2013 NHRA: Matt Hagan Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals Event Recap: Runner-up
Matt Hagan reached four final rounds in the 2012 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and never won a title. On Sunday near Charlotte, Hagan and the Rocky Boots/Mopar Funny Car team reached their eighth final round of 2013, coming up just short of their fifth win of the season.
It's just another chapter in the remarkable turnaround for Hagan and the team led by crew chief Dickie Venables, who joined Don Schumacher Racing two weeks prior to the first event of the season in Pomona, Calif.
The team still has not used a test session, but continues to be one of the most consistent Funny Cars in the class. The Rocky Boots team qualified No. 2 for Sunday's eliminations with a 3.992-second pass. Through various weather conditions over the weekend Venables tuned Hagan to eight passes ranging from 3.99-seconds to 4.10-seconds.
"It's important to go rounds and we did that today," Hagan said. "That's what we have to keep on doing. These guys did a great job as they have all year long and that's what we have to do. I keep saying this week after week but these guys are just amazing. Dickie is doing a phenomenal job and it showed again this weekend."
But Hagan takes responsibility for the team not earning its fifth Wally trophy of the season. In the final round, opponent Robert Hight used a starting line advantage to get the win light over Hagan, who had a quicker car.
"The end result was a holeshot loss and when you lose that way the driver has to own it," Hagan said. "It's tough because you have to come back and face the guys and you want to give them everything you have and not be the weak link and I was today. I have to go back and work hard and dig deep and keep trying to turn on win lights."
But it was a feel good weekend for the Rocky Boots team who suffered a first round loss at the last event in Indianapolis.
"It's a good bounce back. When you're here in the Countdown you can't be late and I was today. I lost that one for us and I own it. I've won a couple on holeshots before too. It is what it is. You have to keep the same mindset."
Hagan entered the NHRA Carolina Nationals with a 30-point lead over DSR teammate Ron Capps but left the event at zMAX Dragway with a 72-point lead over Capps, who lost in the second round.
Now Hagan changes the focus to the second of four events in a row next week near Dallas.
"We'll pick up go to Dallas next week and get after it then."
Event winner: Robert Hight (John Force Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Cruz Pedregon (Cruz Pedregon Racing), 3.980 sec., 319.22 mph
MATT HAGAN, Rocky Boots/Mopar Dodge Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 2
First round: HAGAN (4.107, 311.56) def. Jeff Arend (4.117, 309.70)
Second round: HAGAN (4.063, 314.17) def. John Force (4.098, 314.31)
Semifinal: HAGAN (4.084, 312.57) def. Jack Beckman (4.116, 311.70)
Final: Robert Hight ( 4.083, 312.64) def. HAGAN (4.066, 313.58)
Session 1: 4.085 sec., 309.84 mph
Session 2: 3.992, 320.58
Session 3: 4.105, 309.63
Session 4: 4.082, 310.48
ON ESPN (times are ET)
Sunday: 8:30 p.m., championship eliminations, ESPN2, delayed
MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES
NHRA Countdown to the Championship Standings
(Unofficial through Saturday at Charlotte; DSR drivers in CAPS)
1. MATT HAGAN 2,214
2. RON CAPPS 2,142
3. Robert Hight 2,128
4. JACK BECKMAN 2,122
5. John Force 2,116
6. Courtney Force 2,106
7. JOHNNY GRAY 2,102
8. Cruz Pedregon 2,101
9. Tim Wilkerson 2,057
10. Del Worsham 2,037
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, Hight.