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The Christiansburg resident is in Bristol this weekend for the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals.
Funny Car racer Matt Hagan powered to his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season at the NHRA Summernationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park on June 1 in Englishtown, N.J.
Matt Hagan powers to his second win of the season at the NHRA Drag Racing Series race on June 2 in Englishtown N.J. The 2012 Funny Car world champion retook the points lead in the category with the win.
Funny Car driver Matt Hagan celebrates after winning the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals ace April 21 at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. He made a 4.071 second run at 315.34 mph to defeat Blake Alexander in the final round.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
BRISTOL, Tenn. — Matt Hagan has the physique of a linebacker, the eyes of a fighter pilot and the determination of a mountain climber.
Those are big reasons why the Christiansburg resident is such an effective competitor on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.
Entering this weekend’s Ford Thunder Valley Nationals, Hagan leads the Funny Car point standings with two victories in four final round appearances.
During a media gathering Thursday at the Country Club of Bristol, the 2011 Funny Car champion explained how he’s been able to bounce back from a lackluster 2012 season in which he slumped to 11th in points without a victory.
“It’s all goes back to the team, man,” Hagan said.
Hagan’s revamped Don Schumacher Racing team is headed by experienced crew chief Dickie Venables, who has guided the Rocky Footwear Dodge to a pair of No. 1 qualifying efforts.
After winning the title, the combination of crew chief Tommy DeLago and Glen Huszar went from the DSR team to Kalitta Motorsports.
For Hagan, the hands-on approach of Venables has been the spark for a team that stormed to the championship in 2011.
“I think that makes a big difference in our team from last year to this year,” Hagan said. “We’ve still got four guys that were with us in our championship year, but our new guys are learning fast and really working hard.”
The points lead has served as both a comfort zone and confidence boost.
“We had a couple races where the track wasn’t really right and it didn’t allow us to get things right, but we’ve jumped back up in points,” Hagan said.
I think our guys can kind of taste it now,” Hagan said. “They have that feeling from where we’re leading the points and getting close to the Countdown. They’re putting in that extra effort to keep this car running up front.”
Hagan has extra motivation to perform well at Bristol — his hometown track.
“Bristol is about two hours from my home,” said Hagan, who qualified in third place with a 4.049 on Saturday. “Along with family and friends, my dad is bringing around 200 employees from Shelor Motor Mile this weekend.”
The Hagan fan club includes his wife, Rachel, and children Penny and Colby. David Hagan, Matt’s father, owns several businesses in the Roanoke Valley area, including Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.
“Rachel’s been my good luck charm,” Hagan said. “To have my kids with me in the winner’s circle here at Bristol would just be phenomenal.”
No matter how he performs this weekend, Hagan plans to have fun in the mountains.
“If we don’t win at least we know that we’re going to sell a lot of T-shirts,” Hagan said.
Hagan’s love affair with Thunder Valley has been growing since his first visit to Bristol around age 10. The sights and sounds of those radical machines made a big impression.
“Yeah, I’ve got a lot of great memories of this place,” Hagan said. “This was the first pro drag race I ever went to as far as watching the Fuel cars. It just blew me away as a kid.”
The Hagan resume includes two victories at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, N.C. He’s reserved a place for a Bristol Wally.
“It would be something to finally snag down Bristol. We definitely have the car, the team and the potential to do it. The guys put such a great car underneath me that I just have to show up and sign autographs.”
Hagan said much of his success can be traced to the collaborative efforts on the expansive Schumacher operation, which includes defending Funny Car champion Jack Beckman.
“The crew chiefs on our team do a great job working together,” Hagan said. “As a driver, it’s a good feeling knowing that you have everything in your car to perform. There’s no reason for it not to perform.”
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