HAGAN EDGED OUT BY JOHN FORCE IN READING FIRST ROUND MOHNTON, Pa. (Aug. 23, 2009) - Matt Hagan, a contender for the 2009 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as an NHRA rookie-of-the-year frontrunner, lost the first ...
HAGAN EDGED OUT BY JOHN FORCE IN READING FIRST ROUND
MOHNTON, Pa. (Aug. 23, 2009) - Matt Hagan, a contender for the 2009 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as an NHRA rookie-of-the-year frontrunner, lost the first "match-up of a lifetime" of his career today when he faced 14-time Funny Car champion John Force for the first time in eliminations at the 25th annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, outside of Reading, Pa.
Hagan drove the shelor.com Dodge Funny Car hard, clean and straight down the 1000-foot race track, posting the fourth quickest pass of that round of 4.260 seconds at 279.27 mph, but he didn't beat Force to the finish line, as Force recorded a slower but winning 4.273/274.72. Hagan's .071 reaction time was on par with the majority of the other competitors, but Force's .049 was the second best of that round (.000 is perfect). Only Del Worsham surpassed him with a .038.
"We were both in a little bit at the starting lights," said a disappointed Hagan. "I think he was in a little bit more. But the end result is his win light came on first. If we had drawn anybody else this weekend for the first round, I think we would have won." Hagan, 11th in the standings, is trying to get himself into the top 10 in order to vie for the championship in the Countdown to 1 playoffs, which begin after the next event, the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. With 10th place Cruz Pedregon also being dismissed in the first round, Hagan is 31 points shy of that spot.
"I am 110 percent over having bad luck," said the 26-year-old Angus Cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va. "I don't know what I have to do to change my luck. I definitely am going to stay away from the casinos when we get to Las Vegas later this year.
"We're all frustrated. It's so tough to keep your head up right now. It's especially hard for me because when we lost the major sponsor we had earlier in the year because of the economy, my family and Don Schumacher stepped in to help, and it's been tough for all of us. It's not for lack of effort out here, but it's so competitive in this class.
"I don't feel like we left anything on the table. I had an .071 light and that's one of my better lights. And I know Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) really did a good job out there today. Because we didn't have lane choice he pulled out some timing out of it up top and, even though it spun the tire a little bit out there, we thought it might spin a lot earlier. I am so proud of Tommy.
"Lane choice and the water seepage on the track may have had something to do with it, but a lot of stuff had a lot to do with it. It's hard to express how frustrated we are right now.
"I can't say I could have done any better. I think we were just lined up against a guy who might have had a little faster race car and cut a better light. It's hard to describe how every driver stages for what purpose and what's deep and what's not deep. It's hard to be upset with yourself when you have an .070 light.
"We're going to go to Indy to test on Wednesday and hopefully we’ll have some good results out of that. I'm looking forward to it.
"I'm kind of ready to get back to the farm right now. We have some millet down so I'm going to start baling it up tomorrow. That will give me some relaxation time."
Next up is the 55th annual U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Sept. 4-7, 2009.
Today's racing action experienced a four-hour-plus delay while the NHRA Safety Safari cleaned up the water that was seeping through the track surface.