HAGAN EXCITED TO BE IN FIRST COUNTDOWN CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (Oct. 31, 2010) - Matt Hagan, who was an NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year contender in 2009 and just missed getting into the top 10 for the Countdown to the Championship, plans to enjoy his first...
HAGAN EXCITED TO BE IN FIRST COUNTDOWN
CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (Oct. 31, 2010) - Matt Hagan, who was an NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year contender in 2009 and just missed getting into the top 10 for the Countdown to the Championship, plans to enjoy his first time in the playoffs as they begin this weekend at the 56th annual U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Clermont, Ind., just outside of Indianapolis.
Last year's fresh-faced rookie has turned into a fierce competitor who's given NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series veterans a run for their money this season driving the DieHard Dodge Charger Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing. He's won two national events in as many final rounds, was low qualifier twice, set a national elapsed-time record (4.022 seconds) and battled with John Force, Robert Hight and his DSR teammate Jack Beckman to the end of the regular season, ending up fourth in the standings.
"I'm very, very excited," said the 27-year-old Angus Cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va. "We have such a quick race car and we came off such a great test session last week at ORP. These 8000-hp cars can be extremely humbling - you never know what you're going to get - but I am more than excited just to be a player in the Countdown. And, starting the playoffs at our biggest race of the year, the U.S. Nationals, heightens the level of excitement.
"You have to be in it to win it - sorry for the cliché - and I think that all of us on the DieHard team have put ourselves in the position to have that chance to win the championship. But, like (crew chief) Tommy DeLago said, we're just going to play it race by race, lap by lap and not get too far ahead of ourselves, because it's so easy to put pressure on yourself and get caught up in all the hoopla. I'm super-excited but not overly confident."
As for last week's NHRA open test session at ORP, in which Hagan posted a 4.094-second elapsed time at 300.20 mph, good for second quickest of all Funny Cars testing there, "The DieHard car went down the race track," he said. "It's one of the best test sessions we've ever had. We didn't smoke the tires a lot and we learned a lot. I think Tommy went away from the test pretty happy and, since it's the same race track we'll compete on this weekend, the data we gathered is invaluable.
"I think Tommy's got a good baseline for hot and cool weather, so everyone on the DieHard team is really excited and looking forward to this event."