MATT HAGAN REACHES QUARTERFINALS IN TODAY’S NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS
CHANDLER, Ariz., October 16, 2011 – Matt Hagan drove the DieHard Advanced Gold Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car into today’s second round of the 27th-annual NHRA Arizona Nationals here at Firebird International Raceway.
Having qualified sixth, Hagan used a 4.258-second pass at 287.29 miles per hour to dispatch 11th-qualifier Todd Lesenko, who was making his first national-event appearance. Event-runner-up and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Johnny Gray then topped Hagan in the second round.
“We race heads up at DSR,” said Hagan, who is in a tight fight for the championship, while Gray is not in the Countdown. “That’s the way it should be and I’m glad about it. I know Johnny and his team were working just as hard to win in the finals (against DSR teammate Jack Beckman, whose win propelled him five points ahead of Hagan); it just didn’t work out that way.”
The first-round win, coupled with the outcomes of the other 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship contenders’ runs, resulted in the 28-year-old driver finishing the weekend second in the standings.
“It was a hot, tough weekend, where it seemed everyone was struggling,” said the Christiansburg, Va. native. “Getting out of the first round was crucial – as it is every weekend.
“We had some success, but we have to win to keep the pressure on in the Countdown. We have to stay focused on our jobs and our goals and continue to work hard.
“I believe there is still a lot I can do as a driver to be better and I will. The book has already been written; we just have to read it.”
Beckman’s victory tightened up the Funny Car standings, so heading into the penultimate race of the season in less than two weeks on the Strip at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 58 points – less than three race rounds – separate the top five: Beckman, Hagan, Mike Neff, Cruz Pedregon and Robert Hight.