Hagan Looking Serious In Funnies

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 29 2016
Matt Hagan moved to the provisional pole in Funny Car in Las Vegas Friday. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Matt Hagan moved to the provisional pole in Funny Car in Las Vegas Friday. (File photo courtesy of the NHRA)

Matt Hagan’s late-season rush for a third NHRA Funny Car world championship gained additional traction Friday, when the Don Schumacher Racing ace powered to the provisional pole after two rounds of qualifications for the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals.

Hagan ran a track-record 1,000-foot elapsed time of 3.872-seconds at 329.18 mph in his Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T for the lead at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Currently third in Countdown to the Championship playoff points, Hagan has earned five poles this season.

Hagan also has emerged as the quickest Funny Car driver over the past three NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events, completing 12 of his last 14 runs in the 3.8-second range including both Friday in Round 5 of the six-race Countdown.

Hagan bagged his fourth win of the season and 22nd of his career two weekends ago, beating DSR teammate/point-leader Ron Capps in the final of the 31st annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex in Ennis. Hagan began the day third in points with 88. Earning six bonus qualifying points enabled Hagan to cut three markers off Capps’ lead. Driver of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge, Capps picked up three points and will start Saturday’s first of two sessions in third.

DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr. and the Make-A-Wish Dodge team funded by Terry Chandler fell to 67 points behind Capps but still leads Hagan by 18.

“Obviously little points matter, but if qualifying stopped right now we would have put five on Capps and we’re less than a round behind Tommy,” said Hagan, the world champion in 2011 and 2014. “(Qualifying) points matter, and it all adds up at the end of the day.

“Tomorrow, who knows what will happen when we run after (Top Fuel) dragsters, but I think today was pretty cool because we had cloud cover. The track was tight; it was good out there. The groove is very narrow so you really have to watch what you’re doing. But all in all, we had a good day. We’ll come back out and try to fight hard again, and scoop up as much as we can.”

Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the 23rd race of 24 on the schedule.

Sixteen-time Funny Car world champion John Force is second after pushing his PEAK Antifreeze Chevy Camaro SS to a 3.872-second pass at a track-record and career-best speed of 331.94 mph.

“I love it and this Chevrolet Camaro body is really fast,” Force said. “It ran 331 mph and I don’t even know if the dragster ran that fast. I’m still learning the visual with this Camaro. We’re going to fight to win this race and then we’re going to fight to win (the season-finale at) Pomona.”

Pritchett piloted her Pennzoil Top Fuel dragster to a 1,000-foot pass in 3.705-seconds at 326.63 mph during the second session to set the track E.T. record. Pritchett, of DSR, will be racing for her second pole of the season and her Top Fuel career on Saturday.

“Talk about living a dream right now and being with the best team out there and the best people in my crew,” Pritchett said. “I’m enjoying it. We’re keeping our head down but you have to enjoy it for a little bit. Learn from what we just did and move on and just consistently do that over and over again and that’s what we’ve been doing these last races. Vegas has always been kind of good to me; our car number is 777 so just going to keep rolling with it and staying focused and staying in the zone.”

Doug Kalitta of Kalitta Motorsports currently is qualified second, followed by two-time/reigning world champion and current point-leader Antron Brown. Kalitta trails DSR’s Brown by 150 points/seven-plus rounds of racing with eight rounds remaining.

“We have a little bit of a points lead but it’s anybody’s game,” said Brown, driver of the Matco Tools/Toyota dragster. “Our main focus is to stay humble, keep our heads down and continue the hard work that’s got us here. That’s a crucial moment for us right now. We’re still not done working. Our team thrives on pressure. Where some teams might crack or fold, some teams get better.”

Skillman, the 2015 Road to the Future Award winner as NHRA’s top rookie, raced to a quarter-mile pass of 6.681-seconds at 204.94 mph in his Chevy Camaro during the second qualifying session of Pro Stock. Skillman is looking for his first pole of the season and fourth of his career.

“We had a rough start. We’re getting a good run now,” said Skillman, who won the most recent national event at Texas Motorplex in Ennis. “We’re starting to learn the car a little better. We struggled really bad at the beginning of the Countdown and think we’re going in a better direction, as it shows now.” Skillman’s E.T. put him ahead of teammate Shane Gray in the runnerup spot, with point-leader and two-time world champion Jason Line of Ken Black Racing in third.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Savoie recorded a quarter-mile pass of 6.904-seconds at 192.66 mph aboard his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuki in Friday’s first session to take the provisional top spot. Savoie qualified on-pole at Texas Motorplex in the most recent race and has six No. 1 starts in his career.

