Charlotte: Matt Hagan final report

HAGAN IS RUNNER-UP IN CONCORD CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2009) - Matt Hagan drove the Valvoline Engine Guarantee/shelor.com Dodge into his second final round of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series today at the NHRA Carolina ...

HAGAN IS RUNNER-UP IN CONCORD

CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 20, 2009) - Matt Hagan drove the Valvoline Engine Guarantee/shelor.com Dodge into his second final round of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series today at the NHRA Carolina Nationals, losing to John Force Racing's Robert Hight.

The contender for the 2009 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as an NHRA rookie-of-the-year frontrunner had missed a spot in the Countdown to 1 playoffs, which began this weekend at zMAX Dragway, but he demonstrated his and the team's ability to still win rounds.

Before he met up with Hight in the final, he disposed of both Pedregon brothers: points leader Tony in the opening round with a 4.141-second pass at 305.91 mph, then Cruz in the semifinal with a stout 4.102/307.72, each quicker than his No. 13 qualifying pass of 4.145/292.14.

In between the Pedregon dismissals, he ousted Jeff Arend with a 4.143/304.67 in the quarterfinal.

"Just a great day of racing," said 26-year-old Hagan, who is awaiting the birth of his second child and first daughter Penny Louise at any moment. "I am so proud of my crew chief Tommy DeLago and everybody on the Valvoline/shelor.com team. I think we all did our jobs out there this weekend. Hight just had a little better car and got me a little bit on the light (reaction time).

"I have nothing to complain about. I had a .074 light to his .066, and he ran a 4.09 and we ran a 4.10. You can't ask for closer drag racing than that. Robert had the best car today." Margin of victory: six feet.

"Obviously, it's one race too late," he added of his not making the Countdown at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, "but we want to go some rounds, and try to get the Wally (event trophy named after NHRA founder Wally Parks) in each race that is left. If this is a sign of what's coming in the next five races, I sure am excited.

"I just kept doing the same thing all day. I started driving the way I wanted to drive and Tommy said, 'Hey, go do your thing up there,' gave me the reins, and I tried to run with it. To be a rookie out here I'm tickled with that.

"I'm very disappointed that we didn't win because I know we have the race car to do it. I know it's going to happen; we have five more races to do it.

"I was nervous all day long, from the word go. It's mentally exhausting and physically exhausting for all of us out here, and I'm just super proud of everybody on this team."

Once Hagan's teammate Ron Capps was out of the event, his crew chief Ed "Ace" McCulloch offered his assistance to Hagan and the team. "Ace was in there helping out," said Hagan. "Tommy really did a good job and stepped up to the plate today. He and Ace were just comparing notes. I could see Ace's feet out of the corner of my eye in the car when I was up there at the staging lights, so I always knew he was up there watching.

"It's always good to have great guys like that around you and I think that's why this Don Schumacher Racing program does so well.

"I had a lot of fun this weekend. I'm going to go back home, take care of my wife Rachel, and get some rest and do it over again next weekend."

Hagan remains 12th in the Funny Car point standings.

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Jeff Arend , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan