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Hagan Closes Swing With Funny Car Victory

| , RacinToday.com Monday, August 5 2013

Don Schumacher Racing's Matt Hagan wins Funny Car event in Seattle. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Rusty Jarrett)


Matt Hagan extended his Funny Car point lead – and clinched a spot in the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs – with a victory Sunday against Bob Tasca III during the 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

Hagan led a trio of first-time champions in Kent, Wash., located near Seattle, where the three-race Western Swing concluded. Morgan Lucas (Top Fuel) and Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) also emerged as class winners during the 16th of 24 events of the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car world champion, powered his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger to a 1,000-foot time of 4.171-seconds at 294.75 mph. Tasca, seeking his first win in nearly a year, slowed to 5.324-seconds at 164.81 mph in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang.

Hagan, who picked up his ninth career win, outran Alexis DeJoria, Johnny Gray and Courtney Force, ending the latter’s six-round winning streak at the track.

“The chemistry of this team is something I’ve never had before,” said Hagan, who won his fourth national event of 2013 and the 214th for Don Schumacher Racing overall. “It shows on the racetrack and it trickles down from the top, where (crew chief) Dickie Venables is a great leader. It’s phenomenal to strap into this Don Schumacher Racing car and know I have the opportunity to win every time I sit in it. I like to get patted on the back as much as anyone, but this is 100 percent hats-off to my team.”

The weekend got even better when Hagan was informed that his second-round win made him the first Funny Car driver to secure a spot among the 10 competitors who will compete in the six-race Countdown. Former two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon jumped back into second in the point standings, while Tasca moved into the top-10 with his final-round appearance. Hagan, meanwhile, was outstanding on the starting line, winning on a hole shot against Force and posting a strong 0.036-second reaction time in the final to pick up his first career win in Seattle.

“It’s a huge deal for us to get locked into the Countdown,” said Hagan, who raised his elimination record to 27-12 this season. “(DSR teammate) Ron Capps didn’t qualify and now we have a whole race worth of points on him. We’re out there to win championships. We can be buddies later, but right now we have one goal – pull on the helmet, get focused, get up on the wheel and turn on four win lights. We just have to dig deep, work hard and make it happen.”

When Hagan won his first-round race Sunday, he matched his 2012 season total of 24 round-victories. Hagan, Venables and assistant Mike Knudsen arrived at Pacific Raceways with a 27-point lead over second-place Capps. Hagan exited The Great Northwest with a 117-point lead over Pedregon and 134 over Capps, who fell to third.

In Top Fuel, Lucas claimed his first victory of the season and eighth of his career by knocking off David Grubnic in the final. Lucas covered the 1,000-foot distance in his GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster in 3.908-seconds at 296.57 mph to easily trailer Grubnic’s Candlewood Suites dragster, which went 4.253-seconds at 256.31 mph in its first final-round appearance of 2013.

Lucas made his second straight final-round appearance, finishing the job in Seattle after losing last weekend to point-leader Shawn Langdon in Sonoma, Calif. “We’ve had our struggles, but this is a sign that we’re getting there and turning the corner,” Lucas said. “We’re starting to show some consistency. To win here in front of these fans with an amazing team, it’s probably as cool and as big as any win I’ve had. I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of my team.”

Langdon maintained his point lead in Top Fuel, although Lucas extracted some revenge by beating the Al-Anabi Racing driver in Sunday’s semifinals. Despite a first-round loss, seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher of DSR moved back into second place. Lucas, who now has made three final-round appearances in 2013 and remained seventh in points, also defeated Khalid alBalooshi and Doug Kalitta en route to his first victory at Pacific Raceways.

“I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this track,” said Lucas, who went as quick as 3.817-seconds at 318.32 mph during eliminations. “Hopefully we can maintain this consistency the back half of the season, because I really want to make a serious run at a championship.”

Professional drivers now have only two events remaining to qualify for the Countdown, with the fields in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock set when racing concludes at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Clermont, Ind., near Indianapolis, Aug. 28-Sept. 2. Grubnic currently is in 11th place, 78 points away from the top-10. He began Sunday’s event 126 points behind 10th place.

“Our Optima Batteries car was one of the best cars on the property, and we’re extremely happy about that even though we didn’t get the win,” said Grubnic, of Kalitta Motorsports. “Sure we’re disappointed we didn’t go home with the trophy, but Connie (Kalitta, team-owner and crew chief) and the entire team did an awesome job all weekend so we’re not hanging our heads. We made up some valuable points and that’s great.”

Nobile won for the second consecutive week in Pro Stock and picked up his third victory in 2013 by defeating four-time world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. in a rematch of last weekend’s final in Sonoma. Nobile’s Mountain View Tire Dodge Avenger posted a quarter-mile pass of 6.586-seconds at 210.54 mph while Coughlin ran 6.615-seconds/210.60 mph in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge. Nobile also improved to 3-0 in final round appearances against Coughlin this season.

