2013 NHRA: Matt Hagan Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Event Preview
Matt Hagan can't get racing off his mind.
With a week off between NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events Hagan and his family traveled to North Myrtle Beach in South Carolina for some fun in the sun. But his mind was already in Minnesota, the site of this weekend's Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
"I'm relaxed, rejuvenated and just feeling good," Hagan said of his vacation. "It's been really cool to just spend some time with my family and do so much stuff that we've been missing out on. For me it was great to hit the reset button but still, you always think about racing."
It's hard not to, since the Rocky Boots/Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Funny Car team led by crew chief Dickie Venables has earned four wins in six final round appearances through 16 NHRA events in 2013 and lead the NHRA Funny Car points standings.
"You're always focused and thinking about what's coming up next," Hagan said. "You know you have nine guys counting on you to come back (to the track) and be focused.
"We're getting so close to this Countdown (to the Championship) right now. Brainerd is just another big piece of the puzzle to make sure we go in in the No. 1 spot. It's huge and is a relief to know that no matter what you do that we can go into Indy leading the points."
The Rocky Boots team has a 117 point lead, more than five rounds of racing, over Cruz Pedregon heading into the event located 130 miles northwest of Minneapolis.
"Hopefully we can just increase our points lead in Brainerd and keeping pulling away. We had a couple bad races on the Western Swing and we allowed some folks to get caught up but Dickie really stepped up and made things happen when it counted," Hagan said about their most recent win at the last event near Seattle.
"It just shows me that this car, even though it has had a few down times, it continues to be consistent all year long and that grows my confidence. I'm just excited how these guys are driven and motivated.
"I think Brainerd is one of those places where it's easy to lose your focus because there is so much going on with all the fans and all the other stuff going on I think we have to pull our helmet on here and get up on the wheel and just make sure we're doing everything we can to get another win."
The following are Hagan's statistics and other event notes for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway:
MATT HAGAN, Rocky Boots/Magneti Marelli Funny Car
Last event: Aug. 4, Kent, Wash.; defeated Bob Tasca III in championship round.
A year ago: Qualified No. 8; Lost in semifinals to Ron Capps.
Career wins: 0
Career runner-ups: 0
Career poles: 2011
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 1st 16 4 2 1 3 0 27-12
Career 113 8 12 16 13 4 137-100
LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS SCHEDULE
Friday: Nitro qualifying, 3:30 p.m., 6 p.m.
Saturday: Nitro qualifying, 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m.
Sunday: Championship eliminations, 11 a.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 11 p.m. (ET), delayed
Sunday: Eliminations, 9 p.m. (ET), delayed
Friday: High 79; 10 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 80; 20 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 81; 10 percent chance of rain
NHRA MELLO YELLO SERIES STANDINGS
(After 16 of 24 events; through Kent, Wash.; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN, 1,151*
2. Cruz Pedregon, 1,034
3. RON CAPPS, 1,017
4. John Force, 996
5. JOHNNY GRAY, 991
6. Courtney Force, 983
7. JACK BECKMAN, 951
8. Tim Wilkerson, 877
9. Bob Tasca III 874
10. Robert Hight, 841
*Clinched berth in NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship
WINNERS: C. Force, CAPPS, GRAY, C. Pedregon, HAGAN, C. Pedregon, GRAY, GRAY, HAGAN, J. Force, C. Force, HAGAN, GRAY, C. Pedregon, CAPPS, HAGAN.
TRAXXAS NITRO SCHOOTOUT QUALIFIERS
The NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootouts, which are races within U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway near over Labor Day Weekend, showcases Top Fuel on Aug. 31 (Saturday) and Funny Car on Sept. 1 (Sunday). Each Nitro Shootout champ will receive $100,000 for their teams.
The following drivers have qualified by winning Mello Yello Series titles this season:
1. Shawn Langdon (Pomona 1)
2. TONY SCHUMACHER (PHOENIX)
3. ANTRON BROWN (GAINESVILLE)
4. SPENCER MASSEY (CHARLOTTE 1)
5. Bob Vandergriff Jr. (Houston)
6. Steve Torrence (Bristol)
7. Khalid alBalooshi (Norwalk)
8. Fan vote
1. Courtney Force (Pomona 1)
2. RON CAPPS (PHOENIX)
3. JOHNNY GRAY (GAINESVILLE)
4. Cruz Pedregon (Las Vegas 1)
5. MATT HAGAN (CHARLOTTE 1)
6. John Force (Bristol)
8. Fan vote
** The seventh will be determined by the winner of this weekend's event at Brainerd, Minn., if it is the first title this year for the driver; or by the driver highest in points without having won a title this season.