TOPEKA, Kan. (May 22, 2016) – The NHRA Kansas Nationals weekend was one for the history books in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and one Matt Hagan will not soon forget.
After setting the national elapsed time and speed records on Friday night at Heartland Park Topeka with a 3.862-second pass at 335.57 mph, the fastest a Funny Car has ever traveled in 1,000 feet and quarter-mile history, the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team led by crew chief Dickie Venables and assistant Michael Knudsen took the event title on Sunday afternoon in a much different scenario.
Under sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s, NHRA fans tuning in live on Fox Sports 1 were treated to a wild pedalfest in Sunday’s final round between Hagan and his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman, who he also beat in last weekend’s final round in the Southern Nationals near Atlanta.
Hagan pedaled his 10,000-horsepower Dodge Charger R/T at least half a dozen times before crossing the finish line to earn his 20th career event title and first at Heartland Park Topeka.
“It was wild,” Hagan said of the final round. “It’s important to put everything in perspective. We set world records for E.T and speed, and then to come back out here to win this race is a tribute to my guys and their hard work. My butt was puckered pretty good on that last run.
“It was one of those deals where it was ‘oh no, oh no, oh no.’ I don’t know how many times I hit the fuel pedal but it was a lot. Sometimes you’re just thinking ‘don’t blow up’. To see the win lights come on all day, I’m just tickled about the job Dickie Venables and all our Mopar/Rocky guys are doing.”
Hagan completed three of four runs between 3.942 and 3.951 seconds before the final-round pedal fest. His weekend moved the Mopar/Rocky Dodge from ninth to fourth in the Mello Yello standings.
“When you have a fast racecar like we did it’s hard to pull it back when the sun comes out like it did. We had been laying down some great numbers all day, and I didn’t expect to have to pedal the racecar like I had to.
“The race wins are your common goal with 10 guys around you. The race wins will turn into championships if you win enough of them and that’s what’s really important for us. Back-to-back wins, I’ve only done it one other time, so that’s pretty special in itself. It just shows how good you’re doing, how well everyone is working together. We have to carry this momentum into these next races.
“For everyone that supports us, Mopar, Rocky Boots, everyone at Pennzoil who has really changed our performances since they came on board, these records and these wins are for them.”
FUNNY CAR Event winner: Matt Hagan (Don Schumacher Racing) No. 1 qualifier: Hagan (DSR) 3.862 sec.-national record, 335.57 mph-national record
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
QUALIFYING RESULTS FRIDAY: 3.933 sec., 331.690 mph
Matt Hagan set national records for elapsed time and speed and then fretted about whether those records would hold up.
Hagan, a two-time Funny Car world champion, blazed to an elapsed time of 3.862 seconds at 335.57 mph to set both ends of the national record as seven drivers in the session topped the 330 mph mark.
“I think the fans definitely got what they paid for,” Hagan said. “If they're upset or want their money back, they need to change sports. It was just a phenomenal session.
“Run after run they kept (raising) the bar and it was just something that if you wanted to bring a kid or somebody for the first time to be able to see something like that, if that doesn't impress you, nothing will.”
After his run, Hagan still had to sweat out runs by some of the sport's fastest cars to hold on to his records.
“I didn't really know if that would hold, honestly,” Hagan said. “There were a couple of cars that ran pretty close to what we ran. I thought the mile an hour would stick because 335, that's getting it done. But the ET, I was like, ‘Man, I don't know if it will stay 1 or not.”
Jack Beckman set the national record for speed in the first qualifying session at 332.59 mph, but Hagan dropped his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, who ran a 3.866 ET in the second session, to the No. 2 spot.
Tim Wilkerson (3.869, 333.74) holds down the No. 3 spot heading into Saturday's final two qualifying sessions while Courtney Force (3.871, 331.12) is No. 4 and Alexis DeJoria (3.875, 332.18) rounds out the top five.
Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger crew chief Dickie Venables illustrates the finicky nature of running a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car. It was a tough early season for driver Matt Hagan until the team rebounded with a victory at the Houston event. What was the difference? Not much, apparently.
“We struggled with consistency from the get-go, from the test session all the way through Vegas,” said Venables. “We had no confidence in what it was going to do. We made some changes after Vegas to get the consistency back. In Atlanta, we were comfortable turning the wick up after getting down the track in Houston.
“We didn’t change much over the winter. We had a different clutch controller but the same engine combination and clutch setup with some different discs. The only thing we did after Vegas was we reconfigured the lock-up part of the clutch and made some disc changes. It makes you think, ‘Are you kidding me? That’s all that was making us miserable?’ ”
Left Lane: Matt Hagan Runs 3.862/335.57, Now #1 Best prior run: 3.933/331.69, Was #10
Right Lane: Alexis DeJoria Runs 3.875/332.18, Now #2 Best prior run: 3.928/324.05, Was #8
The quickest pair of Funny Cars ever!
Matt Hagan's incremental times: 60ft-0.872 sec., 330ft-2.222, 660ft-3.132/284.45 mph.
Alexis DeJoria's incremental times: 60ft-0.878 sec., 330ft-2.226, 660ft-3.135/282.13 mph.