NNIS – Matt Hagan has been on enough hot streaks in his standout career – including one to open the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season – to know how quickly they can change the complexion of the season. Looking to end the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship with a bang, Hagan hopes there’s one more hot streak waiting for him this year.
Hagan opened 2017 with back-to-back wins and he would like nothing more to finish it in similar fashion, starting with this weekend’s AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex, where Hagan is the defending winner. The first half of the NHRA’s six-race playoffs haven't gone Hagan’s way in his 10,000-horsepower Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T powered by Pennzoil, but Hagan has plenty of belief his chase for a third world championship isn’t over yet.
“We feel really good going to Dallas and if you click one off, maybe you can get in that groove of going rounds,” said Hagan, who currently trails defending world champ Ron Capps by 157 points. “We’ve not won since the beginning of the year and with the type of car and people we have on this team, you feel like you’re due for a win. It’s going to be tough and we’ve got a tough road ahead of us, but we’re not out of hope. We’ve seen crazy stuff happen and we’re never going to give up.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Hagan (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Oct. 15. It is the fourth of six playoff events and Hagan is ready to snap a winless streak that has reached 12 races.
The team, led by crew chief Dickie Venables, has had plenty of spectacular moments, qualifying No. 1 twice in that span, including a 3.799 at Indy, but they haven’t visited the winner’s circle since early June. Hagan has one semifinal appearances in the Countdown to the Championship but had a second-round exit at the most recent race in St. Louis, which puts, even more, focus on a big performance in Dallas in hopes of a last-ditch attempt at tracking down Capps.
“We’re going to go in there and do the best job we can and finish as strong as we can,” said Hagan, who has 25 career wins. “There’s always that hope, and with Dickie and this team, I feel like if anybody can do it, we can. We’ve had some rough luck, but that’s racing, and there’s nobody that hasn’t given 100 percent. We’re going to keep coming out and doing the best job we can.”
In addition to trying to chase down his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Hagan also has to deal with the likes of Courtney Force and Robert Hight, who trail Capps by 108 and 46 points, respectively. Hagan does have the luxury of two previous Dallas wins, but he’s also well aware that those victories don’t have a major effect on success in 2017 at the Texas Motorplex. He’s expecting things will be fast and Hagan knows his team can put up big numbers this weekend.
“That’s why our sport is so competitive; it’s always changing and evolving,” Hagan said. “Hopefully we can have a good weekend. That’s why you get in these cars. If we can finish on a good note, that would be awesome. We’ve got the key people in place. We have to go out there and earn it. We’ve backed ourselves in a little corner, but hopefully, we can go out and finish strong.”
Brown remains in the hunt for his third straight Top Fuel crown, but he must track down red-hot points leader and Texan Steve Torrence, who picked up his eighth win of 2017 in St. Louis.
Skillman has four Pro Stock wins this season but has yet to break through in the Countdown. Greg Anderson grabbed the points lead with a St. Louis win, while Bo Butner sits just three points back.
Krawiec had been red-hot in Pro Stock Motorcycle, winning three straight races, before LE Tonglet won in St. Louis to pull within 16 points. Andrew Hines sits 72 points back.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:15 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 13, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 14, at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 15.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-668-6775. Tickets also are available online at www.texasmotorplex.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For info about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.