Matt Hagans Near Top of Speed Charts at Daytona ARCA Test UP NEXT FOR VETERAN RACER WILL BE A SHAKEDOWN TEST AT TALLADEGA INDIANAPOLIS, IN (December 20, 2005) -- The 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series season doesn't start for about another two...
Matt Hagans Near Top of Speed Charts at Daytona ARCA Test
UP NEXT FOR VETERAN RACER WILL BE A SHAKEDOWN TEST AT TALLADEGA
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (December 20, 2005) -- The 2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series season doesn't start for about another two months, but that's not stopping many teams from getting a head start for the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Matt Hagans and the Hagans Racing team was one of those teams getting geared up for the "Florida Speedweeks" and the ARCA season "kick-off", the Daytona 200 (televised live on SPEED Channel February 11th). They didn't just shake off the rust either. By looking at the speed charts, Hagans will be a force come race day at the historic 2.5-mile tri-oval.
Hagans was second fastest in Friday morning's first on-track session with a time of 49.439 seconds. He toured Daytona International Speedway at over 182 miles per hour. He also stayed among the top-10 speeds during the Friday afternoon session with seventh quickest time of 37 cars on the track. Saturday's session was shortened by rain, but not before Hagans could post the 10th-quickest lap of the 43 drivers who made a test run.
The showers that washed out Saturday afternoon's activities hung around to force officials to also pull the plug on Sunday's on-track activity. Despite not getting a complete test in, Matt Hagans is excited to come back to Daytona in two months when it really counts.
"I'm happy about the way things are shaping up for Daytona," said Hagans. "Everything that is important to me for this race team; the guys getting along well, the technology level, the skill level and the commitment from the guys, is all really good. The car is much improved since last year and so is the team. We haven't even optimized everything we have yet in this test. We've got some things that we're going to come back with that should make us even better when we get back here."
Hagans was able to post some impressive times over the weekend, but he still knows that there's a lot of work to be done in order to ensure that he and his Hagans Racing team finish up front come Speedweeks. A top starting spot would definitely help the cause on race day, so Hagans and the team focused their attention on getting their #9 Dodge right for qualifying during the Daytona test. As hard as they worked, there's still a lot to be gained.
"If we were to qualify for the race now, we'd probably just barely be a top-10 car and that's not good enough for us. We've got a lot of work to do, but I have a lot of confidence that, with the commitment to winning that the guys on this team have, we will get to where we need to be."
Teams that showed up for the Daytona test were limited to only single-car runs on the track, so drafting was not permitted. When the green flag falls on the field for the ARCA 200 at Daytona in February, two- and three-wide racing in a draft will be the norm.
"It's hard to know if we have a race-winning car because the draft throws everything off. If we were to do some drafting practice in the test this weekend, we'd have to be running with other fast guys and there's no guarantee that we could do that in a test like this. We won't really know what we'll have until happy hour because I'll be running with the top guys then and we'll be able to see just what we can do come raceday.
"There is nothing between now and February when that checkered flag falls that we won't try. We want to ensure we can make a run for the win. Driving-wise, car-wise, motor-wise, there's nothing that we won't try to improve on so that we can go after the win. You can run laps here eight hours a day, 300 days a year and still have things that you wish you tried. There's always something that can make your car better or worse, but you won't know until you try it. That's why we do these tests."
There's still another opportunity for Hagans to get his car right for the Daytona 200. The team will make the trip from their Indiana shop to the Talladega Superspeedway in January for more restrictor plate track time. Even newly announced Hagans Racing driver Donny Lia will be in attendance at Talladega to get accustomed to superspeedway racing. The Talladega test will be pivotal, not only in Lia's development as an ARCA racer, but also for Hagans to better his car for the Daytona race.
"We'll be going to Talladega next month to test again and get some more time before we come back. Donny will be there and that will be a positive to run together. I think that will be good for him, too, to enable him to get that experience. We want to make this car perfect and we'll give it our all."
After getting back behind the wheel of his #9 Dodge at the test to jumpstart the 2006 season, Hagans is now ready to start off the year with a strong run at Daytona. His smile in the garage during the test was not just based on his quick lap times, but also in his enthusiasm for getting back to stock car racing's true birthplace for one more shot. Helping him get there is Bobby Blount, the legendary short track racer who returns to lead the Hagans Racing crew this season.
"This race is very important to me. I'm not getting any younger so I want to be sure I take advantage of every opportunity I get. I feel good about the team and we've got some good, new crewmembers we've recruited that have some really great racing experience behind them. I feel good about Bobby, as well. He's got a lot of experience in Cup, Busch, Trucks, ARCA, you name it.
"I'm very happy with how things are coming along, so now I'm really looking forward to the race. We'll do everything possible to make sure we can leave Daytona feeling good about what we were able to accomplish."