“With the points deal, I’m going to say like we say in Louisiana _ we say ‘Mo points’ and we take them all if they give them to us,” Savoie said. “As a rider you try to do the same thing every time. It’s up to the crew and the crew chief to put the tuneup in it. Tim (Kulungian) and the guys, they are great. They keep it together.”

The Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of three-time world champion Eddie Krawiec _the event winner at Texas Motorplex _ and five-time/reigning world champ Andrew Hines hold the second and third spots, respectively.


Friday’s qualifying results after the first two of four rounds of time trials for the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.  Qualifying will continue Saturday for Sunday’s final eliminations:

Top Fuel _ 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.705-seconds, 326.63 mph; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.709, 326.95; 3. Antron Brown, 3.723, 324.59; 4. Steve Torrence, 3.728, 323.89; 5. Brittany Force, 3.728, 323.89; 6. Tony Schumacher, 3.744, 326.00; 7. Shawn Langdon, 3.750, 324.90; 8. Tripp Tatum, 3.771, 321.27; 9. Clay Millican, 3.784, 325.92; 10. J.R. Todd, 3.811, 320.36; 11. Richie Crampton, 4.491, 171.49; 12. Shawn Reed, 4.913, 154.88.

Not Qualified _ 13. Wayne Newby, 5.891, 108.88; 14. Terry McMillen, 6.575, 98.38; 15. Morgan Lucas, 6.693, 107.52; 16. Scott Palmer, 7.345, 94.75; 17. Troy Buff, 7.633, 86.77.

Funny Car _ 1. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.872, 329.18; 2. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.876, 331.94; 3. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.881, 326.71; 4. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.885, 323.81; 5. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.888, 324.36; 6. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.895, 325.69; 7. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.909, 326.32; 8. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.922, 321.88; 9. Chad Head, Camry, 3.923, 326.24; 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.952, 318.99; 11. Paul Lee, Camry, 3.986, 312.13; 12. John Bojec, Camry, 3.990, 316.23.

Not Qualified _ 13. Jim Campbell, 4.023, 293.28; 14. John Hale, 4.056, 311.77; 15. Gary Densham, 4.083, 308.50; 16. Dave Richards, 4.235, 279.50; 17. Phil Burkart, 4.377, 285.77; 18. Jeff Arend, 4.978, 155.15; 19. Jon Capps, 5.119, 146.16; 20. Anthony Begley, 5.460, 164.35; 21. Courtney Force, 6.718, 101.76; 22. Jack Beckman, 6.931, 81.19; 23. Brandon Welch, 7.190, 86.23.

Pro Stock _ 1. Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.681, 205.38; 2. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.683, 205.51; 3. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.690, 205.82; 4. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.692, 205.35; 5. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.697, 205.54; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.698, 205.76; 7. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.718, 205.22; 8. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.730, 204.51; 9. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.731, 204.17; 10. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.740, 204.70; 11. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Dart, 6.740, 204.32; 12. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.747, 202.94.

Not Qualified _ 13. Chris McGaha, 6.749, 204.26; 14. Aaron Strong, 6.756, 203.65; 15. Deric Kramer, 6.770, 203.19; 16. Shane Tucker, 6.771, 204.11; 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.829, 201.10.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.904, 192.66; 2. Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.944, 192.63; 3. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.951, 191.97; 4. Matt Smith, Victory, 6.974, 190.78; 5. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.975, 191.81; 6. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, 6.979, 191.16; 7. LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.987, 191.43; 8. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.992, 190.94; 9. Cory Reed, Buell, 7.005, 188.86; 10. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.012, 191.29; 11. Melissa Surber, Buell, 7.014, 188.86; 12. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.022, 191.16.

Not Qualified _ 13. Joey Gladstone, 7.037, 189.20; 14. Freddie Camarena, 7.078, 189.12; 15. Angie Smith, 7.083, 188.60; 16. Jim Underdahl, 7.108, 189.84; 17. Chip Ellis, 7.111, 188.86; 18. Scotty Pollacheck, 7.125, 183.52; 19. Joe DeSantis, 7.127, 185.84; 20. John Hall, 7.180, 185.08; 21. Mike Berry, 7.193, 182.62; 22. Lance Bonham, 7.233, 181.72; 23. David Hope, 7.326, 180.79; 24. Kristen Ashby, 7.337, 175.75; 25. Brian Bognuda, 7.338, 178.12; 26. Gunner Courtney, 7.341, 178.54; 27. Chaz Kennedy, 7.361, 180.43.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, October 29 2016
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