2013 NHRA: Matt Hagan NHRA U.S. Nationals Event Preview
The prestigious U.S. Nationals event held near Indianapolis is usually a pressure-packed event for NHRA teams and drivers. But for Matt Hagan and the Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar/Rocky Boots team, they are approaching it like any other NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables have more than a six-round points lead over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps going into the U.S. Nationals. Upon qualifying for the 16-car eliminations field, Hagan and company will be locked into the No. 1 seed going into the six-race playoff Countdown to the Championship.
"It's been magical, you know," Hagan said. "It's been pretty amazing. With all of the hard work that everyone has done, we're sitting No. 1. It shows that if you put a great group of guys together and have one common goal you can accomplish just about anything you want to.
"We've had a little bit of luck along the way but, you know, we've also made our own luck. We've just got a great group. I know we're going to reset these points after Indy and it's going to be a dogfight. I'm at the gym now, just getting ready to go fight."
The U.S. Nationals, known as "The Big Go" is a legendary event that ranks high among the events drivers feel pressure to win. But for Hagan, his eyes are set on an even bigger Wally trophy, the one that goes to the champion at the season finale in Pomona, Calif., on Nov. 10.
"Actually there's no extra pressure for us in Indy," he said. "I mean I'd love to win it, love to win the Traxxas Nitro Shootout and give my guys a nice little bonus for all of their hard work. But it's almost a free race for us because as soon as we qualify we'll pretty much lock up the No. 1 spot heading into the Countdown (to the Championship)."
The Traxxas Nitro Shootout, held on Sunday for the Funny Car class, pays $100,000 to the winning team. The Magneti Marelli team will race the fan vote/lottery winner who will be announced on Wednesday in the first round.
"We can't really put any more extra points on anyone because they are going to reset them. So there's really absolutely no extra pressure. There's always pressure to win a race. But that's every race. I think it's going to be a good race for us to go out there and work on some combinations and get ready for this Countdown. It's going to be cool. I'm excited. I know things will change but this car has been consistent and I expect it to be consistent the rest of the year."
Crew chief Venables elected not to use a test session prior to the event. The six other DSR teams along with other NHRA pro teams tested last Wednesday and Thursday at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg. Hagan was comfortable with Venables' decision.
"From what I saw and heard from most of the teams down there they learned to get down a racetrack that's not really going to be like the racetrack we're going to see this weekend. We didn't really have any parts that we wanted to test anyway.
"Dickie has been working on this combination all year long and that's what he's going to continue to do. He's not out here trying to reinvent the wheel or do anything crazy. He just wants to run this race car and keep it as consistent as possible."
The following are Hagan's statistics and other event notes for the 59th annual NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway:
MATT HAGAN, Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar/Rocky Boots, Dodge Charger R/T
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 1st 17 4 3 1 4 0 30-13
CAREER 114 8 13 16 14 4 140-101
Best time, speed: 3.986 sec. (7-26-2013, Sonoma, Calif.), 322.27 mph* (9-17-11, Charlotte 2); * Fastest ever
Last event, U.S. Nationals history
Last event (Brainerd, Minn.): Qualified No. 2; lost in championship round to Ron Capps.
A year ago at Indy: Qualified No. 14; lost in semifinals to Mike Neff.
Wins at Indy: 0
Runner-ups at Indy: 0
Poles at Indy: 1 (2010)
NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES STANDINGS
(After 17 of 24 events; through Brainerd, Minn.; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN 1,253
2. RON CAPPS 1,129
3. JOHNNY GRAY 1,066
3. Cruz Pedregon 1,066
5. John Force 1,054
6. Courtney Force 1,039
7. JACK BECKMAN 1,015
8. Tim Wilkerson 952
9. Bob Tasca III 906
10. Robert Hight 902
2013 FUNNY CAR WINNERS: C. Force, CAPPS, GRAY, C. Pedregon, HAGAN, C. Pedregon, GRAY, GRAY, HAGAN, J. Force, C. Force, HAGAN, GRAY, C. Pedregon, CAPPS, HAGAN, CAPPS.
NHRA U.S. NATIONALS SCHEDULE
Wednesday: 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., NHRA Fanfest on Monument Circle, Downtown Indy (Meridian & Market Street).
Friday: 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Don Schumacher Racing Open House; 7 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 1.
Saturday: 4 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 2; 7 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 3; 8:15 p.m.: Top Fuel Traxxas Shootout final.
Sunday: 12:30 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 4; 3:30 p.m., Nitro qualifying, session 5; 4:45 p.m., Funny Car Traxxas Shootout final.
Monday (Labor Day): 11 a.m., championship eliminations
DSR OPEN HOUSE FOR RILEY KIDS IS FRIDAY
Fans and friends of Don Schumacher Racing are invited to join the biggest team in professional racing on Friday for the 8th annual Don Schumacher Racing Open House to benefit Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health and Camp Riley.
The free, festive event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will feature a giant car/bike show, entertainment and appearances by each of DSR's seven professional drivers along with owner Don Schumacher at DSR headquarters at 1681 E. Northfield Drive in Brownsburg.
The event kicks off the NHRA U.S. Nationals Labor Day Weekend, which opens with professional qualifying later that day at Lucas Oil Raceway located about 2 miles from DSR headquarters.
The Open House, which attracted a record-crowd of more than 4,000 fans last year and boosted DSR's contributions to Riley past the $200,000 mark, invites all to celebrate DSR's 200th NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series title.
The first 500 guests who arrive at the Open House after 10 a.m. will receive a free "DSR Win No. 200" sticker, commemorative Don Schumacher Hall of Fame Tribute autograph card and a chance to win a unique prize package of 40 1/24-scale DSR diecast collectibles from various seasons valued at a total of $3,500. (Additional raffle tickets will be available for $10 each.)
Popular Open House features returning will be: Indy Hi-Winders Car Show, DSR/Riley Silent Auction, DSR Driver Autograph Session, Raminator Monster Truck, live entertainment with the Army Entertainment Group; 330-mph Art Show featuring motorsports artists Bruce Tatman and DSR fabricator Thomas Patsis; DSR CNC/Machine Shop tours; and more surprises!
All seven DSR drivers are qualified for the Traxxas Nitro Shootouts to be held during qualifying for the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway. The winners of the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories each will receive $100,000 for their teams
The following are first-round match-ups for the Shootouts:
TOP FUEL (Saturday): No. 1 Shawn Langdon vs. No. 8 fan vote/lottery winner; No. 2 SPENCER MASSEY vs. No. 7 Bob Vandergriff; No. 3 TONY SCHUMACHER vs. Steve Torrence; No. 4. Khalid alBalooshi vs. No. 5 ANTRON BROWN.
FUNNY CAR (Sunday): No. 1 MATT HAGAN vs. No. 8 fan vote/lottery winner; No. 2 RON CAPPS vs. No. 7 JACK BECKMAN; No. 3 JOHNNY GRAY vs. No. 6 Courtney Force; No. 4. Cruz Pedregon vs. No. 5 John Force.
(as of Tuesday afternoon)
Wednesday: High of 92; 20 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms
Thursday: High 89; 0 percent chance of rain
Friday: High 91; 0 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 92; 20 percent chance of isolated thunderstorms
Sunday: High 92; 0 percent chance of rain
Monday: High 84; 0 percent chance of rain
ON ESPN2 (times are EDT)
Sunday: Qualifying, 1-6 p.m., delayed
Monday: Championship eliminations, noon-6 p.m.