Don Schumacher Racing press release
COUNTDOWNN LEADER HAGAN SEES CONSERVATIVE APPROACH FOR POTENTIALLY TRICKY NHRA ARIZONA NATIONALS
CHANDLER, Ariz., October 10, 2011 – Citing forecasts calling for temperatures under the clear, Arizona sky to soar above 90 degrees, NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship leader Matt Hagan believes tuners will take a cautious approach to this weekend’s 27th-annual NHRA Arizona Nationals here at Firebird International Raceway.
According to the 28-year-old driver of the DieHard Advanced Gold Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, most of the Countdown competition will look to Friday’s initial qualifying run to get their bearings on a track resurfaced since its last race (February 2010).
“It will definitely be a role of the dice for the first lap or two,” explained the Don Schumacher Racing driver. “After the initial passes, the crew chiefs should be able to dial in a tune up and setup a baseline for Sunday. The small (qualifying) points are huge, but getting down the track for four rounds on Sunday is a lot more important.
“That first lap Friday (scheduled for 2 p.m.) is so important, setting up everything for the next sessions. You get in to the field in that first round, it lets you try things in later rounds both to improve your position and get ready for race day.
“I don’t think a lot of folks will take a shot this week at running a 3.99 (referencing the record 3.995-second lap he set last month in Charlotte, a record worth 20 bonus points). The best way to approach this race is be conservative.”
Grabbing bonus points for quickest passes in two qualifying sessions, qualifying third and reaching the quarterfinals at the last race outside Reading, Pa. propelled Hagan past Mike Neff into the top spot, by two points, of the Countdown standings. On their heels are Cruz Pedregon, 32 points back; Robert Hight, 52, and, Jack Beckman, 55.
“There is still a lot of racing left in the season and the Countdown,” said Hagan referencing 12 rounds or three events, including the Arizona Nationals. “I think the most important thing, for me, is to be humble. We have the points lead, but we’ve had it before and been smacked in the face before. You can come to reality really quickly – we don’t have a big lead, which (as he showed in Pennsylvania) can change in qualifying.
“We just have to be consistent and be good.” Hagan was in a similar position in the 2010 Countdown, holding the points lead into the final race of the season when John Force was able to go around him (after a mechanical issue ended the Christiansburg, Va. driver’s day early).
“I’m a lot more relaxed this year,” said Hagan. “I’m enjoying the Countdown a lot more. Last year I was definitely more on edge, as was the whole team. The biggest thing we learned from last year was a lot of what happens out here is beyond your control, so it is not worth obsessing about it.
“I have tremendous faith in Tommy (DeLago, crew chief) and everyone on the DieHard team. We’re just going to go out and do our thing, have fun and see what happens.”