Seattle: Matt Hagan preview

ROOKIE HAGAN CONTINUES ON LEARNING CURVE IN SEATTLE KENT, Wash. (July 14, 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, continues on his ...

ROOKIE HAGAN CONTINUES ON LEARNING CURVE IN SEATTLE

KENT, Wash. (July 14, 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, continues on his pro-driver learning curve as he competes this weekend at another new venue for him at the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

The 26-year-old Angus Cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va., who drives the shelor.com Dodge Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing this year, is checking off new tracks on his list as he aims for not only the rookie-of-the-year honors but the championship as well.

It's anyone's game as the top 10 in points begin the Countdown to 1 playoffs in the final six races of the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Hagan is No. 9 in the rankings and has as good an opportunity as the other nine to battle it out for the crown to the finish.

Getting accustomed to the unique qualities of each new venue is part of the deal. "I've never been to Seattle," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's always a new experience learning these new tracks. All the tracks look the same but they act so differently. Like in Denver. It wanted to pull you to the right in both lanes, so you just had to know that and compensate for it.

"It's fun to walk into something totally new and try to conquer it. You just never know what you're going to get with these 8000-horsepower cars at these race tracks under different conditions, so you definitely have to keep your eyes wide open in the car, pay attention and make sure you do your job out there."

As for getting down to sea level after a weekend competing on a mile-high track carved out of the side of a mountain in Denver, "I can finally start breathing again," said Hagan, who reached one final round this year in Las Vegas. "The biggest thing with being mile-high is you have to keep hydrated. You can feel the altitude as soon as you get off the airplane. It's nothing major. I didn't go do any running there.

"There's going to be some more downforce on the car at sea level, so hopefully it will handle a lot better. In Denver the car was definitely darting around a lot and you had to stay on top of it. That was a concern for me because we just front-halved the car and I asked Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) why it was not driving the way it should. He said it was most likely the air up there in Denver, or the lack of it. So, by getting back to sea level, the car should start to run like a string again, straight down the groove.

"I have a lot of confidence in the Don Schumacher chassis builders. Everything that we've gotten from them this year has been top-notch, first-class all the way. And that's why I was a little surprised that it didn't handle as well. I learned a lot about racing in thin air, so I can't wait to get back to sea level and hopefully not have to saw at the wheel so much."

-credit: dsr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Don Schumacher , Matt Hagan