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Hagan Starts Countdown With Three-mendous Run

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 17 2011

Matt Hagan broke the 3-second barrier at Charlotte on Friday. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – Funny Car driver Matt Hagan became the first competitor in that category’s history to break the 3-second barrier Friday, leading a record-setting evening in qualifying for this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway.

Two more qualifying sessions are scheduled for Saturday in the NHRA’s opening weekend in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship.

Hagan’s 3.995-second record run came late Friday night after a rain shower briefly halted the weekend’s second qualifying round. It broke the elapsed time track record of 4.024-seconds set in March 2010 by Robert Hight.

“We knew we had a fast hot rod,” said Hagan, who enters the first event in the six-race Countdown to the Championship sixth in points. “The thing leaves and it got up on the tire like a heart beat. The next thing I knew it’s digging and it just kept on digging. It was one of those deals where you’re trying not to bring it back to the groove too hard because you know it’s like it’s on a piece of glass and it could come loose any time. It’s moving around just a little bit and it still sticks and it’s still digging, things are vibrating and it’s dark. It’s one of those deals where you just never know what’s going to happen.”

After Hagan reached the finish line he asked crew chief Tommy DeLago what he ran “because that was a fast lap.”

“My vision was blurred a little bit. I was trying to see the groove,” said Hagan, who thought DeLago was playing a joke on him when he told him his time. “It was an incredible run. To be a part of a milestone in history, to be the first in the threes, that’s something they can never take away from you.”

Hagan described DeLago as a “mad scientist” to put a car that powerful under him and “for me to be able to hang on to it is just really cool. That’s the moments you live for out on these race tracks.”

Also in Funny Car, Jack Beckman set a top speed record with 318.92 mph. That broke the track record of 316.38 mph set in March 2010 by Ashley Force Hood. He has a shot at a national record on Saturday.

Larry Dixon, who’s fourth in the Top Fuel point standings, also has a shot at a national record in that category in Saturday’s two qualifying sessions. He led qualifying with an E.T. of 3.784 seconds and top speed of 324.83 mph.

“With what Matt did, this could be the quickest track in the country,” Dixon said. “This race track, as a driver for me, it’s a little tricky because it’s so smooth. It’s got so much grip … it just felt like a smooth, nice, clean straight run down the track. The credit goes to the preparation of the race track. The weather conditions are coming right to it to be able to take advantage of a race track like this. For me, I wish every track we went to was all concrete. It would make it a lot better for the teams. It’s a great facility and we’ve got (good) weather conditions to go with it.”

Other track records set under cloudy skies and cool temperatures were in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

In Pro Stock, four-time champion Greg Anderson broke his own record of 212.46 mph for top speed that he set in March 2010 with 212.69 mph. His teammate Jason Line established the E.T. record with a 6.510-second run, breaking Jeg Coughlin’s record of 6.520 seconds, also set in March 2010. Allen Johnson was third fastest at 6.529 seconds, just 19-thousandths of a second slower than Line in first.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec’s elapsed time of 6.833 seconds broke the 6.875-second record set in March 2010 by Matt Smith, who was second fastest Friday at 6.871 seconds.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, September 17 2011
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