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Minter: Hagan Already Out To Pasture

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2010

Funny Car driver Matt Hagan hangs with a slower crowd away from the drag strip.

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Commerce, Ga. – You wouldn’t think that a guy who gets his kicks running a Funny Car at 300 miles per hour (Matt Hagan) could find much common ground with someone who spends his idle hours bumping along the backroads at 40 miles per hour in an old farm truck (me), but he did.

It was cows.

Hagan has 200 mama cows and about that many calves most times on his spread in Virginia. I keep between eight and 12 most years, a huge difference, but the experiences are similar.

I’ve been around cows since I was big enough to sit on the back of a pick-up truck and kick ear corn off the tailgate while my great-uncle “Big Bill” Harp drove through the pasture blowing his horn to summon the cows.

The first one I could call my own was a brindle-looking mixed breed named Texas. I arrived at that name after watching “The Rare Breed” a popular movie of that era.

Our bull back then, a registered Polled Hereford, was named Vindicator, just like in the movies.

Hagan, who is about 25 years younger than me, also has been around horses and cows for most of his life.

He got serious about the cows a few years back when his family, which owns a string of nine automobile dealerships on the Motor Mile in Christiansburg as well as a racing complex of the same name, bought the farm he now runs.

Matt Hagan, whose good looks, good manners and pleasant personality remind one of Jimmie Johnson over on the NASCAR circuit, said during an interview in his transporter at the Southern Nationals that running cows and Funny Cars actually complement each other, strange as that might seem.

“To be able to run cows and race is something that really worked out for me,” he said. “Here these cars are 8,000 horsepower, extremely fast, lot of focus, and it’s very adrenaline driven.

“You’re always walking on that razor blade out here. But when I get back home, it’s my pace, my time, where I unwind. You can’t be full speed all the time or you’ll burn out.”

He was probably glad to get back to the ranch after Atlanta. His first-round loss to his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman dropped him from second in the standings to sixth headed to this week’s Summer Nationals in Topeka.

Hagan said he’s careful to not bring the cow business to the race track, mentally speaking, and he doesn’t seem to let racing matters interfere with his ranching.

“I have one full-time guy, other family members help,” he said of his ranch crew. “You can’t worry about that at the race track. It’s not fair to the crew for me to be thinking about what’s going on at the farm. But it does take some practice turning it on and off.”

He said the bottom line is that he’s got the best of both worlds. At least that’s the way it looked from his front porch a few nights back.

“I was sitting there with my wife, looking up at the stars,” he said. “How lucky are you to be 27 years old, have good family, have a nice home, be able to drive a fast race car and have a productive farm?

“You don’t get any luckier than that. I count my blessings every day.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, May 19 2010
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