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2014 NHRA: Funny Car Standout Matt Hagan Eyes Turnaround At Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals At Atlanta Dragway
Posted by: newsla on May 13, 2014 - 03:50 PM
2014 NHRA: Funny Car Standout Matt Hagan Eyes Turnaround At Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals At Atlanta Dragway

Matt Hagan does not have to wonder about the mindset of his Funny Car team after a slow start to his 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. The constant phone calls and text messages are the only indicators Hagan needs to know that everyone is eager for a turnaround.


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After four first-round losses in the first six races of the season, Hagan is just as excited as his team to return to the track and get back on the right path. It could come as soon as this weekend’s Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, which could start the type of run the 2011 world champion is more accustomed to during his standout career.

“Now is the time to get going and get it turned around,” Hagan said. “The crew guys have been blowing up my phone and they’re ready to go. Seeing that energy pumps you up and with this stretch starting now, if you get a little momentum you can carry that into the next race. The ball gets rolling and you just start running with it.”

A year ago, Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Johnny Gray (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) won the event in Atlanta that will once again be televised on ESPN2. The race, the seventh of 24 on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit, also marks the start of a critical time for Hagan and his team.

The slow start couldn’t be much more confounding, but Hagan knows a turnaround can be swift in his 8,000-horsepower Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger, especially with the next seven races coming in an eight-week stretch. Hagan’s first-round loss at the most recent event in Houston was his fourth in five events, but he and crew chief Dickie Venables have worked hard to keep the team’s energy high, which means team morale hasn’t been a problem during the slow start.

“Dickie knows the potential of this team and what we’re capable of,” said Hagan, who is currently eighth in points. “I know things are going to turn around and come back, there’s no doubt in my mind about that. After we won the title (in 2011) we didn’t win a race in 2012. That was really humbling and I learned a lot from that. I have to keep the spirits up and I have to lead by example.”

Hagan’s drive, work ethic and enthusiasm can’t be questioned and are several reasons why his team believe a swift reversal of fortune is due soon. The team has already showed potential in 2014 by advancing to the final round of the season-opening race in Pomona, and Hagan, who advanced to nine final rounds a year ago, is confident his Charger will return to championship form.

“We wanted to start the year off right and it hasn’t happened,” Hagan said. “We tried a new clutch and motor combo and it didn’t work, and this past race we went back to our combo from 2013 when we won five races. It’s still taking some time, but we’re confident about Atlanta and we think we can lay down some huge numbers. I’m excited to get back behind the wheel.”

Hagan advanced to the final round at Atlanta Dragway a season ago and is eyeing more quick runs at the fan-friendly track this weekend. But he also has to contend with the likes of 16-time Funny Car world champ, John Force, has seven wins in Atlanta. Hagan is also chasing points leader Robert Hight after Hight won for the third time in four races at Houston. Two-time Funny Car world champ Tony Pedregon has three wins at Atlanta and 2012 world champ Jack Beckman has two while other standouts include Tommy Johnson Jr., Alexis DeJoria, Courtney Force, Ron Capps, Del Worsham and Cruz Pedregon.

“That first lap starts everything,” Hagan said. “I love Atlanta and the fan support we get there, and our goal is to come out strong.”

In Top Fuel, Brown took home his third career victory in Atlanta a year and has been red-hot in 2014. After back-to-back wins, Brown is the points leader and has three victories overall this season. Doug Kalitta is right behind in the points standings and also owns two Atlanta victories. Other championship contenders include Tony Schumacher, defending world champ Shawn Langdon, Spencer Massey, 2012 Atlanta winner Steve Torrence, Khalid alBalooshi, Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force and J.R. Todd.

In Pro Stock, Erica Enders-Stevens won for the second time in three races by winning at her home track in Houston and the class points leader is poised to possibly become the first female Atlanta winner in Pro Stock. Four-time world champion Greg Anderson returned to his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro in Houston while his KB Racing teammate Jason Line took the season opener in Pomona. Defending champ Jeg Coughlin, a five-time world champion, has two wins in Atlanta but will be looking for his first since 2010, but will face stiff challenges for contenders like teammate Allen Johnson, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Vincent Nobile.
Returning to Atlanta Dragway is appealing for the two-bike Pro Stock Motorcycle team of Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines. Krawiec, a three-time world champion, is the most recent PSM winner in Atlanta and also won in 2009, while Hines, the current points leader, won at Atlanta Dragway in 2010 and 2008. A host of challengers, including Hector Arana Jr., Gainesville winner Steve Johnson, defending world champion Matt Smith, Michael Ray and Scotty Pollacheck, will try to slow down that momentum.

