(Photo courtesy NHRA)

2016 NHRA season in review: Funny Car driver Matt Hagan

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Over the next three-plus weeks, MotorSportsTalk will feature season-ending reviews of the top drivers of the 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

Each day, we’ll have one in-depth review of a driver that finished in the top-five in each of the four professional classes (Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle), as well as a compendium of select other drivers that did not finish in the top-five.

The list of drivers we’ve already posted is below. Today, we feature Funny Car driver Matt Hagan:

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Driver: Matt Hagan

Age: 34

Hometown: Christiansburg, Virginia

Team: Don Schumacher Racing

Sponsor/car: Mopar/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger

Crew chief: Dickie Venables

2016 season finish: Third in Funny Car.

2016 season statistics: 24 races, 4 wins, 2 runner-up, 5 semifinals, 8 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier five times. Round-by-round record: 40 wins, 20 losses.

Career statistics: 192 races, 22 wins, 20 runner-up, 28 semifinals, 62 quarterfinals. No. 1 qualifier 26 times. Round-by-round record: 265 wins, 166 losses. Four DNQ. Won NHRA Funny Car championships in 2011 and 2014.

What went right in 2016: Hagan was once again a Funny Car force to be reckoned with this past season. His four wins put him in position to contend for the championship before fading in the latter stages of the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff. … Hagan has been a machine when it comes to reaching the winner’s circle in recent seasons: He won four races each in 2016, 2015 and 2014, and five wins in 2013, giving him 17 of his 22 career wins in the last four seasons.

What went wrong in 2016: Hagan suffered five first-round losses in the season, which greatly impacted his ability to overtake eventual champ Ron Capps. … After winning at Indianapolis, Hagan struggled in the Countdown at times, particularly the first two races, where he failed to advance past the quarterfinals at Charlotte 2 and St. Louis. While he won at Dallas, which gave him a boost of hope, he lost in the semifinals at Las Vegas 2 and in the first round of the season-ending race at Pomona, ending any hope of a third title.

What to look for in 2017: From a statistical standpoint, Hagan is due for a third championship in 2017 – if you consider that his first two titles came in 2011 and 2014, separated by two seasons in-between. Since it now has been two additional seasons since his last title, Hagan has at least a statistical edge in 2017, if you believe in those kinds of things. … With teammates Ron Capps (2016 NHRA Funny Car champion), Tommy Johnson Jr. (finished second) and Jack Beckman (finished fifth), Don Schumacher Racing promises to have yet another strong season in 2016 – and Hagan will likely be right in the middle of that effort.

Season reviews already posted:

— Antron Brown (12/12)

— Ron Capps (12/13)

— Jason Line (12/14)

Jerry Savoie (12/15)

Doug Kalitta (12/16)

Tommy Johnson Jr. (12/17)

Greg Anderson (12/18)

Eddie Krawiec (12/19)

Steve Torrence (12/20)

— Matt Hagan (12/21)

— Shane Gray (12/22)

— Andrew Hines (12/23)

— J.R. Todd (12/24)

— John Force (12/25)

— Bo Butner (12/26)

— Angelle Sampey (12/27)

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Kubica, di Resta complete Williams F1 tests in Hungary

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Robert Kubica and Paul di Resta have both completed one-day tests for Williams in a 2014-spec Formula 1 car as part of the team’s evaluation for its 2018 line-up.

Williams is known to be considering a number of drivers to partner Lance Stroll at the team next year, including existing racer Felipe Massa.

Massa is thought to be going up against Kubica and di Resta for the 2018 drive, with the latter duo taking part in a private test at the Hungaroring in Budapest this week to aid the team’s evaluation.

After missing out on a 2018 Renault drive due to lingering questions about his physical condition six years after his rally accident, Kubica tested for Williams at Silverstone last week before getting back behind the wheel of the 2014 FW36 car in Hungary on Tuesday.

Kubica’s test was called “productive” by Williams, with the Pole handing duties over to Mercedes DTM racer di Resta on Wednesday.

Di Resta raced in F1 with Force India between 2010 and 2013 before returning to DTM, but made a surprise return at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix with Williams when Massa was taken ill. Di Resta impressed on short notice, putting himself in contention for a full-time return to F1 in 2018.

Williams has one of the few remaining seats on offer in F1 for 2018, with Massa’s future known to be in question after a quiet campaign thus far.

The Brazilian had been due to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Williams to recall him after Valtteri Bottas’ late move up to Mercedes following Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement.

Massa has made clear he would like to keep racing in F1 next year, but only if the deal is right and if Williams is determined to keep him.

While Massa, Kubica and di Resta appear to be the three leading contenders for the seat, Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe made clear in Japan there was a “large range” of drivers under consideration.

“You’ve probably seen a number of names that are floating around that we’re looking at, but honestly, the range is almost unlimited,” Lowe said.

“We will consider all ideas. We’re not in a super hurry to do so, and we’ll just make sure we land the best line-up we can.”