Reading: Matt Hagan preview

HAGAN WILL FIGHT FOR PLACE IN COUNTDOWN IN READING CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (Aug. 20, 2009) - Matt Hagan will continue his fight for a spot in the top 10 for the Countdown 1 playoffs at this weekend's 25th annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove ...

HAGAN WILL FIGHT FOR PLACE IN COUNTDOWN IN READING

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (Aug. 20, 2009) - Matt Hagan will continue his fight for a spot in the top 10 for the Countdown 1 playoffs at this weekend's 25th annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.

The 26-year-old driver of the shelor.com Dodge Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, and contender for the 2009 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award as an NHRA rookie-of-the-year frontrunner, has a lot on his plate right now. He's 11th in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series standings, still searching for a primary sponsor to replace the one the team lost earlier in the year, knee-deep in running his family's 500-acre Angus Cattle farm in Christiansburg, Va., during the week, and supporting his wife Rachel as she prepares to give birth to their second child next month.

The family side of his life is running relatively smoothly. He flies home on Sunday nights after each race and tends to those duties. It's the at-track racing challenges that have been a source of frustration for him as he seeks not only Rookie-of-the-Year honors but a chance to vie for a championship.

The affable Hagan has reached the final round once in his rookie season, was No. 1 qualifier one time and has one semifinal and five quarterfinal finishes, yet is 30 markers out of a spot in the top 10. With two events remaining before the Countdown kicks in for the final six races of the season, he's hungry.

"The biggest thing for me is we look back and there were so many missed opportunities and that's why we're in the situation we're in right now," said Hagan, who lost in the first round on Sunday in Brainerd, Minn., to No. 10 in points Cruz Pedregon. A victory in that stanza would have moved him into 10th. "Last weekend was another lost opportunity for us. Everything fell right into place when it needed to for us to take advantage of it and we just missed it.

"That's life. You learn from it and you move on. The old saying is, 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.' Well, we ought to be really, really strong coming into this race at Maple Grove.

"I have great confidence in the crew and (crew chief) Tommy DeLago. Every time I crawl into the car I know that they've got a good, safe tune-up in the car and we're going to go down the race track.

"I don't know what to expect going into this race because Cruz is 30 points ahead of us right now. But, there are other drivers also fighting to stay in or get into the top 10. Mike Neff in ninth is not safe, and Robert Hight in 12th probably wants nothing more than to bump me further back. These next two races are going to be exciting for the fans, but it's going to be torture for us. Everybody wants to win."

In Brainerd last Sunday Cruz met up with his brother and points leader Tony Pedregon in the second round. Tony, safe in the Countdown, could have easily helped Cruz pad his 10th-place cushion. Hagan was impressed with their straight-on, head-to-head, no-games-played race.

"It says a lot for the whole Pedregon Brothers team," said Hagan. "Tony could have easily smoked the tires and let Cruz get a couple rounds on us and put us out of the running. I have a lot of respect for the whole Pedregon team to go up there and race fairly.

"I'm just going into this weekend with my eyes wide open and making sure that I do the best that I can do. As far as reaction times go, I feel like I'm getting a pretty good handle on leaving the starting line, and I've got to go up there and keep doing that and hopefully we'll go some rounds this weekend. I'm going to try get in my element and make sure that we capitalize on any advantage that we can get.

"I have been to Reading before. That's where I made my debut last year (in which he entered four events). I'm looking forward to returning. There's a great atmosphere there, with the track surrounded by all the trees. It reminds me of home."

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Cruz Pedregon , Robert Hight , Matt Hagan , Mike Neff