Some if not all had written off Matt Hagan's chance of getting into the NHRA Countdown to the Championship a few events back when his Aaron's Dream Machine couldn't get past the opening round of eliminations.
But Hagan and his Don Schumacher Racing Dodge Charger R/T tuned by Tommy DeLago have recaptured the magic they used to win two of the last six titles a year ago to earn the NHRA Funny Car World Championship.
Hagan drove to the championship round of an NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series for the second consecutive Sunday before losing to rookie Courtney Force for the title of the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways near Seattle.
It was Force's first NHRA Funny Car title.
"Every guy worries about losing to a girl but I don't at all," Hagan said. "She's a great driver and doing a heckuva job. She's driving the wheels off that thing."
In the championship round, Force recorded a 4.238-second run at 293.54 mph to Hagan's 4.328 (276.58) that allowed her to overcome a much quicker reaction time by Hagan.
Hagan moved up one spot to 11th in points and trails No. 10 Bob Tasca III by 42 points and No. 9 John Force by 49.
"We still have to a lot to make up," Hagan said. "We're getting there. We're doing what we need to do. We have to keeping winning rounds and the momentum is there."
Two events remain before the top-10 in points are determined to advance to the Countdown to the Championship that is contested over the last six events of the 23-race Full Throttle series.
Each round won in eliminations is worth 20 points.
Hagan started Sunday 12th in points and 91 points out of the 10th spot.
"I'm just tickled to death to go some rounds today and have some fun doing it," said Hagan, who qualified No. 5. "That's the biggest thing you have to look at. We're having fun again. It's been a very humbling season so far, and we have a lot of making up to do.
"You do appreciate it more now when you get a chance to run for the trophy.
"I feel for my guys because they did the same amount of work the last two races as the guys on the winning teams, and we haven't gotten there. But that's just racing. We have to keep a positive attitude and keep this rolling.
"We have great guys and we are still a championship team.
"It was just a matter of time until Tommy got a handle on it again. We're all human and sometime we question ourselves.
"I'm not disappointed in this weekend or last weekend."
The next event is Aug. 16-19 at Brainerd, Minn., which will be followed by the Aug. 29-Sept. 3 U.S. Nationals near Indianapolis after which the Countdown field will be set.
Event winner: Courtney Force, John Force Racing
No. 1 qualifier: Ron Capps, DSR, 4.119, 298.47
Matt Hagan, Aaron's Dream Machine Dodge Charger R/T
Qualified: No. 5
First Round: HAGAN (4.181 sec., 297.88 mph) def. Jeff Arend (4.383, 255.19)
Second Round: HAGAN (4.268, 280.08) def. Johnny Gray (5.865, 125.47)
Semifinals: HAGAN (4.410, 231.28) def. Ron Capps (5.328, 159.61)
Championship round: Courtney Force (4.238, 293.54) def. HAGAN (4.328, 276.58)
NHRA FULL THROTTLE STANDINGS
(Through Kent, Wash., 15 0f 23 events; DSR drivers in CAPS; * clinched spots in Countdown)
1. *Robert Hight, 1143
2. *RON CAPPS, 1112
3. *JACK BECKMAN, 1003
4. JOHNNY GRAY, 942
5. Mike Neff, 933
6. Courtney Force, 851
7. Cruz Pedregon, 803
8. Jeff Arend, 749
9. John Force, 746
10. Bob Tasca, 739
11. MATT HAGAN, 697
Source: Don Schumacher Racing