NHRA Phoenix: Hagan (Funny Car) stays perfect for 2015; Schumacher (Top Fuel), Brogdon (Pro Stock) also win

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Defending NHRA Funny Car champion Matt Hagan remained perfect in 2015, going 2-0 in the new season by winning his second straight race in Sunday’s CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Ariz.

Hagan, who entered Sunday’s final eliminations as the top qualifier in Funny Car, set a track record of 3.975 seconds (at 324.83 mph) in defeating Del Worsham (4.010 seconds, 318.17 mph) in the final round.

In addition to wins in the first two races of 2015, Hagan made it three in a row, dating back to his championship-clinching victory last November in the season-ending Auto Club Finals.

“We’ve got a killer race car and race team, so I am hoping to keep turning on those win lights,” Hagan said in an NHRA media release.

It was the 16th win of Hagan’s career and his first at the suburban Phoenix drag strip.

“It keeps getting tougher each year and every car is so competitive,” said Hagan, who drives for Don Schumacher Racing. “That’s what’s so cool about this sport. It’s tough, but when you win you feel like you really did something. I am just glad to keep this [winning streak] going.”

In Top Fuel, Hagan’s DSR teammate and 2014 champ Tony Schumacher capped off one of the most significant weekends of his career.

On Friday, Schumacher set a career-best low elapsed time (3.722 seconds). On Saturday, he set an NHRA record with the 77th No. 1 qualifying spot of his career.

And then Sunday, the eight-time national champ put a bow on the weekend package with the 78th win of his Top Fuel career.

Schumacher (3.720 seconds at 326.56 mph) defeated Doug Kalitta (3.758, 325.14) to earn his fifth career win at the suburban Phoenix track.

“I have to give the trophy, the credit, every bit of it to the team this week,” Schumacher said. “I was off. My lights were slower than they’ve been, and everything I tried to do really couldn’t fix it.

“(Crew chief) Mike Green and Neal (Strausbaugh, assistant crew chief) said, ‘We’ll fight through this. Just do your best.’ They give you confidence with a fast race car.

“I’m not going to go home and put the trophy on my shelf and feel fulfilled. It should go to Mike’s house, and he should feel fulfilled.”

In Pro Stock, Rodger Brogdon (6.560 seconds, 211.49 mph) earned his third career win with an upset of defending 2014 season champ Erica Enders-Stevens (6.640, 205.51).

“This is the earliest I’ve ever won a race,” Brogdon said. “It’s great to win one early and I am the points leader for the first time in my career. I think we’ve got a great opportunity this season.

“Everybody who follows this sport knows how hard it is to win a race. This is fantastic. My crew is telling me this car is going to be faster at Gainesville, so I think we are going to have some fun this year.”

The next race is the third event on the 24-race NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule, the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, March 12-15 at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Florida.


FINAL FINISHING ORDER

TOP FUEL: 1.  Tony Schumacher; 2.  Doug Kalitta; 3.  Antron Brown; 4.  Shawn Langdon; 5.  Richie Crampton; 6. J.R. Todd; 7.  Brittany Force; 8.  Spencer Massey; 9.  Dave Connolly; 10.  Leah Pritchett; 11. Terry McMillen; 12.  Jenna Haddock; 13.  Troy Buff; 14.  Steve Torrence; 15.  Larry Dixon; 16. Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Matt Hagan; 2.  Del Worsham; 3.  Robert Hight; 4.  Alexis DeJoria; 5.  Courtney Force; 6.  Chad Head; 7.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 8.  Cruz Pedregon; 9.  John Hale; 10.  Jack Beckman; 11.  Shane Westerfield; 12.  Tim Wilkerson; 13.  Jeff Diehl; 14.  Ron Capps; 15.  John Force; 16.  Tony Pedregon.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Rodger Brogdon; 2.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 3.  Chris McGaha; 4.  Drew Skillman; 5.  Jason Line; 6.  Greg Anderson; 7.  Shane Gray; 8.  Allen Johnson; 9.  Larry Morgan; 10.  Jimmy Alund; 11.  Matt Hartford; 12.  Vincent Nobile; 13.  Joey Grose; 14.  V. Gaines; 15.  Jonathan Gray; 16.  Deric Kramer.

 

FINAL RESULTS

Top Fuel: Tony Schumacher, 3.720 seconds, 326.56 mph  def. Doug Kalitta, 3.758 seconds, 325.14 mph.

Funny Car: Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.975, 324.83  def. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.010, 318.17.

Pro Stock: Rodger Brogdon, Chevy Camaro, 6.560, 211.49  def. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.640, 205.51.

FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Spencer Massey, 4.227, 312.50 def. Larry Dixon, 7.616, 91.81; Brittany Force, 3.822, 323.19 def. Steve Torrence, 6.052, 119.25; Richie Crampton, 4.090, 308.14 def. Troy Buff, 5.186, 137.12; Tony Schumacher, 3.725, 325.14 def. Jenna Haddock, 4.041, 295.40; Doug Kalitta, 3.762, 328.38 def. Clay Millican, 10.228, 84.38; J.R. Todd, 3.884, 306.46 def. Terry McMillen, 3.907, 301.60; Antron Brown, 3.760, 318.92 def. Dave Connolly, 3.782, 318.69; Shawn Langdon, 3.812, 313.80 def. Leah Pritchett, 3.860, 307.02;

QUARTERFINALS — Langdon, 3.758, 324.59 def. Crampton, 3.755, 321.50; Kalitta, 3.770, 326.87 def. Force, 3.799, 321.81; Brown, 3.742, 319.29 def. Todd, 3.776, 311.05; Schumacher, 3.768, 320.43 def. Massey, 5.726, 116.60;

SEMIFINALS — Kalitta, 4.303, 242.71 def. Langdon, 4.752, 278.86; Schumacher, 3.738, 325.53 def. Brown, 3.753, 319.45;

FINAL — Schumacher, 3.720, 326.56 def. Kalitta, 3.758, 325.14.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Chad Head, Toyota Camry, 4.023, 316.38 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 6.670, 105.37; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.192, 273.50 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.314, 226.96; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.037, 317.05 def. John Hale, Charger, 4.183, 303.37; Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.022, 320.13 def. Shane Westerfield, Charger, foul; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.072, 314.09 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 6.546, 115.94; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.038, 311.56 def. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 8.724, 77.62; Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.593, 262.44 def. John Force, Camaro, 6.713, 96.77; Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.027, 311.77 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 6.260, 106.75;

QUARTERFINALS — DeJoria, 4.082, 305.84 def. Johnson Jr., 4.202, 268.76; Worsham, 4.047, 316.38 def. Head, 4.078, 307.72; Hight, 4.069, 315.78 def. C. Force, 4.057, 315.71; Hagan, 4.058, 316.30 def. C. Pedregon, 4.380, 211.63;

SEMIFINALS — Hagan, 4.027, 318.32 def. DeJoria, 6.389, 82.64; Worsham, 4.010, 315.78 def. Hight, 4.050, 316.23;

FINAL — Hagan, 3.975, 324.83 def. Worsham, 4.010, 318.17.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.606, 210.64 def. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.599, 211.20; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.588, 210.50 def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 26.416, 26.94; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.567, 210.70 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 11.113, 79.58; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.591, 209.72 def. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 14.557, 66.85; Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.588, 210.05 def. Jimmy Alund, Pontiac GXP, 6.615, 210.14; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.570, 211.43 def. Deric Kramer, Dodge Avenger, broke; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.575, 211.23 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 12.073, 71.69; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.578, 210.41 def. Matt Hartford, GXP, 6.692, 209.33;

QUARTERFINALS — McGaha, 6.599, 210.18 def. Johnson, 15.467, 54.67; Enders-Stevens, 6.570, 210.60 def. Anderson, 6.603, 210.80; Brogdon, 6.569, 211.26 def. S. Gray, 6.683, 210.14; Skillman, 6.595, 210.50 def. Line, 6.582, 210.87;

SEMIFINALS — Enders-Stevens, 6.575, 210.67 def. McGaha, 6.935, 162.65; Brogdon, 6.554, 211.36 def. Skillman, 16.529, 50.69;

FINAL — Brogdon, 6.560, 211.49 def. Enders-Stevens, 6.640, 205.51.


POINTS STANDINGS

Top Fuel: 1.  Shawn Langdon, 200; 2.  Antron Brown, 167; 3.  Tony Schumacher, 165; 4.  Doug Kalitta, 155; 5. Spencer Massey, 130; 6.  Richie Crampton, 115; 7.  Larry Dixon, 106; 8.  (tie) J.R. Todd, 88; Steve Torrence, 88; 10.  Brittany Force, 85.

Funny Car: 1.  Matt Hagan, 231; 2.  Del Worsham, 173; 3.  Robert Hight, 145; 4.  Ron Capps, 129; 5.  Courtney Force, 123; 6.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 118; 7.  Alexis DeJoria, 110; 8.  Cruz Pedregon, 93; 9.  (tie) John Hale, 82; Chad Head, 82.

Pro Stock: 1.  Rodger Brogdon, 205; 2.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 184; 3.  Jason Line, 178; 4.  Drew Skillman, 177; 5.  Chris McGaha, 130; 6.  Shane Gray, 108; 7.  Allen Johnson, 107; 8.  Larry Morgan, 89; 9. Greg Anderson, 86; 10.  Vincent Nobile, 66.

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James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.