POMONA, Calif., (Nov. 13, 2016) – For the first time in 11 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events, Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team suffered an opening-round loss to close the 2016 season.
Hagan’s 10,000-horsepower Dodge Charger R/T tuned by crew chief Dickie Venables with assistant Michael Knudsen hazed the tires in the opening round on a warm, sunny day at the NHRA Finals at Pomona, Calif.
“We’ve been pushing that line all weekend and we just went too far there in the first round,” Hagan said. “It’s unfortunate to end your season like that. It’s not what we wanted to do. We’re better than that but we just didn’t show it today.”
Hagan ends the season with four event titles in six final round appearances. Highlights from the Mello Yello season are clocking the national speed record at 335.57 mph in Topeka where they scored the event title. He also holds the national elapsed time record of 3.822 set in August at Brainerd, Minn.
The Mopar/Rocky Boots team finishes third in Funny Car points standings, giving Don Schumacher Racing a clean sweep of the top-three in points.
“You have to look back and think about all of the good things we did this year,” he said. “You can’t hang your head on one day. I’m proud of Dickie and this entire team. He pushes it, that’s how we get better.”
Another bright spot was when Hagan and the Mopar team scored the coveted U.S. Nationals event title at Indianapolis over Labor Day weekend.
“You look back at some of our race wins this year and winning Indy is huge,” the two-time Funny Car champion said. “There’s guys that would trade a pile of wins just for one Indy win and we did that.
“That’s what we’ll look at from this year. It’s tough to end your season on a first round loss but that’ll just make us hungrier for next year.”
FUNNY CAR Event winner: Tommy Johnson Jr. (Don Schumacher Racing) No. 1 qualifier: Jack Beckman (Don Schumacher Racing), 3.825 sec.-track record, 332.84 mph-track record
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T Crew chief: Dickie Venables; assistant: Michael Knudsen Qualified: No. 7 SUNDAY ELIMINATIONS First round: Jeff Arend (3.971, 314.97) def. HAGAN (6.367, 118.41) QUALIFYING FRIDAY: 6.397 sec., 109.08 mph, (Session 1); 3.894, 329.83, (Session 2) SATURDAY: 5.292, 136.41, (Session 3); 3.908, 330.72, (Session 4)
Hagan and his Mopar team were disappointed they couldn't stop teammate Capps' drive for the world championship, but it wasn't for a lack of hard work.
Capps clinched his first championship Saturday night and that thwarted Hagan's chance at winning his third since 2011.
"We sure wanted to put more pressure on Ron but that team has been quick and consistent all year long," Hagan said. "If we were going to win it, I'm glad Ron did. He's a class act and took me under his week when I started with DSR.
"We are going to fight like heck tomorrow. It would be cool if we win for the fifth time this year because that's how many our new world champion has."
Qualified: No. 7
First round: Jeff Arend
FRIDAY: 6.397 sec., 109.08 mph, (Session 1); 3.894, 329.83, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 5.292, 136.41, (Session 3); 3.908, 330.72, (Session 4)
Funny Car (Unofficial)
1. Ron Capps (2606)
2. Tommy Johnson Jr. (2554)
3. Matt Hagan (2494)
4. John Force (2486)
5. Jack Beckman (2477)
6. Courtney Force (2414)
7. Del Worsham (2406)
8. Robert Hight (2368)
9. Tim Wilkerson (2314)
10. Alexis DeJoria (2184)