HAGAN GOES TO HIS FIRST FINAL ROUND OF ROOKIE CAREER IN VEGAS; JUMPS TO SECOND IN POINTS LAS VEGAS (April 5, 2009) - Matt Hagan continues to lead the pack of NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year contenders with his solid performances in each of the five ...
HAGAN GOES TO HIS FIRST FINAL ROUND OF ROOKIE CAREER IN VEGAS; JUMPS TO SECOND IN POINTS
LAS VEGAS (April 5, 2009) - Matt Hagan continues to lead the pack of NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year contenders with his solid performances in each of the five national NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series so far. He's consistently moved up the ladder; initially by winning his first round in the second event, then landing in the semifinals in the third. Today, he stepped it up even further and reached his first final round of his short career, ending the day as runner-up to his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps.
His solid run launched him into second in the Funny Car point standings, and he's now 106 markers behind Capps.
Hagan's charge through the field in the Shelor.com Dodge included a dismissal of Bob Bode (4.144/291.45), his DSR teammate Jack Beckman (4.215/298.73) and Cruz Pedregon (4.200/302.41) before facing Capps with lane choice in his arsenal.
DeLago selected the left lane, Capps was relegated to the right. Lane choice came down to the preference of each individual team. Capps and his crew chief were OK with the right lane, and Hagan and DeLago were happy in the left.
Capps had the edge at the starting lights (.073 to .094) and held the lead to the finish as Hagan hazed the tires late in the run, slowing to a 4.335/248.89 to Capps' winning 4.182/297.81.
"It's been an absolutely solid weekend for us," said Hagan, 26. "We moved up to second in points. I would love to have won, but, on the flip side, it will come. I think you have to pay your dues sometimes and I think that's what we're doing right now. We're learning as we go and I feel like I've learned a lot this weekend. I'm going to take it back and try to use it at the next event.
"I'm so excited. Congratulations to Ron Capps. They've got a solid team over there and they've proven themselves this year, for sure. They're going to be a tough competitor out here. I'm just glad to be here.
"The reason we were so good today is that we have Tommy DeLago tuning the car," he added when asked that question. "He's solid out here and he's definitely proven himself as a crew chief by getting us into the Funny Car final.
"Any of the 16 drivers out here could have won. You just have to be in it to win it. They were all tough. I have so much confidence in Tommy. I feel like he's helping me as a driver. Against Cruz he was giving me some pointers. That's what I need as a driver and I think we can bounce stuff off of each other and learn from each other."
As for having lane choice in the final, "That was huge," he said. "We were just a little aggressive. We tried a lot of stuff, but it's Vegas, so you have to gamble a little bit."
DeLago had disappointment in his voice. "We raced a great team over there," he said. "Ace (Capps' crew chief Ed McCulloch) has helped me a lot over the years. I really wanted to beat him and maybe I just tried a little too hard. I probably should have left it alone from the run before and maybe because the track was cooler it would have run quicker on its own. But, I guess it's rookie driver, rookie crew chief. We've got a lot to learn yet."
Next up is the NHRA Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga., April 17-19.