF Spencer Massey, Epping, N.H.
207. FC Matt Hagan, Englishtown
206. FC Johnny Gray, Topeka
205. TF Antron Brown, Atlanta
204. FC Johnny Gray, Atlanta
203. TF Spencer Massey, Charlotte 1
202. FC Matt Hagan, Charlotte 1
201. TF Tony Schumacher, Las Vegas 1
199. FC Johnny Gray, Gainesville
198. TF Tony Schumacher, Phoenix
197. FC Ron Capps, Phoenix

Feb. 6-9, Pomona, Calif.
Feb. 21-23, Phoenix
March 13-16, Gainesville, Fla. (Pro Stock Motorcycle)
March 28-30, Las Vegas
April 11-13, Charlotte, N.C. (PSM)
April 25-27, Houston
May 16-18, Atlanta (PSM)
May 23-25, Topeka, Kan.
May 29-June 1, Englishtown, N.J. (PSM)
June 13-15, Bristol, Tenn.
June 19-22, Epping, N.H. (PSM)
June 26-29, Chicago (PSM)
July 3-6, Norwalk, Ohio (PSM)
July 18-20, Denver (PSM)
July 25-27, Sonoma, Calif. (PSM)
Aug. 1-3, Seattle
Aug. 14-17, Brainerd, Minn.
Aug. 27-Sept. 1, Indianapolis (PSM)

Sept. 12-14, Charlotte, N.C. (PSM)
Sept. 18-21, Dallas (PSM)
Sept. 26-28, St. Louis (PSM)
Oct. 2-5, Reading, Pa. (PSM)
Oct. 30-Nov. 2, Las Vegas (PSM)
Nov. 13-16, Pomona, Calif. (PSM)    About the Mopar Brand  Mopar is Chrysler Group LLC's service, parts and customer-care brand. With the creation of the Chrysler Group and Fiat S.p.A. partnership, Mopar is extending its global reach, integrating service, parts and customer-care operations in order to enhance dealer and customer support worldwide. Combined with Fiat S.p.A., Mopar's global portfolio includes more than 500,000 parts and accessories that are distributed in more than 130 countries. Mopar is the source for all genuine parts and accessories for Chrysler Group and Fiat S.p.A. brands.  Mopar parts are unique in that they are engineered with the same teams that create factory-authorized vehicle specifications for Chrysler Group and Fiat S.p.A. vehicles - a direct connection that no other aftermarket parts company can provide. A complete list of Mopar accessories and performance parts is available at  

About Don Schumacher Racing

Don Schumacher Racing, headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., fields seven professional teams in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. In Top Fuel, the 2012 NHRA Top Fuel world champion Matco Tools dragster driven by Antron Brown and the U.S. Army dragster driven by seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher and the Battery Extender Powered by Schumacher dragster driven by Spencer Massey; and in Funny Car, 2012 NHRA world champion Jack Beckman in the Valvoline Max Life/MTS Mail for Wounded Warriors Dodge Charger R/T, 2011 world champion Matt Hagan in the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge, the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge of Ron Capps and the Pitch Energy Dodge of Johnny Gray.

DSR has won 219 NHRA national event titles and 11 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 12:19 AM, 11.11.2013