FIFTH-STARTING SPOT FOR MATT HAGAN IN SUNDAY’S BIG O TIRES NHRA NATIONALS

Matt Hagan
Matt Hagan

Photo by: Ted Rossino

LAS VEGAS, October 29, 2011 – Matt Hagan qualified his DieHard/Rimco Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car fifth and thus will go into Sunday’s 11th-annual Big O Tires NHRA Nationals here as the leader in the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship standings.

Hagan banked a 4.093-second pass at 310.05 miles per hour in Friday’s second qualifying session to earn a first-round match against 12th-qualifier Tim Wilkerson in the final eliminations which begin at 11 a.m. PDT.

“We’ve got a really tough draw for that first round,” explained the 28-year-old Don Schumacher Racing driver. “Tim is good in the heat and in the cool weather, but I have a lot of confidence in this DieHard Funny Car heading into tomorrow’s race.

“We made it down the track three out of four times in qualifying and are carrying a lot of momentum into the race.”

The lone off-pace lap on The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came in today’s fourth and final session. He opened Friday with a 4.142-second pass, quickest of the session, followed by the 4.093 lap in the evening run before posting a 4.130 in today’s earlier round.

“We went for it this afternoon and took a shot at the top spot because, as Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) said, the worst we could do was end up fifth,” said about a tire-smoking 5.369 lap. “We just have to put four good runs together tomorrow.”

Hagan’s qualifying points enabled him to pass DSR teammate Jack Beckman and begin Sunday with a one-point lead. Mike Neff, 13 points behind, Cruz Pedregon, 45, and Robert Hight, 50, finish out the top five in the standings, all within three rounds of the lead.