CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 15, 2012) - Matt Hagan loved being called "champion" this year when he finished No. 1 in the Funny Car category at the end of NHRA's Countdown to the Championship last season.
Sunday marks the start of this year's Countdown to the Championship in the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway's zMAX Dragway at Concord, N.C.
But Hagan and crew chief Tommy DeLago were unable to qualify for the Countdown this time when they couldn't crack into the top-10 in points to start the six-race Countdown.
That leaves Hagan and Don Schumacher Racing's Mopar/Aaron's Dream Machine team seeking a new moniker: Spoiler.
In the Countdown, only the top-10 can contend for the NHRA world championship but all entries can compete for the event titles. That's all that's left for Hagan and his team to fight for.
"I've said since Indy when we couldn't move up that one spot to get into the top-10 that we want to win titles in the Countdown, that's all we have left to go for," Hagan said.
"We want to ruin someone's day. We want to be the spoiler."
Hagan and his Dodge Charger R/T will worry any opponent. His team has advanced to the semifinals twice and final round twice over the past four races.
"We're not in the top-10 so there's not the added pressure of worrying about points; we just need to worry about winning rounds.
"We've got a team as competitive as any out here, we just kind of turned it on a little too late."
Hagan will face another driver, Bob Tasca III, in Sunday's first round that begins at noon. Like Hagan, Tasca was expected to advance to the Countdown but fell short at Lucas Oil Raceway near Indianapolis last weekend.
Ron Capps, one of Hagan's DSR teammates and the Countdown's top-seed in Funny Car, knows how critical of a role Hagan and DeLago can play in determining the 2012 Funny Car champ.
"I know right now he and Tommy DeLago are really mad," Capps said. "I spent Sunday evening with Tommy. The frustration and disappointment is going through their heads.
"You're going to see guys that are not in the Countdown that have nothing to lose. I think they have (determined) the championship more in the past than your opponents in the Countdown. They're the spoilers, fly in there, nothing to lose, trying new tune-ups, new things.
"Tracks we're going to go to, the conditions we're going to see, cool conditions, record-setting tracks, you have a team that's mad because they didn't make it in the Countdown and they'll throw everything they have at it."
Source: Don Schumacher Racing