BROWNSBURG, Ind. (July 27, 2016) – The second stop on the three-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ annual Western Swing is this weekend at the 29th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals near San Francisco, and getting back to sea level will be welcomed by Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team.
The Swing started last weekend near Denver at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals where Hagan and the Dickie Venables-led Mopar/Rocky Boots team finished in the quarterfinals at one of the most challenging events of the season.
“That’s a tough one and we’re glad it’s behind us,” Hagan said. “You change so much to race there and now the guys have to change everything back before driving 1,000-miles to the next one. It’s a pretty tough stretch for everyone.”
This weekend the series heads farther west to Sonoma Raceway where Hagan has one runner-up finish in his Funny Car career that includes two world championships.
“Going to Sonoma is always something that we look forward to,” Hagan said. “It’s a very nice facility and the track produces some great runs because of the weather. We haven’t been able to pull down a win there just yet but I have all the confidence in the world in Dickie and this team that we can pick up a trophy there.”
Only four races remain before the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff that begins in September near Charlotte. Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane team have scored two event titles and two poles this season and are currently ranked fourth in Mello Yello standings.
“We’re looking for consistency right now,” Hagan said. “That’s key. If you have a consistent racecar it gives you confidence. We’ve got a few more races to get this beast figured out before it’s on for the championship. Dickie has a game plan and I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s making the right calls, making the right decisions and with a little bit of luck on our side we will be turning on win lights.”
The NHRA Sonoma Nationals kicks off with nitro qualifying at 5:15 p.m. Friday and Sunday’s championship eliminations will be broadcast live on FOX national network on Sunday beginning at 4 p.m. ET.
MATT HAGAN: Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T
Last event Denver, July 22-24: Qualified No. 7, lost in second round to John Force
A year ago at Sonoma: Qualified No. 2, lost in second round to Tommy Johnson Jr.
Career at Sonoma: Wins 0; Runner-ups 1 (2012); Poles 2 (2009, 2013)
DENVER (July 23, 2016) – Racing on the mountain proved to be difficult for Matt Hagan and the Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots team at the 37th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals.
After qualifying seventh for Sunday’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series eliminations, Hagan and the Mopar team led by crew chief Dickie Venables picked up the opening round win on a bye run when opponent Tim Wilkerson was unable to make the call after his car was damaged in a Saturday qualifying session.
Hagan then faced John Force in the second round of eliminations but came up short to Force’s 4.038-second pass as Force went on to win the event title.
“It’s tough, there’s no way around it,” Hagan said of the unique event that sits a mile above sea level. “It’s one and done. We’ll put this behind us and come back next year.”
The team led by crew chief Dickie Venables carried momentum into Sunday’s eliminations from their 4.010-second pass at 316 mph that placed them seventh in qualifying on what their first full pass down the track. On race day, Venables was able to tune Hagan’s 10,000-horsepower nitro machine powered by Mopar and lubricated with Pennzoil to two full pulls that resulted in 4.03- and 4.05-second passes.
“Dickie really turned it around for race day and we made it down the track which we fought in qualifying. We got it together today but we are glad to be leaving here. We will go back to what’s normal and what we’ve been working hard on to prepare us for the rest of the year. We’re getting close to when the Countdown situations come into play and we have a couple more races left to fine tune our stuff. Obviously we wanted to win this for Mopar but this is a tricky one to win.”
Only four Mello Yello events remain before points standings are reset for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff. Hagan and the Mopar team are ranked fourth in points standings heading into next weekend’s 29th annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals in Sonoma, Calif.
But before he heads even further west on the Western Swing, Hagan will take a couple days to enjoy what Denver has to offer.
“I don’t often get a break, usually it’s going home to work so I’ll get a little R&R and have a couple days to recoup since I’m staying out here,” he said. “Obviously I miss the family, miss the kids but I’ll make the best of being out here on the Swing and do a little relaxing but also get focused on the next one in Sonoma.”
Event winner: John Force (John Force Racing)
No. 1 qualifier: Courtney Force (John Force Racing), 3.917 sec.-track record, 318.39 mph
MATT HAGAN, Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Charger R/T
Qualifying position: No. 7
First round opponent: Tim Wilkerson
FRIDAY: 4.444 sec., 198.90 mph, (Session 1); 11.422, 71.23, (Session 2)
SATURDAY: 4.899, 163.99, (Session 3); 4.010, 316.67 (Session 4)
Funny Car (Unofficial)
1. Ron Capps (1120)
2. Courtney Force (998)
3. Jack Beckman (976)
4. Matt Hagan (881)
5. Robert Hight (877)
5. Del Worsham (877)
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (855)
8. John Force (821)
9. Tim Wilkerson (793)
10. Alexis DeJoria (733)