Hagan ready for first race of Countdown in Charlotte

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Hagan ready to face six one-race seasons as Mopar team heads to Charlotte without chance to defend championship

BROWNSBURG, Ind. - Matt Hagan will do everything over the next six NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events to disprove the adage that "you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

Matt Hagan
Matt Hagan

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

The resident and native of Christiansburg, Va., doesn't know much about pig ears. After all, he raises cattle not pigs.

But he knows you have to take bad situations and work to produce the best outcome possible, especially in racing, and he knows the importance of winning.

Hagan and his Mopar/Aaron's Dream Machine team were knocked out of the top-10 in the Full Throttle Funny Car standings on Sunday in the semifinals of the U.S. Nationals, and that meant he and the team would be deprived of a chance to defend their 2011 NHRA Funny Car world championship.

He'll start the second part of the season on Friday in the NHRA Nationals Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway's zMAX Dragway at Concord, N.C.

"My whole career out here has been pressure-filled drama. Every year it's been about fighting for points," he said. "The first year we were close to making the Countdown, and the last two years were championship hunts.

"No matter what you do and no matter how you look at it, it doesn't soften the shortcomings our team had for the first 13 races this year. We know we're better than that, everybody knows we're better than that."

The only times the Mopar/Aaron's team got past the second round was the last four events when it advanced to two championship rounds and two semifinals.

During his rookie season and first with Don Schumacher Racing, Hagan just missed making the Countdown and finished the season 11th in points, which is the best he can do this year. Two years ago he battled 15-time champion John Force to the season finale and finished 42 points out of first.

Then last year, his drama didn't end until the semifinals of the season's last race when he clinched the championship.

Only the top-10 in points after the 17th event of the season can contend for the coveted championship over the last six races that will pay a $500,000 bonus, a big diamond ring and bragging rights for eternity.

The Full Throttle season is far from over for Hagan and others not in the Countdown; there are six event titles to win.

"My attitude is I'm not going out there to make friends. The gloves are coming off, they've been off but now I'll do whatever it takes to win.

"I'm going to each race to wreck their day. I don't care. I'm going to have fun trying to win races. We didn't do what we needed to do, now maybe we can mess with someone else's day and put a frown on their face.

"I've always felt I could rise to the occasion so it will be a challenge for me to see if I can adapt to not having pressure on me and making myself get up and really do what I need to do to win races."

Hagan is starting his mission at the best track for him.

At last year's fall race at zMAX, Hagan, with crew chief Tommy DeLago, became the first Funny Car to complete a run in less than 4 seconds. The Dodger Charger R/T's time of 3.995 seconds earned the pole and the Mopar/Aaron's team went on to win the event title.

"I just love Charlotte," Hagan said. "I love the guys that run the track. I consider it my home track because it's only 3 hours from home and we race there twice a year. And it's fast."

Although he swept the track's fall event a year ago, it was not very nice to him in April during the Four-Wide Nationals.

On his third qualifying attempt, a parts malfunction led to an engine explosion and fireball that destroyed the Dodge body, and upon exiting the cockpit Hagan flung a big piece of the debris at the car. It was the only NHRA event this year in which the team failed to qualify. But the video went viral on the Internet and was shown on televised news broadcasts around the world.

"I was interviewed by a reporter from Britain and heard from some friends in Australia who saw it. That explosion might have made me famous worldwide for a week but I'd rather repeat what happened last fall then this spring."

Source: Don Schumacher Racing

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Series NHRA
Article type Preview
Tags dodge, hagan, mopar, schumacher, zmax

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