Hagan ready to battle for spot in Countdown as NHRA heads to Brainerd for Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals
HAGAN READY TO BATTLE FOR SPOT IN COUNTDOWN AS NHRA HEADS TO BRAINERD FOR LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS
BRAINERD, Minn. — At the end of the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season, Matt Hagan was on top of the world as the newly crowned NHRA Funny Car world champion, and he was looking forward to a very promising future in the sport. Fast-forward to the 2012 season, and as the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to the penultimate race of the regular season, the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, Aug. 16-19 at Brainerd International Raceway, no one would have predicted that Hagan would be fighting for one of the final spots in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs.
Hagan and his Aaron’s/Mopar Dodge Charger team have struggled all season, winning only four rounds of racing in the first 13 events. His slump started to turn around at the race in Sonoma, Calif., where Hagan earned his first final-round appearance of 2012. He then repeated that effort at the next race in Seattle, moving from 13th in the standings to 11th, 62 points out of the 10th and final spot in the Countdown.
“A month ago, I probably would have told you our chances of making the Countdown were not very good,” Hagan said. “But we’ve made it to two championship rounds in the last two races, and it’s within reach now. I think we’re going to make it in with our Aaron’s Dodge, and once you’re in, anything can happen, like last year.”
Hagan’s 2011 championship run started at the first race of the Countdown; he began in sixth place and moved to second with his record-setting performance in Charlotte, N.C. The reigning champion knows more than anything that the first step to defending his championship is to just get in the top 10.
“Bottom line, you can’t win it if you’re not in it,” Hagan said. “Our goal heading to Brainerd is to qualify well and then win rounds. We’re not looking any further down the road than that. You can’t ’cause if you do, you’re going to get bit. If you qualify good and win rounds, everything else will take care of itself.”
As hard as Hagan and his team have had to fight this season, the reigning champ never lost hope or confidence, especially in his crew chief, Tommy DeLago.
“You know, I’ve been confident in Tommy and our whole Aaron’s Mopar team all year,” Hagan said. “That might sound stupid because of the lows we’ve had, but Tommy never forgot how to tune a race car, and our guys sure as heck haven’t forgotten how to work on my hot rod. I’m always confident when it comes to our team.”
Last season at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway, the Don Schumacher Racing team, which Hagan is part of, was the one to beat in both Funny Car and Top Fuel. DSR had two cars in both final rounds, guaranteeing a DSR win. Antron Brown (Top Fuel) and Johnny Gray (Funny Car) claimed victories, and that gives Hagan even more confidence heading to Minnesota.
“Don Schumacher gives each of us the best stuff and the best people, so we should be in the finals every week,” Hagan said. “The only people we should lose to are our teammates, and that’s going to happen. There’s a lot of great competition out there, but I believe I’m with the best organization.”
Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also claimed wins last year at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be televised on ESPN2HD.
Brown is chasing the points lead in Top Fuel, right behind his DSR teammate Spencer Massey. Seven-time Top Fuel world champ Tony Schumacher and Steve Torrence are also in the hunt for the top spot. An intense battle is at the bottom of the top 10, though, as Bob Vandergriff and Clay Millican are trying to earn the 10th and final position in the Countdown with just two races left until the cutoff.
In Funny Car, 15-time world champ John Force sits in ninth, and Bob Tasca is fighting to hang on to the final spot ahead of Hagan. Tim Wilkerson is also on the outside looking in and within striking distance of Tasca and Hagan.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Lucas Oil Buell riders Hector Arana Jr. and Hector Arana Sr. are looking to claim their first victories of the season at their sponsor’s event. Not only will they have to battle the Harley-Davidson duo of Eddie Krawiec and Andrew Hines, but they will also have a challenge from defending event champ Tonglet.
Pro Stock action is also tight, with a virtual three-way tie for the 10th spot between four-time world champ Jeg Coughlin, Ronnie Humphrey and Larry Morgan. The racing action is guaranteed to be as exciting as ever as the NHRA heads to the penultimate race of the regular season in Brainerd.
* SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2 and 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 17, and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 18. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, please call (218) 824-RACE (7223) or log on to www.brainerdraceway.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, Aug. 18, and three hours of eliminations coverage at 9 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 19.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will feature competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 16, and eliminations begin at 9:15 a.m. on Aug. 17 and continue through Aug. 19.
* ON THE WEB: Get live timing, scoring, multimedia and the latest news updates from every NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event on the Internet at www.nhra.com. Visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
LUCAS OIL NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 31st annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals, the 16th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Brainerd International Raceway and Resort, Brainerd, Minn. Track is located a few miles north of the Brainerd area off Highway 371. The track is located on the east side of the highway.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Aug. 16-19.
THURSDAY, Aug. 16 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9:30 a.m.
FRIDAY, Aug. 17 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
SATURDAY, Aug. 18 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Aug. 19 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Aug. 18, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 19, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 9 p.m. (ET) and will re-air at 3:30 a.m.
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Aug. 17, 9 – 9:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 14C
Saturday, Aug. 18, 8:30 – 9 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 14C
Sunday, Aug. 19, 8 – 8:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 9 / Transponder 14C
(3980 MHz, vertical; Data Rate: 40.461470554 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2011 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Johnny Gray, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock; LE Tonglet, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 11, FC; Joe Amato, 6, TF; Kenny Bernstein, 5, FC/TF; Jeg Coughlin, 4, PS; Antron Brown, 4, PSM.
Top Fuel – 3.786 seconds by Larry Dixon, Aug. ’10; 323.04 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’11.
Funny Car – 4.057 seconds by Jack Beckman, Aug. ’10; 307.37 mph by Ron Capps, Aug. ’11.
Pro Stock – 6.593 sec. by Mike Edwards, Aug. ’10; 209.59 mph by Greg Anderson, Aug. ’11.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.881 sec. by Hector Arana Jr., Aug. ’11; 196.82 mph by Hines, Aug. ’05.
Top Fuel – 3.735 sec. by Del Worsham, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car – 3.995 sec. by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.; 318.99 mph by Jack Beckman, Sept. ’11, Charlotte, N.C.
Pro Stock – 6.477 sec. by Jason Line, Oct. ’11, Reading, Pa.; 213.91 mph by Jason Line, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
PS Motorcycle – 6.750 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, March ’12, Gainesville, Fla.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (866) 444-4455. Tickets also are available online at brainerdraceway.com.
CONTACT: NHRA Communications Department, (626) 914-4761. Scott Smith, (317) 281-5049, cell
NHRA FULL THROTTLE DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. — Point standings (top 10) following the 15th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Spencer Massey, 1,236*; 2. Antron Brown, 1,231*; 3. Tony Schumacher, 1,109*; 4. Steve Torrence, 1,108*; 5. Doug Kalitta, 902; 6. Shawn Langdon, 839; 7. Morgan Lucas,829; 8. Brandon Bernstein, 766; 9. David Grubnic, 756; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 633.
Funny Car: 1. Robert Hight, 1,143*; 2. Ron Capps, 1,112*; 3. Jack Beckman, 1,003*; 4. Johnny Gray, 942; 5. Mike Neff, 933; 6. Courtney Force, 851; 7. Cruz Pedregon, 803; 8. Jeff Arend, 749; 9. John Force, 746; 10. Bob Tasca III, 739.
Pro Stock: 1. Allen Johnson, 1,324*; 2. Jason Line, 1,246*; 3. Greg Anderson, 1,236*; 4. Mike Edwards, 1,031*; 5. Vincent Nobile, 1,020*; 6. Erica Enders, 941*; 7. Shane Gray, 592; 8. V. Gaines, 570; 9. Ron Krisher, 558; 10. (tie) Jeg Coughlin, 550; Ronnie Humphrey, 550.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Eddie Krawiec, 842*; 2. Andrew Hines, 774*; 3. Hector Arana Jr., 655*; 4. Hector Arana, 587*; 5. Karen Stoffer, 450; 6. Michael Ray, 387; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 381; 8. LE Tonglet, 378; 9. Matt Smith, 342; 10. Shawn Gann, 336.
*Clinched berth in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship playoffs.