All eyes at Atlanta Dragway will also be on the likes of Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, DeJoria and Courtney Force in Funny Car, Brittany Force in Top Fuel, and Katie Sullivan and Angie Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle as the landmark 100th win by a female will be within reach. Female competitors currently have 99 NHRA victories, putting the total just one away from the magical mark.

The NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series will make its third stop of the 2014 season at Atlanta Dragway. Mike Castellana took the opening race in Gainesville and Mike Janis topped Castellana at the most recent event in Houston. Defending champion Rickie Smith reached the Pro Mod finals in Florida and is looking for a second straight world championship in the doorslammer category.

As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

Mello Yello Series qualifying begins Friday, May 16, with sessions at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 17, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 18. Pro Mod qualifying is set for Friday, May 16 at 3:45 and 6 p.m. and Saturday, May 17 at 12:45 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations are scheduled for Saturday at 2:45 p.m.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to www.NHRATIX.com or call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Children 12 and younger are free. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.


WHAT: 34th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, the seventh of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories ­ Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle ­ earn points leading to 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.

WHERE: Atlanta Dragway, Commerce, Ga. I-85 to Exit 149 (Hwy 441). After exiting the freeway, go north on Highway 441 to Steven Tanger Blvd. Take left on Tanger and then go right on Ridgeway Road.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, May 16-18

FRIDAY, May 16 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 6 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.

SATURDAY, May 17- LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at noon and 2 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

SUNDAY, May 18 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

Saturday, May 17, ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, May 18, ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).

Friday, May 16, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 07C
Saturday, May 17, 8 - 8:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 07C
Sunday, May 18, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 07C
(3840 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: 3Ž4; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners¹ interviews on Sunday.
(Digital HD feed)

2013 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Johnny Gray, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock.

MOST VICTORIES: Dave Schultz, 8, PSM; John Force, 7, FC; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Kenny Bernstein, 4, TF/FC; Larry Dixon, 4, TF; Angelle Sampey, 4, PSM; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Lee Shepherd, 4, PS.

Top Fuel - 3.761 seconds by Brandon Bernstein, May ¹13; 325.61 mph by Doug Kalitta, May ¹13.
Funny Car - 4.067 seconds by Matt Hagan, May ¹13; 314.90 mph by Chad Head, May ¹13.
Pro Stock - 6.557 seconds by Greg Anderson, April ¹09; 211.26 mph by Warren Johnson, April ¹09.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.863 seconds by Hector Arana, May Œ12; 195.70 mph by Eddie Krawiec, May Œ12

Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ‘12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.965 sec. by John Force, Feb. ‘14, Pomona, Calif.; 324.12 mph by J. Force, Feb. ‘14, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ‘13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.69 mph by Erica Enders-Stevens, March. ‘14, Gainesville, Fla.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ‘12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ‘11, Gainesville, Fla.

TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRATIX.com


GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the 27th annual O'Reilly NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Royal Purple Raceway, the sixth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel
1. Antron Brown, 580; 2. Doug Kalitta, 543; 3. Steve Torrence, 428; 4. Shawn Langdon, 408; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 381; 6. Tony Schumacher, 353; 7. Spencer Massey, 342; 8. Brittany Force, 300; 9. Richie Crampton, 224; 10. J.R. Todd, 220.

Funny Car
1. Robert Hight, 609; 2. John Force, 487; 3. Alexis DeJoria, 431; 4. Del Worsham, 361; 5. Ron Capps, 356; 6. Jack Beckman, 336; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 323; 8. Matt Hagan, 289; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 277; 10. Courtney Force, 275.

Pro Stock
1. Erica Enders-Stevens, 554; 2. Allen Johnson, 477; 3. Jason Line, 437; 4. Vincent Nobile, 414; 5. Shane Gray, 390; 6. Dave Connolly, 366; 7. Jeg Coughlin, 344; 8. V. Gaines, 340; 9. Chris McGaha, 290; 10. Jimmy Alund, 282.

Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Scotty Pollacheck, 129; 2. Hector Arana Jr., 125; 3. Steve Johnson, 124; 4. John Hall, 112; 5. Michael Ray, 107; 6. Andrew Hines, 100; 7. Matt Smith, 97; 8. Eddie Krawiec, 91; 9. Adam Arana, 64, Shawn Gann, 64.

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