2013 NHRA: Matt Hagan Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals Event Preview
Matt Hagan spent most of NHRA's regular season, the first 18 of 24 races, first in the Mello Yello Series points standings. And the plan is to keep it that way during the final six.
Hagan's Rocky Boots/Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar Funny Car has had possession of the Funny Car points lead for the past 10 NHRA events, dating back to the June race in Englishtown, N.J., Hagan's second win this season.
The Rocky Boots team ended the regular season with a 114-point lead over Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps. The points were reset following the NHRA U.S. Nationals event two weeks ago and Hagan will take only a 30-point lead Capps into the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented at zMAX Dragway near Charlotte.
Hagan won the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in April, collecting his first win since the final event of the 2011 NHRA season.
"I feel like we have a car that can win this championship, and I feel like as long as we continue to be as consistent as we have been all year long, there is no reason we shouldn't win it," said Hagan, 2011 NHRA Funny Car world champion. "It's the Countdown to the Championship, and sure that puts pressure on you, but you can't allow that to happen.
"You have to do what you've done all year long to get you to the position where we're sitting No. 1. I absolutely feel like we have the opportunity to go out and win another championship. Dickie Venables is probably one of the smartest guys I've worked with. Everybody that I've worked with has been top brass, but this guy is above and beyond."
Hagan and crew chief Venables have plans for everything to remain the same.
"I think the best plan is to continue to do what we've done," Hagan said. "I don't think we need to change anything. We've led in points almost all year long. There is a reason our car has been No. 1 for the majority of the year and it's because it's been consistent. There is a lot of luck involved with a lot of this racing stuff but you really make a lot of your own luck.
"We've had a car that's gone up and down the track 20 times without smoking the tires and doing anything crazy, and that's hard to do when you pour nitro in the tank. And that really boils down to the guy turning the knobs and making the decisions and obviously driving it well. But I think what we need to do is just stay focused and stay driven to keep doing what we've done all year long, and that is to try to turn four win lights."
The Rocky Boots team has quite a history at zMAX Dragway. Hagan clocked the first sub-four second Funny Car pass there in 2011. Then in 2012, his 10,000-horsepower Dodge Charger R/T exploded and went viral online, earning more than 500,000 views on YouTube.
"Well, Charlotte for me has been bittersweet," Hagan recalled. "We've won Charlotte in the spring, but that doesn't mean that you're going to win it in the fall. I think that we have some great notes to go off of coming into Charlotte. But that was spring, and this is fall. It's totally different conditions. I know that Dickie's pretty confident with it, but I feel like we have to stay humble rolling into Charlotte knowing that these guys all got their game face on. They all know what's on the line. We do as well, but you can't let that get you rattled either. You have to keep doing what you've been doing and move forward.
"But I'm excited about it. Four events in a row, man, I mean, I would run these things every day of my life, if I could. It's really one of those things where, you know, just four in a row, stay focused, get lots of rest, and stay motivated to win."
MATT HAGAN, ROCKY BOOTS/MAGNETI MARELLI DODGE CHARGER R/T
Last event (Sept. 2, Indianapolis): Qualified No. 1; lost in first round to Jeff Arend.
Last race at zMAX Dragway (April 21, 2013, Four-Wide): Qualified No. 6; in championship round defeated Blake Alexander, Tim Wilkerson, Jim Head.
Last September at zMAX: Qualified No. 8; lost in semifinals to Ron Capps.
Career at zMAX: Wins 2 (Spring-2012, Sept.-2011); runner-ups 1 (2009); poles 1 (Sept.-2011)
Pts Events Titles Rup Semi Qtr 1st rd Poles DNQ Win/Loss
2013 1st 18 4 3 1 4 6 4 0 30-14
CAREER 114 9 13 16 34 38 14 4 140-101
Best Time, Speed: 3.986 sec. (7-26-2013, Sonoma, Calif.), 322.27 mph* (9-17-11, Charlotte 2)
CARLYLE TOOLS CAROLINA NATIONALS
Friday: 5:15 p.m., 7:30 p.m., nitro qualifying
Saturday: 1 p.m., 3:15 p.m., nitro qualifying
Sunday: Noon, championship eliminations
ON ESPN2 (times are ET)
Saturday: TBD, qualifying, delayed
Sunday: 8:30 p.m., championship eliminations, delayed
Friday: High 85 degrees; 20 percent chance of rain
Saturday: High 77 degrees; 10 percent chance of rain
Sunday: High 79 degrees; 0 percent chance of rain
NHRA COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE
Sept. 13-15 - zMAX Dragway, Charlotte, N.C.
Sept. 19-22 - Texas Motorplex, Dallas
Sept. 27-29 - Gateway Motorsports Park, St. Louis
Oct. 3-6 - Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa.
Oct. 24-27 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas
Nov. 7-10 - Auto Club Raceway, Pomona
(Reset for start of six-event playoff that starts Sept. 13 near Charlotte; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN, 2,110
2. RON CAPPS , 2,080
3. JOHNNY GRAY, 2,070
4. John Force, 2,060
5. JACK BECKMAN, 2,050
6. Cruz Pedregon, 2,040
7. Courtney Force, 2,030
8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,020
9. Robert Hight, 2,010
10. Del Worsham, 2,000
NHRA MELLO YELLO SERIES REGULAR SEASON STANDINGS
(Final regular season after 18 events through U.S. Nationals; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN, 1,297
2. RON CAPPS , 1,183
3. JOHNNY GRAY, 1,125
4. John Force, 1,155
5. JACK BECKMAN, 1,110
6. Cruz Pedregon, 1,099
7. Courtney Force, 1,071
8. Tim Wilkerson, 1,023
9. Robert Hight, 1,015
10. Del Worsham, 948
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, Hight.