Hagan Returns To Glory At Route 66
JOLIET, Ill. – Matt Hagan ended an eleven race winless streak in Funny Car with a victory Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Route 66 Raceway.
Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car world champ, ran his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger past Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. with a 4.098-second pass at 310.48 mph to claim the 11th victory of his career. It was Hagan’s first win since the season-ending race in Pomona last year and his second final round appearance of 2014.
“We’ve been working at it this year,” said Hagan who now has three wins at Chicago. “It’s been a very humbling year for us. Last year we came out and won five races and you kind of think you are going to set the world on fire the following year.”
Hagan was sitting 10th in the Funny Car point standings just seven races before the Countdown to the Championship playoff, a position that the DSR driver was not used to. The win moved Hagan to eighth in the points and he sits 78 points ahead of Tim Wilkerson for the final transfer spot.
“We could feel the pressure to stay in the Top 10 because if you’re not running for a championship, Don isn’t happy,” said Hagan, who beat 2012 world champ Jack Beckman, Bob Bode and recent Epping winner Ron Capps on the way to the final. “The competition is just so, so tough out here in Funny Car, so when you turn four win lights on, you just don’t want this day to end. When 10 guys come together for a common goal, you hope that it could go on for two or three more days like this.”
Johnson was appearing in his second final of the season following his victory in Bristol. The Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger team rose to second in the point standings and trails Robert Hight by 246 points. Hight reached the second round before falling to Capps.
Brown piloted his Matco Tools dragster to a pass of 3.814 at 317.34, defeating second-time finalist Brittany Force. It was the fourth win of the season for Brown and first since Houston.
“It felt really good to stay poised this weekend,” said Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champ. “We had some things go our way. To run that great in the final, to put out an .81 is a credit to all of our guys.”