“Luckily we came out on top, just like last weekend,” Nobile said. “I think I try a little bit harder when I’m going up against my teammates in Jeg and Allen (Johnson), and it definitely means a lot beating Jeg. He’s just unbelievable and to be able to beat a champion, it means a lot to me and my team.”

Pole-sitter and former world champion Mike Edwards, who lost to Coughlin in the semifinals, stayed the point-leader in Pro Stock, while Nobile climbed into fourth by earning his first victory outside of California in 2013. Greg Anderson, a former four-time world champion, also clinched a position in the Countdown to the Championship. Nobile, who posted his quickest run of the day in the final, beat Chris McGaha, Johnson and Anderson to reach the final.

“I owe it a lot to my team because they’re doing a tremendous job right now,” said Nobile, who clinched his Countdown spot on Saturday during qualifying. “This is definitely a great time to turn it on for the Countdown. I was struggling in the beginning of the year, but I think I figured out what I was doing wrong.”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series resumes Aug. 15-18 with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn.

Final finishing order (1-16) at the 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by Super Start Batteries at Pacific Raceways. The race is the 16th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel _1. Morgan Lucas; 2. David Grubnic; 3. T.J. Zizzo; 4. Shawn Langdon; 5. Clay Millican; 6.Steve Torrence; 7. Khalid alBalooshi; 8. Antron Brown; 9. Bob Vandergriff Jr.; 10. Brandon Bernstein; 11. Spencer Massey; 12. Troy Buff; 13. Tony Schumacher; 14. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 15. Doug Kalitta; 16. Brittany Force.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan; 2. Bob Tasca III; 3. Courtney Force; 4. Tim Wilkerson; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6.Johnny Gray; 7. Robert Hight; 8. Paul Lee; 9. John Force; 10. Jeff Arend; 11. Todd Lesenko; 12. Alexis DeJoria; 13. Del Worsham; 14. Jack Beckman; 15. Tony Pedregon; 16. John Hale.

Pro Stock _1. Vincent Nobile; 2. Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 3. Mike Edwards; 4. Greg Anderson; 5. Allen Johnson; 6.Jason Line; 7. Rickie Jones; 8. Shane Gray; 9. V. Gaines; 10. Rodger Brogdon; 11. Matt Hartford; 12. Larry Morgan; 13. Steve Kent; 14. Chris McGaha; 15. Deric Kramer; 16. JR Carr.

Sunday’s final results from the 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals:

Top Fuel _ Morgan Lucas, 3.908-seconds, 296.57 mph def. David Grubnic, 4.253-seconds, 256.31 mph.

Funny Car _ Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 4.171, 294.75 def. Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 5.324, 164.81.

Pro Stock _ Vincent Nobile, Dodge Avenger, 6.586, 210.54 def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.615, 210.60.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Shawn Cowie, 5.372, 268.33 def. Garrett Bateman, 5.649, 252.80.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Clint Thompson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 5.594, 257.04 def. Sean Bellemeur, Chevy Camaro, 5.632, 256.84.

Competition Eliminator _ Doug Lambeck, Pontiac Sunfire, 8.399, 160.27 def. Alan Ellis, ’23-T Ford, 6.572, 209.65.

Super Stock_ Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 10.252, 117.35 def. Jody Lang, Chevy Malibu, foul.

Stock Eliminator _ Dan Fletcher, Chevy Camaro, 11.279, 104.95 def. Don Elgin, Pontiac Grand Am, 12.739, 100.21.

Super Comp _ Steve Williams, Dragster, 8.945, 178.12 def. Andy Morris, Dragster, 8.929, 163.39.

Super Gas_ Ed Hutchinson, Chevy Corvette, 9.918, 160.86 def. Eddy Plaizier, Corvette, foul.

Super Street _ Larry Miner, Chevy Camaro, 10.904, 141.09 def. Brett Oglesbee, Chevy Vega, 10.917, 121.32.

Final round-by-round results from the 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals:

Top Fuel

Round One _ Morgan Lucas, 3.817, 318.32 def. Doug Kalitta, 4.905, 148.62; Khalid alBalooshi, 3.820, 315.34 def. Brittany Force, 5.886, 111.69; Shawn Langdon, 3.823, 315.05 def. Troy Buff, 3.864, 303.71; David Grubnic, 3.789, 317.72 def. Brandon Bernstein, 3.827, 311.34; T.J. Zizzo, 3.843, 313.22 def. Tony Schumacher, 3.902, 302.62; Antron Brown, 3.866, 310.63 def. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 3.826, 313.58; Clay Millican, 3.807, 316.67 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., 4.552, 172.19; Steve Torrence, 3.836, 308.57 def. Spencer Massey, 3.842, 313.88;

Quarterfinals _ Zizzo, 3.975, 276.75 def. Brown, 4.626, 179.56; Langdon, 3.836, 309.06 def. Torrence, 3.874, 294.11; Grubnic, 3.848, 311.49 def. Millican, 3.840, 310.05; Lucas, 3.869, 305.29 def. alBalooshi, 3.942, 284.69;

Semifinals _ Grubnic, 3.847, 310.55 def. Zizzo, 4.611, 167.74; Lucas, 3.867, 308.43 def. Langdon, 4.825, 168.16;

Final _ Lucas, 3.908, 296.57 def. Grubnic, 4.253, 256.31.

Funny Car

Round One _ Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.115, 293.79 def. Jeff Arend, Dodge Charger, 4.134, 296.05; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.077, 300.20 def. John Hale, Chevy Impala, foul; Johnny Gray, Charger, 4.096, 296.96 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.521, 224.70; Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.064, 299.80 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.184, 292.96; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.155, 292.84 def. Todd Lesenko, Charger, 4.161, 280.08; Paul Lee, Charger, 4.133, 299.13 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.086, 297.42; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.137, 287.53 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 5.855, 116.94; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.086, 300.80 def. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.161, 291.26;

Quarterfinals _ Hagan, 4.175, 289.82 def. Lee, 5.243, 143.90; Tasca III, 4.105, 293.60 def. C. Pedregon, 4.228, 271.19; Wilkerson, 4.153, 291.32 def. Hight, 4.924, 162.35; C. Force, 4.106,300.40 def. Gray, 4.722, 173.61;

Semifinals _ Hagan, 4.121, 292.65 def. C. Force, 4.115, 301.27; Tasca III, 7.440, 93.64 def. Wilkerson, foul;

Final _Hagan, 4.171, 294.75 def. Tasca III, 5.324, 164.81.

Pro Stock

Round One _Jason Line, Chevy Camaro, 6.609, 209.62 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.637, 208.55; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.571, 210.50 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.618, 210.24; Vincent Nobile, Dodge Avenger, 6.592, 209.30 def. Chris McGaha, Avenger, 6.641, 208.55; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.578, 209.69 def. V. Gaines, Avenger, 6.593, 210.47; Jeg Coughlin Jr., Avenger, 6.582, 209.39 def. Steve Kent, Camaro, 6.640, 208.68; Mike Edwards, Camaro, 6.559, 211.03 def. Deric Kramer, Avenger, 6.663, 208.17; Rickie Jones, Camaro, 6.596, 209.95 def. Matt Hartford, Avenger, 6.629, 209.33; Allen Johnson, Avenger, 6.555, 211.13 def. JR Carr, Mustang, 6.667, 207.34;

Quarterfinals _ Coughlin, 6.675, 202.58 def. Gray, 16.073, 50.28; Anderson, 6.608, 209.17 def. Jones, 10.364, 86.59; Edwards, 6.590, 210.21 def. Line, 6.612, 209.46; Nobile, 6.589, 209.75 def.Johnson, 6.583, 210.37;

Semifinals _ Coughlin, 6.632, 208.71 def. Edwards, 6.602, 211.06; Nobile, 6.592, 209.85 def. Anderson, 6.621, 210.01;

Final _ Nobile, 6.586, 210.54 def. Coughlin, 6.615, 210.60.

Point standings (top-10) following the 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals:

Top Fuel _1. Shawn Langdon, 1,292; 2. Tony Schumacher, 1,145; 3. Spencer Massey, 1,140; 4. Antron Brown, 958; 5. Doug Kalitta, 956; 6. Khalid alBalooshi, 920; 7. Morgan Lucas, 884; 8. Clay Millican, 822; 9. Bob Vandergriff Jr., 758; 10. Steve Torrence, 741.

Funny Car _1. Matt Hagan, 1,151; 2. Cruz Pedregon, 1,034; 3. Ron Capps, 1,017; 4. John Force, 996; 5.Johnny Gray, 991; 6. Courtney Force, 983; 7. Jack Beckman, 951; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 877; 9. Bob Tasca III, 874; 10. Robert Hight, 841.

Pro Stock _1. Mike Edwards, 1,421; 2. Allen Johnson, 1,333; 3. Jeg Coughlin Jr., 1,241; 4. Vincent Nobile, 1,032; 5. Shane Gray, 999; 6. Jason Line, 955; 7. Greg Anderson, 894; 8. V. Gaines, 778; 9. Erica Enders-Stevens, 743; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 692.

| , RacinToday.com Monday, August 5 2013
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